Ask Zen Dog

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Zen Dog Columns

Something Missing

Q:  I am a 48 year old housewife. I love my husband and our two children, who are now living on their own and both doing well. I know my husband loves me, and I really have nothing to complain about, but in weaker moments, in quiet time, I have often felt that something is missing. I have done everything I was supposed to do to make my life happy, and it all worked out, but I'm still not happy. What else do I need to do to become happy?



R: You have done everything human society prescribes to be happy.  Despite having been born into 'good family' and being fortunate in love and health, there remains something missing.  How can it be that deep happiness is so elusive?  It is not supposed to work out that way; happiness is supposed to be our birthright, contingent only upon our assimilating and internalizing a critical mass of expedient means and conventional ideas. In our world this whole normative edifice is tethered to the suppression of doubt under a weight of knowledge and certainty. Meditation suggests a different approach to the corrosive power of doubt which begins by acknowledging that in the inconceivably vast arena of living beings, birth in a human body is hugely unlikely.  The particular contingencies which produce a human body are so ephemeral that happiness - a peculiarly human aspiration - must be soluble in the fluidity of transience.  Happiness is always at hand, requiring only a moment of non-comparative awareness to become karmically active.


Happiness, whatever the truth of it's genesis, can be made an object of meditation.  By tethering happiness to transience rather than entitlement we interfere with the cause of that 'something missing' feeling. Being a sensible and intelligent person (as illustrated by writing to us), you are probably apprehensive about relinquishing habits of discrimination. Irony at work: the more successful are our habits of discrimination (worldliness), the more difficult it is to allow, imagine and craft an awareness freed of discrimination.  A skillful way for those who would like to take happiness as a goal of meditation is to cultivate this thought: just this is enough!