Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Eckhart Tolle is changing my life.  

By which I mean – reading his books is changing my perspective.  Which is actually so much more important than any external change in circumstances.  Without a change in perspective we just keep repeating the same patterns in different ways.  A fundamental change in perspective is much more transformative – most importantly of the inner life, but this can’t help but then flow over into external life circumstances as well.
Those of you who have followed my writing for a long time know that I have spent most of my adult life searching.  Searching for…. what?  Purpose, meaning, my place in things, the reason for it all.  Searching for my ‘yes’.
In reading Tolle recently, he summed up perfectly the mistake I had been making in all of this for so many years:
Don’t seek happiness.  If you seek it, you won’t find it, because seeking is the antithesis of happiness.
Seeking is the antithesis of happiness.  Reading that sentence was like the universe handed me a note entitled: What You Have Been Doing Wrong.  I’ve spent my whole adult life seeking and believing that the search was noble, that the search was the whole point of life.
In fact, I have been missing the point.  Happiness is not out there.  Happiness is a natural state of being that resides only and ever in the now, and is covered up by unhappiness, searching, confusion.  You cannot find it.  You can only become aware of it in each moment.  Trying to find it only perpetuates the confusion, the sense of lacking that blocks the awareness of its presence.
One of the most powerful questions you can ask yourself in any moment is: “In this moment, what is lacking?”
If you focus purely on the present moment – not your wider life situation, not the moment before or the moment after but always and only RIGHT NOW – I think you will find that the answer is pretty much always: nothing.
Nothing is lacking.  You are whole unto yourself in each moment.  There is nothing you need seek.  Seeking is the antithesis of happiness.  In letting go of the need to seek, you become aware of a peacefulness beneath the seeking that is really much more fundamental and pure than ‘happiness’.  Happiness, really, is a human invention.  Who and what you are just is. 
And that is more than enough.
Mastery of life is not a question of control, but of finding a balance between human and Being.
~ Eckhart Tolle

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It’s interesting how the wisdom of words can remain, even when your interpretation of them changes completely.

In my last post, I wrote:

Perhaps we have to realise that to be happy, we have to not only want to be happy – we have to be able to accept that happiness when it comes along, even if it feels scary and unfamiliar at first.

What if the scary thing is not the vastness or greatness of the thing that makes you happy?  What if the scary thing is the fact that what makes you happy is small and insignificant and does not make you sound grand?  What if you have been living in the happiness you refuse to accept, determined that it should be found in something that sounds ‘worthy’, that meet the outside world’s definition of success?

What if doing all the things you think will make you feel grand and worthwhile actually makes you vastly unhappy?  What if you experience the purest, most uncontaminated happiness, when you wake up in the morning and look forward to going to your job as a typist?

Maybe one of the problems is that we have a tendency to equate ‘success’ with ‘happiness’.  And we equate ‘success’ with whatever society currently defines as ‘successful’.  And so we assume that happiness will come when we have completed this degree or got that promotion or save the world in this, that, or the other way.  Maybe we get so caught up in thinking that this outwardly defined ‘success’ will bring us happiness, that we lose sight of the things that truly make us happy.

The ego loves labels.  As soon as you have shed one, it will desperately grasp at another to give itself solidity, to enable its existence.  My ego has, for a long time, been caught up in the idea that I have some ‘grand purpose’.  That not to pursue some ‘grand purpose’ is somehow a waste of myself and a cop out.  As if I am some kind of gift to freakin humanity.

What if I am just really happy with my life right now?  I work as a typist, I read, I write, I spend time with friends and indulge in much wine, laughter and conversation, I spend time with my family, I sit on my deck and look at the sea.  I wake up happy, I am happy in the solitary moments, I am happy in company, I go to bed with a smile on my face looking forward to the next day.

I don’t save lives.  I don’t fix world hunger.  I am not materially wealthy or ‘successful’ as society defines it.

I work as a typist.  And I feel like the richest person in the world.  I have everything I could ever want.  I enjoy my days.  I love my life.

I am not ‘grand’, ‘worthy’ or ‘meaningful’ as I have come to define those words.  I just am.  And I find a great amount of contentment in that.

I also wrote in the last post:

We must be willing to sit with the strength of both our fear and our desire if we wish to move forward and do something with our lives.

Maybe the key is in the first few words.  We must be willing to sit with the strength of our fear and our desire.  We must be willing to sit still long enough for both to make themselves heard.  Only then, from that place of stillness, can we make the movement most in line with our true meaning, our true Being.

Even if that movement is out the door each day to a job whose title impresses no one, but which places a spring in your step as you go.

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So last year was about acceptance – accepting myself as I am and being true to my own self, rather than needing to live up to some external expectations (or my perception of what those external expectations may be).

And this year has built on that theme, but also introduced the idea of what I call ‘stickability’ – the value in just sticking with something, seeing it through, creating a solid foundation and continuing to build on it, rather than running from one thing to the next.

So it’s about the time of year when I start thinking – I wonder what the theme for the next year will be.

