Happiness: at least a strong hint about who you really are
There’s no reason to say ‘No’ to happiness when it comes.
How many times have I shortchanged myself, held myself back from enjoying the moment in front of me, because I thought I had somewhere else to be, was worried about being late, was worried about… anything, really. That anxiety, it really is a sign of being somewhere else besides where you are. Can I turn that into an invitation to be right here, right now?
Sometimes it seems impossible, to turn towards the moment. And maybe it is impossible, to continue the way you’ve been going, and get anywhere other than where it’s taken you so far. Maybe some part of you sees the mess you’re in, and is trying to weave your way out, trying to pull the thread until everything unravels… as if pulling the sweater apart by its threads will somehow leave it folded neatly again.
Sometimes the best answer really is to just stop. Stop what you’re doing. If you aren’t engaging with what’s in front of you, you’re missing the moment.
It doesn’t matter if you are where you’re ‘supposed’ to be. You still can stop, let it go, and start over differently. If you aren’t happy doing it… what’s the point?
That ‘supposed to’ is such a burden. I know; it’s woven into my habits, too. So often I make decisions based on that idea, some internalized concept of what I should be doing, where I should be going… who I should be.
It’s more fun to discover who you ARE instead of to be anxious over who you are ‘supposed to be’. And the way towards ‘who you are’ is actually quite a fun road to take. Do you know what road leads you there?
That fluttering feeling that naturally arises in you when you are met with parts of life that you like, and when you do things that you enjoy. Happiness comes to tell you “Yes, more of this.”
Trust what arises in you
We can’t control the way we feel, in response to life. We can only control our actions. Many of us try to control our actions such that we steer ourselves towards the path we have mentally come to believe is ‘right’. And we act, sometimes, with indifference (or, more likely, denial) towards our true feelings.
The different way is to listen to the feelings, and let them guide you. It is a riskier way of being, but it is more honest – more true to yourself.
A lot of this comes down to trust. We have been taught not to trust ourselves, and to trust instead in the collective systems. We have learned to sacrifice ourselves to support the systems. We have learned to place our trust in the order that already exists in this life, and to be wary about anything that doesn’t fit inside the order.
This is because societal order does serve an important purpose. And society will impress its order upon you, because societal order is only held if it is learned and ingrained. And there is good reason for this! It’s all the things you teach your kids, hoping it will help them succeed in this world. Part of what we pass on is our ways of adhering to the norms. ‘Norm’ is a word that often has a negative connotation, but ‘norms’ eventually become ‘traditions’ – those mass habits that have been refined and held onto, passed down with love, over generations. Those pieces of culture that have become sacred. Without our norms, we would be in pure chaos. And if we don’t respect our traditions, we lose them.
Yet herein lies the paradox. Some amount of our norms must be maintained, and in fact bring us great joy to maintain. At the same time… we are evolving and changing, and our structures must evolve and change as well. Both are true.
Make peace, make play, feel everything
What does this mean for us as individuals? It means our place is one of being a balance point between that order that is pressed upon us externally, and the order that wants to be expressed through us, that has points of conflict with what exists.
The goal is to turn from a war mindset to a peace mindset. War mindset says only one of us can win. That if I lose, I live a suppressed life and try to fit myself inside the box, strictly adhering to the status quo… and perhaps slowly dying on the inside. That if I win, it will be because I forced some part of the societal order to change.
Peace believes in a win-win scenario.
We can grow by pivoting the way we see things. We can learn not to make the Fool’s Choice, to let go of our belief in that duality, that the only two options are trying to change the external world to suit what we want, or attempting to suppress our feelings such that we more fully conform with the norms. Instead, we can engage our creativity, and ask the question: how can I meet Life where it is, with Myself as I am? We can turn our attention to the creative task of finding ways of responding to our world that feel good to us.
And that is the dance! Playing with Life. Life is like another person. It has its own agenda, its own thoughts, feelings, and motives. Just as when you dance with a person, you have to work with what they do… so too we need to work with what Life gives us.
We can apply this mindset towards any issues in our lives. We can remind ourselves… this isn’t a war. We can abandon any effort to come up with a big battle plan. We can choose to see Life as a partner, and give it the benefit of the doubt.
