"Inflation is a distorted sense of who we are. Modern people have a psychological tendency to inflate like a balloon. The slang expression 'he is just full of hot air' captures this experience. When inflated, we think and act as if we are more than we really are; we are filled with high expectations, sometimes even arrogance. Anything that interferes with our willful desire feels like a disappointment.
"Modern life pushes us to inflate. Our progress-orientated, 'bigger is better,' consumer-driven society celebrates 'too-muchness.' A recent bumper sticker was succinct in expressing this attitude: 'The one who ends up with the most toys wins.' The West has been busy for decades teaching the world how to inflate; in some ways this has become the essence of being American. It is hard to part with something so ingrained as our power stance. . . .
"Any time we puff ourselves up whether to gain attention, power, status, monetary reward, or love there is a price. Every inflation is followed by a deflation, and then the hot air balloon comes crashing down. A deflation is thinking and acting as if you are less than you really are, a feeling of "not-enoughness." . . .
"Inflations and deflations turn life into a wild ride of 'too-muchness' followed by 'not-enoughness.' They undermine our capacity for contentment. Contentment can be found only in the middle place, the point where you are neither inflated nor deflated. It requires you to be who you are, no more and no less. . . .
"Buddhists speak of the middle way and call this balancing act 'walking the razor's edge.' It is precisely that middle place, where you are neither more nor less than you are, that is the holy place. Most people in the West don't believe that the middle point is the solution; instead we want to inflate, grab hold of emotional 'highs' and force reality to go our way. But our appetite for 'too-muchness' only brings us 'not-enoughness' and keeps us in a painful cycle.
"To realize more contentment, it is essential to begin each day by reminding yourself to be just who you are no more and no less. The inner fool can be enormously helpful in this regard. You might try visualizing a court jester having some fun with you while speaking foolish wisdom about your inflations. A bit of humor often can help put things in perspective."