When everything is removed, it becomes clear that happiness is innate.
Oftentimes our lives revolve around a shallow sense of identity that derives itself from the externalities it thrives upon—wealth, what other people think, power, wit, beauty, etc.
These outside influences propel a narrative that is constantly running in our minds, creating a kind of dream world that is separate from the life that is here.
This dream is based on what we don’t have/experience now and that of course is incongruent with reality. Sometimes when I lose myself in a dream or a thought I ask, “How can I be happy if I can’t be here to receive this happiness?”
It is a reminder for me that echoes the humorous practice of an old Chinese Zen Master:
Each morning a Zen Master would rise and say to himself, “Master! Are you awake?”
He would respond to himself, “Yes! Yes!”
The Master then cautioned, “Don’t be fooled by others…”
Breathing in and out, feeling the steady beat of our heart, and watching the sun dip below the feathering manes of Pacific surf, we might bump into something large and extraordinary buried within the ordinary moments of our lives.
This life, this moment, this mind, this heart, these hands, these Pacific waves, and the burning orb that is sinking brilliantly into the horizon, is what we have every second: this realization is happiness.[i]
When we cannot experience this, when we are stuck in a self-imposed dream chasing the fantastical phantoms of our unexamined minds, then we will remain cut off from what is simple, profound, and dancing to a universal tune just beyond the periphery of our mental fortresses.
Compassion, a deep feeling of connection to the earth and a quietly flowing sense of awe for the grandeur of vastness seem like a good place to rest in and witness the tides of the moment. When we take down our walls—our created identity, and all the heavy accoutrements that come with wanting something that isn’t here now, then we might stumble upon an inherent sense of calm and joy that doesn’t need anything other than what is passing through infinity, right up to what we are holding in our hands.
When our self-worth or happiness depends on what is outside of us, whether it is a desire or the approval of a loved one, then we cannot be happy in the ‘mindfulness’ sense, because we are forgoing minutes, hours, or days waiting for something that isn’t here—a deadening practice that wastes the gifts of each moment.
Taking this old way of living down, we might find that happiness is always here in our minds. We have been given the capacity to sit with vastness and uncover something within that recognizes and humbly respects the innumerable reverberations of the inconceivable. Life and death, galactic explosions, blooming flowers, and headaches inhabit the same space as the dreams we chase, laugh and cry over.
Stepping back to see the background that holds our lives moment after moment could be a good place to begin. In fact, this initial practice might completely turn your life upside down… or right side up. It is often interesting not to know, and to be okay with this not knowing.[ii]
Note: There are always going to be paradigm shifts as well as the latest and greatest/sexy theories in science—so everything must be taken with a grain of salt.
In psychology today there is a rough idea that 50% of your happiness is based on genetics—what is encoded in your DNA. But, what about the other 50%? You know those dreams I was referring to before—money, wealth, what other people think and so forth?
Well, supposedly these extrinsically based desires make up only 10% of our happiness. The other 40% of our happiness pie is up to us. This means that every second we have a choice to be happy or not – to lose ourselves in our dreams or step into the life that is here.
It seems that psychology might be onto something.
[i] “These hands, these waves, this sun….” When the borders between what is mine and what is outside of what is mine blend together, this is called intimacy. And it is this connection that ultimately sustains us through good and bad, up and down—simple, utterly profound, and then again entirely ordinary…
[ii] A Zen Master told his student, “now knowing is most intimate.”
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Ed: Bryonie Wise