I think it is something the year will reveal to me as it goes, but my prediction at this point is this: that next year will continue to build on the themes of acceptance/being true to self, and stickability, and that it’s own theme will be this revolutionary idea – that it is possible to be happy.

I think it will build further upon the perspective I have been gaining on the true meaning of happiness – that it does not lie out there in the future or in the achievement of some specific thing, but that rather it lies inherent in every moment, waiting to be experienced and opened up to.  That the real happiness lies in the doing, not in the have done.  And that it lies simultaneously in both the small moments of life, and also in the committing of yourself to something larger that you truly believe in and can feel proud of.

I feel at a really good place in my life and my self at the moment.  And it sure has been a long, hard road to get here.  But I’m learning, and just over the last few weeks really, I have begun to really open up to and embrace my own self.  The smallest things, that would probably sound silly to anyone else, are to me hugely positive markers of my change in perspective and increasing sense of wellbeing and self acceptance and love of life.

I am accepting that my body needs fuel, and that I am no longer a teenager and don’t have to look like one, and that I may not always be a size 8, and that it’s ok to have a woman’s body, and I am more ok with this than I have ever been.

I have come to a radical new acceptance of my hair and truly learnt what it means to embrace yourself entirely as you are without modification.

I have come to a new peace with all the parts of myself – the part that is excited by emergencies and medicine, the part that feels at home in poetry and literature, the part that loves to party and meet lots of awesome and interesting new people, the part that likes to sit at home on my own with a cup of tea and a good book.  I’ve discovered that all those things can dwell together as a part of me, that I don’t have to choose one or the other but can embrace all aspects of myself.

I feel like my life is finally becoming rooted in a sense of purpose and direction, and that I may finally have stumbled upon something I can believe in and devote myself to.  And also enjoy!!

I have discovered that I’m not perfect and I’m not going to be – but I am good, and maybe that is good enough.  I’ve discovered that I actually like myself and that I’m fine just as I am.

I have discovered that life is actually pretty good.  And that maybe it is actually possible to be happy.

So I’m looking forward to the next year!  And I’m enjoying the end of this one.   In the meantime, I’m going to enjoy my glorious weekend in my favourite city and look forward to work on Monday.  Yes, I did say I am looking forward to work.  Life is good 🙂

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Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek,
but a means by which we arrive at that goal.

~ Martin Luther King Jr

For years, I had a blog called “Emily’s Quest”.  I decided that the title of that blog, which has summed up my entire approach to life so far, epitomises exactly why I have had so much struggle with life.

“Emily’s Quest”.  It suggests that I am somehow searching for something I don’t have, ‘questing’ for some answers I will never find.  It suggests I am wanting some kind of destination or answer more than I want the moment I already dwell in.

I decided what I need is not a change of circumstance but rather a change of mindset.  I do not need to reach some specific goal or destination.  There is no holy grail at the end of the quest, without which my whole life journey has been in vain.  Rather, I have looked down and realised I have held this holy grail in my hands the whole time. 

I am already alive.  In every moment, I have arrived.  I don’t need to wait for life to begin.  It is already here, and every moment is available to me to enjoy or not, as I please.

So no more questing.  But that does not mean to stop living or to stop exploring – quite the opposite.  It means to view each step along the way as worthy in and of itself.  It means to love each moment as it is, rather than as it was or should/could be.

For all my pontificating on the value of the present moment, it has only really hit me in the last couple of days what it really means to live that truth as a reality.

So instead of questing all the time for something else, instead I choose to say YES to life, and YES to every moment within it.

For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life. This perspective has helped me to see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination.

~ Souza

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Recently, in my random web browsing, I came across this article by Steven Stosny called Marriage and the Power to be Happy.  Although ostensibly about marriage, I think there are some really important ideas in this article not just about relationships in general but also about the way we all tend to approach life. 

For one thing, I LOVE this sentiment, expressed in the first paragraph:

I continue to be amazed when people protest about the “unfairness” of having to work to make their lives and relationships better.

As Dr Stosny says, being happy does indeed take work – this is not “unfair”, it’s a fact of life.  In fact, our level of happiness or unhappiness is generally directly related to a) how happy we decide to be and b) how much work we put in to creating and experiencing happiness in our life.  It is nothing to do with “luck” or “fairness”, we are not “entitled” to happiness and damn that bastard old world if it doesn’t provide it to us on a silver platter!  It is a choice and it takes work and conscious decision. 

The second idea within this article that I LOVE and that I think so many people fail to recognise or fully comprehend is this:

The most potent predictor of being happily married is being happy before you marry. Marriage does not make you happy, although the prospect of sharing life with a loved one can provide motivation to make yourself happy.

Of course, this doesn’t just have to be about the institution of marriage – it is about our relationships with people in general.  As Dr Stosny says, we run around believing we have ‘holes’ within us and desperately seeking someone else to fill them, when in fact all we need to do is realise that they aren’t even there to begin with.  We believe there are defects within us, holes that need filling, whereas actually we are all whole and complete as we are.  We don’t need fixing or something external to fill us.  Everything we need we already have within us. 

