Distractions abound. They are thrust upon us, and we cannot help but submit to their allure.

We are bombarded by advertisements and information, marketing and media. We can go nowhere, do nothing, without being sold some thing or idea we are told is of utmost importance to our happiness and well-being.

Every company seeks to convince us that we are one purchase away from total contentment, that we need its product in order to live full and prosperous lives.

Some material things are indeed necessary to sustain a decent quality of life, and it is important that each individual or family has access to them. But the problem is that the pitch never ends, and we thus live in a constant state of perceived lack.

We feel always as though we are missing something, when, in reality, we have all that we need, and often much more.

We are challenged, on a daily basis, to discern the essential in the face of all that is insubstantial. This applies to material things just as much as to ideologies propagated by groups that have something to gain from our adherence to their principles.

The salesman, the politician and the preacher all vie for our attention, all assuring us that their product, policy or philosophy is the best one for us, and if we are not careful we may find ourselves blindly purchasing, electing and following entities of which we, in reality, know nothing and in which we do not truly believe.

Pulled in every direction by competing external forces, we lose sight of that which is utterly inward. Our attention is caught by the noise and flashiness of the gimmicks that surround us, and we forget the silence and the stillness of that which is already in us.

We must not lose ourselves in the abundance of societal diversions. We must cultivate our interiority so as to let its truth invigorate us and guide us with clarity.

We must consciously retreat from the dulled routine of daily life so as to discern that which is essential to our vitality and that which is superfluous, that which is spirit and that which is vacuous.

We must not seek contentment outside of ourselves, but recognize it in the fullness of our beings and in the gift of each moment.

 

Ryan Brennan is a caseworker from Portland who works at Preble Street Resource Center.