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As I sit on a bench overlooking the Niagara River, I am awestruck by the crystalline beauty that moves before me, endlessly.
This time, however, I not only marvel at the body of this river but also at the inherent consciousness it contains that is characteristic in all other things.
Water, I’ve read, is equally driven by the force of gravity, always flowing downhill.
Philosophically speaking, it reminds us that every thought and action we project into the world ripples outward and is transported through a stream and into the consciousness of the collective. Beyond that, who knows where it goes? I wonder.
But like our oceans, human consciousness can so easily become polluted, so entrenched in the muck that encompasses greed, power-hunger, fear of the unknown or of “the other,” whom we perceive as “different from” or even “inferior to” us, and so on.
Then, I fall to my knees at how seamlessly the river reflects the light, how its surface appears so generously embraced by the sun.
Now as I sit here, I notice how I too have been tapped by the light of this “I Am” intelligence—and I refer to it as an “intelligence” simply because I have not as of yet fully integrated and resonated with it at the level of Being—intrinsic in all life forms on the planet.
Since the beginning of last month, my awareness has expanded. I am not of the same mindset I was as little as two months ago.
In a previous article, I wrote about my fear of dying and a conversation I had with a friend who has had two near-death experiences. These events confirmed for him the infinite existence of the soul. Since that time, I have replayed fragments of that interview over and over in my head, trying to reconcile with the notion that the soul is in fact what we know as consciousness itself.
In hindsight, it seems to me that the past nine years of my life have called in circumstances I now realize were put in place as catalysts for a true spiritual awakening. They arose to remind me of everything I am and by contrast, am not. Many of these situations were life-altering in one way or another and left me shattered, albeit figuratively speaking, to the point that I was forced to surrender to the fall before collapsing and rebuilding a new identity or otherwise adopting an alternative manner of living.
These events were among my most powerful spiritual teachers and as I’ve bid farewell to the past decade, I now find myself bowing in gratitude for what I have learned and will continue to learn as I tread deeper into the pathless woods.
Not long ago, I, like most other people, was striving for happiness. I felt I deserved it. Happiness, I insisted, is our natural state, a sort of birthright. More dangerous than that, however, was my belief that happiness is also a byproduct of all things externally manifesting in ways we perceive as positive according to our own particular worldview. As the song lyrics from, “My Back Pages” by The Byrds goes: “Ah, but I was so much older than/I’m younger than that now.”
Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded by articles that offer tips or suggest ways to acquire or increase our level of happiness. More than that, most of us relish in people, places, anniversaries, events, or substances we feel supply this emotion, no matter the cost to ourselves, those around us, or even how temporary these things may be.
Happiness is also generally perceived to be aligned with some event in either the future or the past. If we are honest with ourselves, most of us can relate to the thought: “I have to do ____ in order to have ____ and then I’ll be ____” (usually some kind of synonym for the adjective “happy”) or, “In order to be _____, I have to do (or get) ____ in order to____” (a similar idea).
Now, before I go any further, let’s leave social, economic, and political examples aside as no one deserves to be homeless, abused, poor, or hungry, and I see the political climate of our planet as a symptom of a much deeper problem altogether and yet is nevertheless intimately tied to mass unconsciousness. No one can thrive under such conditions and that, of course, is not only a matter of perspective.
However, for the rest of us, this so-called happiness we strive for all too often is a matter of perspective and, dare I say, philosophical error.
One of my favorite quotes by Rumi reads: “What you seek is seeking you.” Simply put, the law of attraction proposes that the universe, God, Source—whatever name we give to our higher power or however we choose to conceptualize it—brings forth whatever it is we happen to be intensely focused on. However, the law of attraction only gives us the things that match our energetic vibration, and so many of us remain in a state of pining over whatever it is we supposedly “don’t have” and thus fail to realize that nothing outside of us can change until or unless we have embraced the prospect of an inner revolution, which involves a forcible overthrow of an ego or aka mind-identified persona.
Instead, we need to come to terms with the idea that in order to have something, we must resonate with the Being that we are. Resistance to who we truly are and to what is does not lay the groundwork for this “happiness” we seek. Moreover, we seldom stop to consider that perhaps what we really ought to be searching for is pure, unshakeable peace.
Here on Earth, those ways we obtain happiness are often tenuous at best, simply because not only are they by nature ephemeral, but because they also keep us stuck in the egoic seduction of desire. We are trapped in a lack mindset, conveniently forgetting who we are, where we came from, and where we will ultimately return when our time here comes to an end.
