We were driving on a road out in the countryside the other day when we saw the most amazing rainbow. The rainbow was back-dropped on a dramatic grey sky; contrasted by golden fields of grass, glimmering under the late afternoon sun. As we kept driving down this long windy road, it seemed as if the rainbow was always ahead of us. One could easily imagine that, if we were to carry on down this road, we would reach it’s end. This made me think about the old Irish myth where the Leprechaun hid his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Of course, we know that we can’t reach a rainbow and a rainbow has no end, because technically it’s a circle. We usually only see about a half or a quarter of it. But this myth can teach us a lot about life, especially as we enter the new year.
Maybe you have some hopes and dreams for the new year – some goals you want to achieve. I know I do; in-fact, I have some big changes to make. And I often find myself thinking, “once I do this or achieve that, everything will be cool”. This is my proverbial “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow. This proverbial pot of gold can take many forms depending on the person. The point of the myth is that a rainbow only appears for a fleeting moment and then it vanishes; just like every moment. Yet, we tend to believe that there’s something beyond this moment that we need to chase after.
We’re not fully present on Monday, because we’re reaching for Friday; I’m not happy in this year, because I’m holding out for the new year; we’re not fully present in our jobs, our families or our relationships, because our minds are grasping at something other than this moment. We’re forever chasing the end of the rainbow, until it vanishes. We die and the moment is gone forever.
This is both depressing and liberating, but perhaps the secret to happiness is not to chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Perhaps the secret to happiness is to realize that there is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and to make peace with that. Quite literally speaking, the new year isn’t a given; tomorrow and it’s spoils isn’t even a given; the sun might explode and kill us all. We don’t know. The only thing that is a given is this moment. But this is not what culture will tell you and, if we’re honest with ourselves, it’s not what we want to hear either.
Imagine reading a horoscope that simply says, “nothing happening this month”. No one wants to hear that there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, because that’s the point isn’t it? To get that thing. Go to any motivational seminar or read any motivational book and it all aims at teaching you one thing – how to get that thing; whatever that thing may be – happiness, love, success etc. “Follow this formula and then all your hopes and dreams will come true” is the basic sales pitch. But that thing is always somewhere in the future or sometimes in the past (maybe you had the pot of gold and then you lost it and now you want it back). But it’s never just now. Even church tells you that it’s in the future; either when Jesus comes back or when you die and go to heaven. Then you’ll get your pot of gold (assuming that you spent your life converting heathens to Christianity).
But all the great spiritual teachers put a bigger emphasis on being fully present in the here and now. For them, it was never about achieving some goal in the future. I have often struggled with this; I mean, what’s the big deal about being present in this moment? Say I meditate and now I’m fully present in this moment. Great, but now what? How does that solve anything? But I am beginning to understand what they were getting at and it’s pretty simple. Now is all there is. This moment is the only moment that is really real, the rest are just dreams and illusions. This moment is the only moment where we are truly alive, but we’re missing so much of this moment, because our minds are forever fixated on the pot of gold awaiting us in the next moment.