We think we want someone else to love and validate us, whereas actually, if we can’t accept love and validation from ourselves, what makes us think we are going to be able to accept it from anyone else?  And then we just end up getting frustrated with the other person because we *still* don’t feel loved and validated, as if that is the other person’s fault!!  When, actually, it is just that we cannot accept from someone else what we have no ability already to believe about ourselves.

So often, in modern society, this leads to us feeling dissatisfied with our partner for not inducing within us all the feelings of adequacy we are unable to give ourselves.  And so we assume our partner is not good enough, not loving enough, not ‘right’ for us, and we discard that person and look for someone else – the ‘one’, the Mr or Mrs Right who is going to finally make us feel worthy, fulfilled and lovable.  And so we go through this string of relationships, wondering why we can’t just find a decent partner who will incite all these cosy feelings within us.

It is a simple, often repeated idea but one that far too few people are able to really take in the truth of: If you can’t love yourself, you will never be able to accept love from someone else.  I have brown hair.  I believe strongly that I have brown hair.  If I started going out with a guy who told me every day that I have blonde hair, I wouldn’t start to feel happy and excited about my gorgeous blonde hair.  I would think he was talking a load of bollocks and go right on believing I have brown hair. 

It’s the same with love and feelings of worthiness etc.  If I have a deep, underlying belief that I am unlovable and unworthy of love, even if one hundred people appeared on my doorstep telling me they loved me and I was an amazing, lovable person, I would go right on believing that I was unlovable until I was able to shift my own inner belief about my lovability.  Hell, you just need to look at celebrities for evidence of that.  Being adored by millions doesn’t seem to make many of them any better able to treat themselves with love and respect.

So the moral is: don’t expect anyone else – family, friends, lovers – to fill the holes you perceive in yourself, or to make you feel things about yourself that you can’t feel in their absence.  You only, and you alone, can come to the understanding that there are no holes there to begin with.  Until you understand that, you will forever be searching for the way – or the person – to fill them.

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Waiting It Out

Would you want me when I’m not myself?

Wait it out while I am someone else…

– John Mayer

Have you ever just woken up grumpy?  For no apparent reason whatsoever?  It’s a gorgeous sunny day and nothing about your life situation has changed since yesterday, when everything was fine, and somehow you just have this pervading sense of shittiness?

You mean to make a joke with your family and somehow it comes out laced with unintended sarcasm.  You go to laugh and somehow it comes out as some confused cross between a snarl and a sigh.  You pick up books looking for solace and somehow they’re all about mud seasons and the cloud inside the lining and the eternal presence of sorrow in this joy we call life.  You have a long bath to drown your malaise and as you climb out you notice blood crawling down your leg from all the places you cut yourself shaving.

And no matter how much you tell yourself it’s illogical and unfounded, no matter how much you try to shake it with self-talk, somehow it lingers on – this niggling sense of just plain shirtiness.  It’s like that stubborn bit of green spinach in your existential teeth, that neither gentle tongue, nor prodding finger, nor vigorous floss can extricate.  It’s just stuck and impervious to any efforts of removal.

So what is left to do, really, but give in to it?  To accept its presence and wallow in it good.  To just be utterly grumpy just because that’s the way you feel.

The weird thing is, it doesn’t seem to be just me.  My friends and I all seem to have awoken yesterday to a day of pure rotten mood.  And that was before National won the election.  Maybe there is some kind of shadow passing over the moon.  Or maybe there is some kind of cycle of life that we aren’t aware of, some need for eternal balance.  Maybe our yin needed to be yanged, or our yang needed to be yined or something.  Maybe Life, in general, cycles in a similar way that we as individuals do, like we are all a part of some big macro-organism of Humanness, or even The Universe, and must learn to take the swings with the troughs as a part of our being.

I think that when we are born, perhaps we should have to take a vow to ourselves, or maybe to life in general:

for better or for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, in good times and bad…

… til death do us part.

Maybe the marriage vow itself is less a commitment to another person and more a commitment to ourselves.  A reminder to ourselves that life comes in peaks and valleys and we’ve got to take them both with equal grace.  A commitment to love, not just another, but our own selves through all ups and downs and everything in between.  Especially in between – when we’re not quite sure if we’re halfway up or halfway down, but find ourselves somehow stuck in the middle. 

I think maybe all relationships are a struggle not just to know and love another person, but through our knowledge, love and interaction with them, to know and love ourselves.  Relationships are like a partnership in personal development, a mirror in which we can see who we are and who we want to be.  Are we a seeker of fair weather, a follower of the sun who denies the lurking rainclouds?  Or can we dance in the sun, wind and rain, and accept the place of each in this life business we all seem to be a part of?

I think maybe this elusive ‘happiness’ we all seem to think we’re after – which is probably more accurately termed ‘peace’ – is best found, not in some kind of unbearable eternal ecstasy, but rather in loving the good and the not so good in equal measure.  In others, in ourselves, in life.  To not expect health without sickness, richer without poorer, better without worse… life without death.

Which is all very easy to say of course. 

But sometimes, you’re just plain shitty.

Because let’s face it (and yes, again in the words of whingy old John Mayer):

I’m never gonna find the perfect rhyme

For heavier things

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