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Happiness Starts with Stopping

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Because this is a spiritual web site, I’m sure many of you want me to talk about Spirit, love and all the wonderful things thereof.

But if we are to meet all of this in its rightful place i.e. as something that is part of us and who we really are, we must let go of what we cling to for safety, security and validation otherwise we use spirituality as a comfort blanket or escapism and it will be a pale imitation of the real thing.

People ask “how do I become this vision of happiness and freedom? What do I have to learn or do?” The feeling I get is that they expect to achieve what they desire by following a proscriptive set of rules or carry out a set of actions in the same way that they can transform the way they look by buying new clothes. But what if it required not doing the things they do currently in order to allow the new ways of being to emerge and take root? What if it meant stopping doing instead of doing? Even when we buy a new outfit we have to take off the old one for the new look to work, don’t we?

This is why it is important to look at the way we are, what we do and equally important why we do what we do. The face we present to the world will be an ever changing blend of our true selves, our pain and our egoic needs depending on the circumstances and how we are feeling.

Someone who is passionate about books may derive a genuine and pure pleasure from reading as well as a defensive need based on knowledge meaning power or an escape from the world. When all blended together it is often unclear what part of our actions is motivated by our true self and what is a false self imposing itself upon us.

It is by identifying and shedding the false elements of what we see as us that allows our true selves to shine through ever more strongly. If genuine joy is derived from something then it will still be there when the false reasons for doing it are peeled away. It ceases to be a source of validation or escape but is done for the sheer joy in and of itself. When we do something just because it brings us pleasure that is when we feel most free and happy. The more this occurs in our lives, the happier we are.

Happiness is now and not a future event. We can only ever experience it now. A lack of happiness is partly due to not being present and, instead, letting the mind stay in the future. We worry about what people will think or what the consequences of something could be or are looking forward to doing something later and so on. If you noticed how much of your time is invested in the future you may be shocked.

Life is often viewed as consisting of a lot of things we don’t want to and some things we do want to do. Much of the time is spent not being present because we are doing something we don’t want to do and perhaps are waiting for the opportunity to do something we like doing instead. So, automatically, we are not being present and by not being in the here and now we are in resistance i.e. we are resisting just being. Buddhism teaches us that if we allow ourselves to be content where we are we are free and so anywhere we are not content becomes a prison.

The more we peel away false elements of ourself and find contentment wherever we are, the more we find pleasure in doing even mundane things. If we can release our need to achieve or get something from what we are doing then ease moves in and replaces tension, stress and fretting the small stuff. It may seem incredible to some that one can be present and even peaceful or joyful while vacuuming the carpet but it’s true.

Most of us just want to know how to be happy. Logically, this must mean that we are unhappy to a greater or lesser degree or have not found a way to feel happy consistently. Does this not also imply that the combination of our thoughts, beliefs and actions are not serving us in our pursuit of happiness?

Put simply: How I am is making me unhappy therefore I should change. Because change is inherently threatening we avoid it and put off the problem and apply a good feeling quick fix by buying something, eating something or drinking something and we tend to do it over and over again because the fix doesn’t last.

Why would we expect that doing the same things more intensely make a difference? Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results

Yet that is what most of us do. Alternatively we delude ourselves into thinking that we are making changes when we aren’t really. For example, we might give up seeking a parent’s approval by following in the career footsteps of that parent, only to invest our hopes in giving them grandchildren will get the response that will make us feel that they are proud of us. We may give up playing a sport because we lose too many times and take up something different that fulfils the need to be a winner. In both cases what is left unobserved is that the reason for doing these things is to get something instead of doing it for the joy alone. As I said, we are a blend of our true selves, our pain and our egoic needs and so we will have preferences in which sport we choose to play that will be a reflection of our true selves but if we can’t take winning and losing with equanimity then a false self is definitely active and will cause imbalance that will help to block our true selves. Wherever there is ego need, we will banish happiness from experience.

Acquiring new information is clearly part of the spiritual journey but letting go of information that doesn’t serve us is just as big a part. These are thoughts that stop us from being who we really are and include believing that we need to be perfect; that we mustn’t make mistakes or be open or vulnerable; that we are not good enough; that people who are not the same as us are a threat and so on. The list is endless.

The journey is to overcome our belief in our own inadequacy and face the fear that inevitably arises when we seek to shed our layers of protection and act in ways that reflect the lion heart we all have. It is also about developing trust in a greater process, finding the courage to act on that trust and walk through the blackness of the unknown into a new way of being despite the mind saying “I can’t” or “stop, this is too risky because I don’t know what will happen”.

The way forward is less about reaching up to higher dimensions and more about reaching inwards beyond our own veil of emptiness and darkness and finding the light that shines inside ever so brightly.

Marianne Williamson said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” It can feel traumatic and terrifying for us poor little humans have to start living up to our potential. OMG, the upheaval; all the things we would have to stop being and doing and hiding behind!

t takes courage to open ourselves up to the possibility that we are so much more than we have thought we were. It takes even more courage to embrace our true self, not because what awaits is terrible, but because of what we have to let go of first before we can move into the unknown. This is why looking at ourselves with honesty and learning what parts of us are false is important. It is less about finding a cure and more about stopping maintaining the disease of falseness. As we let go of what inhibits us and maintains falseness, then quite organically, we give our true-self a space in which to grow. It is waiting to happen and, like a plant, will do so quite naturally if we give it the right conditions. We nurture it by listening to it and trusting its truth and we hear it by creating sufficient stillness in our lives so we can hear its loving whisper. A whisper so loud that it fills us and in which there is more happiness and peace than we could possibly ever imagine.

 

© Phil Grant unless otherwise attributed