Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pathway to Happiness

Life is difficult.

These were the first words in the classic book, “The Road Less Travelled” by M. Scott Peck. The statement wasn’t to discourage us, but rather to help us understand that we are not alone, and that it’s possible to transcend personal challenges.
Once we come to fully accept that life is difficult, then, paradoxically, the burden is lifted. When we embrace life, rather than resist, we create an opening for lightness and fluidity.
The great sages say that we’re all seeking happiness. Aristotle pointed out that happiness is the only goal that we desire for its own sake; it’s the final answer in explaining why we do what we do.  
A great quote is from Ghandi who says, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” Perhaps you may be asking yourself that if the rules were that simple, then why aren’t more people happy? A major reason is because we live in a world of countless external distractions tugging at us from every direction; a sea of choices promising fulfillment, but sucking energy away from our harmonious state.
What is happiness and what is pleasure? Pleasure is temporary; basically, happiness in wolf’s clothing. Pleasure tantalizes the senses, our taste-buds. But the tradeoff is that it also pulls us away from the harmonious life Ghandi refers to. While there is nothing wrong with pleasure per se, discovering a life of meaning and authenticity requires something deeper: It requires awareness. This means being fully immersed in this moment: focusing on your thoughts, your breath, and your emotions, even as you’re reading these words. Everything you are doing is given your utmost attention. Awareness means being fully present, where you can make quality decisions not just from your mind, but from a higher conscious level.

Would you prefer the Red Pill or the Blue Pill?

Many recall the line from the classic movie “The Matrix.”  Neo, the main character (Keanu Reeves) was offered two alternatives. If he took the Red Pill he was told it would take him through a dark rabbit hole, and although he wouldn’t know where it led, it would offer him the promise of a clearer reality.  Choosing the Blue Pill on the other hand would keep everything at status quo and avoid uncertainty. Neo, as we know, went for the Red.
Majority of people would opt for the Blue Pill—It feels safer and it offers a sense of control. We want to protect ourselves from what’s “out there”. The downside is that we become a victim of ourselves by not seeing the broader picture, and as a result we tend to make poorer decisions which lead to discomfort, or what Buddhists refer to as “suffering”. 

Problems cannot be solved at the level of awareness that created them-Einstein

We’ve been conditioned by habits, which inevitably attracted the same kinds of circumstances into our lives. We’ve followed a script molded by our environment as well as by previous generations—essentially guidelines to experiencing the “good life”.  We’ve been taught that if we were good citizens, played by the rules, and got a higher education, our lives would be fulfilling and complete.
While these guidelines are admirable and well-intentioned, most of us have found that it still hasn’t solved our main problems. It’s our level of thinking that needs to change, not the activities themselves. Otherwise we become like the dog that spins round and round, chasing its own tail.
An effective way of abating this cycle is to pause and bringing in awareness. The universe conspires and works in our favor. Nature wants us to get the message in a variety of subtle and not so subtle ways. When we’re willing to relinquish our attachments and habits, and fully accept that there’s something beyond our mental scripting, then we expand with life’s higher teachings.
Thus, in order to operate on the level where life is favorable rather than difficult, the willingness to sliding down the rabbit hole requires a different set of rules. But these rules are not to be found in a manuscript, nor are they chiseled on a tabloid. They’re not quantifiable because they resonate from a place that isn’t based on logic, or scientific facts.

Take for instance a simple act of compassion. Compassion raises levels of happiness from many aspects: it boosts our immune system, our emotions, and our connection with life, and it does so right down to the cellular level. If even, say, a group of top scientists and doctors approached you with legitimate documents proving that compassion is just a mental state, something inside you may not register. That something comes from your intuitive muscles which goes beyond what you can conceive through just thought. And if we are willing to look beyond the tangibles, we see a broader picture.
By opening ourselves to what life is teaching us, we begin to expand rather than resist, trusting nature’s flow to steer us through the cascade of life.

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside awakes-Carl Jung

The way out is by going in. Looking within ourselves offers clarity. It’s an invitation out of the maze and into a world waiting to be discovered through Self-Inquiry.  We can choose to stay (blue pill) or we can choose to plunge and take the ride (red pill) which can offer us an adventure of unfiltered experience, providing us insight, and opportunity for true freedom and happiness. When we awaken to this, we recognize that life is on our side.

Challenges will certainly arise, but we are able to embrace them from a higher state of awareness. Looking inside asks of us to take the first step. As Goethe said, "Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." When we are fully conscious and meet life on its terms, then we are able to embrace the difficulty from a higher conscious level. This is the pathway to pure happiness.