We place our power in something or someone we perceive as omnipotent, just as those who believe in an afterlife usually believe in salvation and think of “heaven” as a place we go to after we die, as opposed to a metaphor for a state we as mortal fleshly beings are more than capable of experiencing for ourselves while we’re here on Earth, and then more broadly, as a climate we can thus create for all other living things and beings around us if only we choose to let go of fear and separation consciousness (hell).
In my opinion, salvation cannot be possible without the dawning of this basic but profound awareness. “Heaven,” to me, is not a place we have to get to in time. Instead, I see it as an unassailable peace and awareness we are capable of accessing within us now and then sharing with all those in our vicinity, and then by default, beyond it as it has the potential to have a ripple effect and change the world we inhabit for the better. Believing in a physical place called “heaven” that we can only access in time feels disempowering.
For the past couple of weeks, I have been rereading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. In the sixth chapter, he writes about the “inner body”—that is, the connection between the true self (Being), the mind, and the physical body itself. He notes: “You are cut off from Being as long as your mind takes up all your attention. When this happens—and it happens continuously for most people—you are not in your body. The mind absorbs all your consciousness and transforms it into mind stuff. You cannot stop thinking. Compulsive thinking has become a collective disease. Your whole sense of who you are is then derived from mind activity.” (p. 111)
As I delved further into this chapter, I found I resonated deeply with compulsive thinking patterns and unconscious “pain-body” triggering and activation. I put down the book for a few minutes and withdrew energy and attention away from my mind and leaned into my body. At that precise moment, I became aware of how heavy I felt in my heart chakra as well as in my solar plexus—a heaviness I have become so accustomed to denying or resisting.
I panicked, wanting to bolt straight out of my own body. At the very least, I found myself questioning why it was there, due to the analytical nature of my mind, and swiftly attempted to figure out how to “fix it.”
I wanted to attach to it old familiar thought patterns and tell myself a story so that it had reason to exist. Inside my head, I heard myself scream: why can’t I just be happy? How do I get happy? I’m not as happy as I “should” be and this feeling is not okay.
Then, by some divine intervention, the bright wings of my awareness swooped in and I became once again, the witnessing presence or the watcher of those thoughts, as though I were observing them from a bird’s eye view.
I said to myself:
Let them be, Sarah. If you resist them, you will inadvertently and unconsciously create dysfunction and disease within your energy field that will later manifest in the physical body. Do not give these feelings a backstory or even question why they are there. Feel them and release them without any further judgment. They may be old pain-bodies you’ve accumulated in the past and were largely unaware of until now. Lean into the discomfort, breathe in, and let them go.
I also become aware of the abusive nature of my own thoughts toward myself and my current and past life circumstances. Wow, I live with a tormentor in my own head, I thought to myself.
Until that moment, it seldom occurred to me just how often I am not in my body, how blindly I escape, like everyone else, through the use of external distractions or through what Tolle calls “mind stuff,” and how the quest for this misnomer we refer to as happiness should not be viewed as some kind of destination point.
What I really need—and what we should all be seeking—is peace. Peace does not require an ephemeral set of conditions. Peace is not a place we arrive at. It is something we uncover once we’ve swept away the debris of all our unconscious “mind stuff.” Peace is an unconstrained acceptance of the present yet somehow does not render us passive. Peace is also the powerful realization that we are not a collection of thought patterns, narratives, or our particular life situation at any given point in time.
Peace, in my opinion, is so much deeper than that and once realized, cannot be so easily stolen. It also perhaps can’t as easily be defined, which is why we often can’t access this state through mental constructs.
As a society, I think we need to question the idea of a right to happiness and what is perceived as having the potential to “make us happy.” All too often, these things are fleeting and that state by default becomes situation-dependent and therefore conditional.
When I stopped breathing life into my thought patterns that day, I noticed them recede slowly into the background, becoming almost static. I then felt more present throughout the remainder of my time and in my interactions with those around me, which to me, felt far greater than any perceived happiness I could obtain as a result of anything outside of me.
That, as it turns out, was far greater in quality and magnitude than any fleeting glimpse of joy I had previously encountered. Furthermore, it is something I am now seeking to access in little ways each day.
The challenge lies only in letting go of old ideas of happiness.