Let’s assume, for this song, that Life and I both want the same thing: an awesome fucking dance! We want it to be beautiful and fun (and sexy) the whole time, or as much of the time as possible. If we’re going to do that, we have to be okay with little slip-ups – so that in those moments when we step on each others’ toes, we can say sorry and laugh! and move on quickly! And we can both be assuming that the other can teach us something. We can be open and curious. We can ask questions and be willing to learn and grow. We can believe that Life chose us to dance with for good reason; that we are indeed supposed to be here.
Sometimes Life is hard to read. Still, we should give Life the benefit of the doubt. Be willing to say sorry. Be willing to listen; and be willing to share, as well. Share what we love about Life! Express gratitude! And share, also, when we’ve been hurt; express our sorrows… those vulnerable acts of pure feeling… they keep us close to Life, perhaps more than anything. Until we cry out our pain, we hold onto the belief that it isn’t safe to let go like that. It’s because we don’t trust Life to hear us, in those moments. And the longer we go holding that part of us in, trying to put on a strong face… the farther away we get from the heart of Life, and the farther away we get from the dance.
A heart that is hardened to sadness is also hardened to beauty. Hardened to intimacy. Unable to receive a soft touch… when a soft touch is what we long for more than anything.
It’s when we are holding on the tightest to our own issues that we fail to pick up on Life’s cues, and the dance comes to a stand-still.
Forgiveness can be holistic. It need not be towards a specific person. It can be towards Life itself. We can look back on something that happened to us, and choose to see it from a step removed… it was an experience we weren’t ready for yet. We did our best. Maybe Life did its best, too. Maybe Life has been trying to say a heartfelt ‘Sorry’ to us since it happened, and we’ve been unable to hear it because we went into a shell.
When we’re inside the shell is when we tend to fall back into that routine of acting in line with the order around us. Like we are trying to disappear into the middle of the crowd, trying to stay safe.
One message that wants to come through me… is that, when you’re in the middle of the crowd trying to stay safe…. 1 – you forget that’s what you’re doing… and 2 – you lose yourself! You become the crowd! A part of you will not be happy staying in there forever. You might even start to despise yourself, or the very crowd that you’ve decided to hide in.. because it isn’t an authentic self-expression, and the real reason you are even here is to express something unique, to bring something new to this world. You are meant to shine and stand out in your own way! You have gifts and a spark to share with Life, and they are begging to burst out of you!
So maybe this is the voice of the Devil. Or maybe it’s the voice of an Angel. It’s up to you to discern for yourself what is good for you. For me, I feel an amazing lightness lately in the idea that my own happiness can be my compass. That I can in fact turn my attention to my happiness instead of my problems, and consider my life a playground in which I play with happiness. Where does it come from? How can I feed it? How many different flavors of ‘happy’ exist out there, waiting to be discovered by me? Society gives us a very narrow definition of happiness to pursue. Nothing wrong with it, of course. I think there can be a lot of satisfaction in career ambition and success, in familial relationships, or in external beauty… but how stifling is it to my happiness, to believe that there is only one right road? How stifling is it to try to walk that perfect middle path, without any missteps? It puts so much pressure on me to be in the ‘right’ place, to make the ‘right’ choices… it takes the fun right out of Life, to believe too much in someone else’s definition of Happiness. Besides, it’s just an idea! It’s not real. What’s real is what I experience right now, and I experience that first and foremost through feeling.
Damn, safety is an illusion, and we stifle ourselves with it.
Let your own happy feelings guide your definition of happiness. Set out to be the discoverer, guarder, and keeper of your joy.
Be real with Life. Sometimes we get hurt. Don’t hold it in. Let it all out, bare it all for Life. Be a fool sometimes! Be ugly when you cry. Healing will happen. Grass and flowers will grow out of your scars, and Life will go on… better and deeper than it’s ever been before. Without those moments of surrender you rob yourself of feeling, you rob yourself of intimacy, and it will eat at you, or numb you.
Lastly… when you are dancing… Don’t make demands; make offerings, from your beautiful, open heart. Find what feels good to give to life, and give it.