Sorry, but even the Dalai Lama has said that enlightenment is not about being happy and blissed-out all of the time.
I am also not happy all the time.
There is nothing monolithic about life, so we shouldn’t expect enlightenment to be one mode of emotion, either. The point is that happiness is relatively easy to achieve.
Plenty of simple working people are perfectly content with the ups and downs of life. They are not ecstatically happy all the time.
Seeing through the illusion, pain, and suffering of life is not easy. However, we are not required to blow sunshine up one another’s butts all the time, either. Enlightenment is the stripping out of the untruth in our lives. It’s seeing through the grand facade of bullsh*t and pretense in an increasingly commoditized and artificial world for what it is. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined is true and replacing it with authenticity and realism.
Here are seven feelings we are allowed to admit to ourselves (and others):
1. I am afraid.
We experience fear for a good reason. Fear makes you stand still when you see a tiger and makes you run your ass off when a tornado is approaching. Fear keeps you from doing anything rash while someone is holding a gun to your head. Fear makes you grab your kid’s hand from the stove or keeps the leash a bit tighter on your dog when you are walking on the sidewalk, and a menacing pit bull growls at her.
Fear plays the most important role in your life: it keeps us safe—and safe is good.
It alerts you to pay attention and take note of your surroundings. All of the other offshoots of fear (anxiety, insecurity, and doubt) also have a similar role to play when they arise. To categorize all fearful thoughts and emotions as illusions is actually delusional.
Think of it this way: would you teach your kid not to be afraid if someone creepy approached them in the street? I hardly think so. You teach your kid to trust fear and run to you or the police for a reason.
2. I have an ego, and it gets bruised.
Have you ever had someone chide you with, “That’s your ego talking?” Did you cringe?
If you are walking around on the planet in a body, then you have an ego. Your ego got you out of bed, reminded you to eat and go to the bathroom, and is probably why you are reading this right now.
Yes, that’s right: my ego is writing this, and you are listening with yours. Without a sense of “I-ness,” illusory or not, we wouldn’t do anything. So let’s get rid of the notion that you can eradicate or get rid of it. You cannot.
If you did, you’d be a zombie. Life is not possible without a reflective and sensitive part of self, your logical mind, and your unique personality. So, the only way to get rid of your body is death; the only way to diminish the ego is to become someone who has no thoughts of her or his own, any unique personality—or is dead.
The ego does indeed have negative aspects (excessive fear, competitiveness, arrogance, the need to be right, and many other things), but it is not about obliterating these things (which is impossible)—it is in mastering or overcoming these traits so that you evolve into the easy-going human being you desire to be.
3. I judge others and myself—often.
Judgment is a part of life. It’s why you listened to that fear about your kid fooling around near a hot stove and then judged him and the circumstance. “Burning yourself would be bad, and I don’t want you to do that again. It’s bad.” Period.
That’s a judgment call. Every time you decide whether or not something, someone, or some situation is right for you, whether or not you like them or it, you are making a judgment. Others make similar judgments all the time, too. All of these decisions reflect your (and others’) values. Get to know your values and see what and why you are judging, not if.
4. I am insecure, but I can handle the truth.
You’ve heard this one before, “I’m just a mirror to you,” or “You are projecting.”
The truth is that we often do both as part of normal human interaction. However, this doesn’t mean we escape emotional responsibility. For instance, being blunt is often an indication of how comfortable you are with honesty and assertiveness. Calling things as you see them doesn’t have to have anything to do with you.
For instance, calling a child-molesting priest disgusting and reprehensible does not make you disgusting and reprehensible; it makes you an accurate descriptor of a sociopath with vile behavior. Summarily labeling an exploitative friend as a vampire does not make you one. It means you are tired of being manipulated.
Pay attention to those kooks in your life who can’t handle the truth. Every time they put your criticisms or concern back on you, think about how well they accept advice, criticism, and truth aside from conflict. A good measure of a person’s demeanor is how well they accept criticism. Most people who can’t face their own demons think they are surrounded by them.
5. Drama is actually part of life.
“Fun-loving yogi seeks Roommate, no drama please.” Lord, these are the most annoying people on the planet, right?
Little do they know that every time they avoid conflict and negativity that they are actually limiting their own authentic, spiritual growth. Negativity and shadows are an unavoidable part of life.
It is actually a whole hell of a lot more dangerous to repress this stuff than it is to confront it, experience it, and keep moving. Our success as humans is how well acquainted with all parts of the self we are and how well we have learned to harness both positive and negative energies to our benefit.
6. I am not special or entitled.
Here’s where the West truly got a hold of “Eastern wisdom teaching” and customized it for its own opportunistic needs: we think we are special.
Westerners are notorious for believing that we all ought to do something great, something inspiring, incredible, and unique. Meanwhile, the rest of the planet is occupied with real work, life, and suffering.
The vast majority of this planet is occupied by agricultural and menial labor workers, not office workers. Lots of wise people sweat for a living doing backbreaking labor.
I met many of them in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and China. The bottom line is that not everyone has important dharma to fulfill. What is remarkable is all of the individual dharma of the world, big and small.
Imagine this for a second: your big-deal life might boil down to the minute you save a child’s life or say the right thing at the right time to a friend who is addled by addiction—or, it might not.
Plenty of people slip off the mortal coil every single day without leaving the tiniest trace of themselves behind.
Life is made of moments if we can show up for them and not spectacles of personality. Stop worrying about making it the big time. Be happy with who you are and what you have. You will be much happier in the long run.
7. It’s better to be realistic.
“Think and Grow Rich. Manifesting.” Yes, we’ve heard it all, and it’s not a secret anymore.
There is some truth in that: if you actually stay focused and activated with things that are realistically within your skill set, they will most likely happen—but that’s not manifesting.
It’s called goal setting and diligence with a certain amount of grace and good luck mixed in. There’s a catch in manifesting that I’m going to guess your yoga teacher didn’t cover in that pep talk she gave last week while you were in downward dog.
Whatever you can imagine at a given point in time, no matter how expansive it may be, does not allow for the infinite possibilities that exist already in the Universe. That’s right; if you are visualizing something specific, you are inherently limiting yourself to what you think you want.
I bet you didn’t see that coming, did you, Yogananda?
So, while you are busy planning for the infinite, you are actually settling for the finite, which may be far less than the Universe might have in store for you. The truth is, it takes humility to see that we can’t know the reach of our lives from the information we have right now. We can only see what is right in front of us.
It’s better to be realistic in our goal setting and happier with whatever result we get than to chase after things we might never have or actually need.
The infinitely complex universe offers more opportunities than you can dream of if you know who you are, what you want and what your limitations are.