April 2014: Choosing Happiness, Part 2

by Brad on March 31, 2014

“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 The pursuit of happiness appears to be elusive for most, based on comments from March’s newsletter. Blocks include both envisioning happiness and taking action to experience it. I suspect the comments I received may apply to many, so I offer them here with perspective that may help guide your journey. How do these obstacles apply to you?

  • We say we want to be happy, but what we really want is to be safe. This is an unconscious stance, one that confuses safety (and certainty) with happiness. Neither safety nor certainty exists in the external world; working tirelessly to find what doesn’t exist is futile. The only place we can find either one is in our own inner experience of truth. We’re looking in the wrong place, thereby denying happiness.
  • We tend to equate happiness to success, yet we’re unaware that how we generally define success can never result in happiness. We unconsciously believe that if we prove ourselves by striving hard and long enough, the results of our toiling will leave us happy. If the energy fueling any journey is the energy of striving, however, we’ll forever find more to strive for, thereby denying happiness. Worse, we risk not realizing this until the every end.
  • We tend to equate happiness to “seeking pleasure and avoiding pain,” unaware that both pleasure and pain are natural parts of being human. In taking this stance, we’re always focused on either the previous moment or the next moment, depriving ourselves altogether of any experience in this moment – which is where happiness lives. Pleasure and pain “flow through” us and enrich us; “holding on” is what denies our happiness.
  • We tend to equate happiness to experiencing a set of circumstances in the outside world (money, job, education, possessions, friends, etc.) yet we’re unaware we don’t control the world outside ourselves, so we futilely chase those circumstances forever. Because the chase itself cannot be satisfied, we deny ourselves happiness.
  • We tend to see happiness as a reward we get (later) in exchange for our efforts, rather than a choice we make (now) to experience life in a new way. Life is not like building a house, where you create a plan and make a house – that’s control. Life is like tending a garden, where you create conditions that allow plants to grow (they grow fine on their own), then experience what unfolds – with awareness, acceptance, patience and trust.

KeanaeFieldsThe potential here is huge, because the blocks we experience come not from life, but from the way we have [unconsciously] come to see and think about life. Our envisioning and our actions are blocked by assumptions and beliefs that live only in our heads, not in the real world. These thought forms have become the way we see and think. By learning to be aware of them, perhaps for the first time, we allow ourselves to consciously choose new definitions for terms like success, safety, certainty, productivity, control. Simply by practicing new definitions for these terms, we begin to allow life’s true experience to flow through us, no longer blocking its flow with unconscious thoughts. Because I, probably like you, was brought up in this country, I adopted most of these blocks as “truths,” too. Unaware,  I didn’t “get it” until my early 50s. Long time as a hostage, yet the past 15+ years have more than made up for it.

Exercise: Imagine a new world into being. Imagine, for a moment, you just found out you had only a week to live. Consider how you’d answer these two questions: (1) Looking back as of right now, what’s the story you’d tell about the life you’ve lived? (2) How would change the way you’re living for your one last week? These questions “work” regardless of age or where you may be in your life’s journey. If you don’t like the answer to question #1, or if your answer to question #2 means big-time change, the same will be true 10, 20 or more years from now, too – unless you make new choices. If now is not the time for new choices, when is? Most of us believe these questions are a long way off, so we live each day as if they don’t matter. They do. If we postpone happiness until “whatever,” there will come a day (“whenever”) when we see the folly, only then to wish we’d chosen differently. How about if that day is today?

A River Runs Through It  [Life lessons offered by nature]

What if nature creates just for the sheer joy of creation? Further, what if the beauty we see in nature is a result of her remarkable ability to transform chaos into order, which she’s been doing (just through creativity) for far longer than we’ve been here to fight with her doing so? And what if these powers combine to create the resilience we see everywhere in nature, yet only wish we could experience in our own lives? And what if nature, through exactly these processes, has learned to allow life to flow through her, continuing her magnificent process of creation, yet not holding on to the outcomes of creation? And what if, perhaps most significantly, it is through these processes that act ‘locally,’ (right here right now yet happening the same way everywhere), the order of the entire cosmos unfolds and continues the process of becoming?

The point here is that everything happens “on its own,” through its own unique creative essence, yet the total is a remarkably integrated whole. Despite that everything acts apparently “on its own” and “in its own space and time,” the result is a world where nothing is separate. To me, this is “evidence” for the existence of a universal consciousness energy, via which the universe sustains itself and its becoming.

We are part of, as well as an expression of, that consciousness. What we do with it matters. Although we may believe we act as independent entities (on our own, separate from others and the world), or worse, that we have no independent free will at all, everything we think, say and do causes ripples throughout the vast sea of consciousness that permeates the universe. How might you choose your thoughts, words and actions if you knew that to be the case? Perhaps it’s time for us to realize that threads in the story we weave about why we matter include all of life within its frame.


Openings to New Possibility

Available for you:

  • The Road Not Taken Community, a no-cost subscription that offers you connection, interaction, challenge, and learning. See articles, newsletters and blogs; you’ll find “new stuff” here regularly. I welcome comments and conversation; this kind of dialogue is an example of how we may all learn together.
  • “In Nature’s Image,” a blog series here. Each offers a simple idea for adding meaning to your life, accompanied by one of my images from nature. If you’d like to receive them by email, use the green icon (“receive blog via RSS feed”) on any page of my website or here. If we’re connected on Facebook, you’ll also find each post there.
  • My e-book, A Field Guide to Life: How to Live With Authenticity and Freedom. Reclaim the power of your deepest longing. You can purchase the ebook, or read it at no cost as a series of blog articles on my website.
  • The Road Not Taken newsletters (12 years, 144 issues of Purposeful Wanderings) available here as a pdf file.  
  • Photo images from my travels available here on fun products – note cards, coffee mugs – great gift ideas.

An invitation to possibility: If you have the courage and determination to step apart from the crowd and challenge conventional thinking … so you can live instead with authenticity and freedom, contact me for a conversation that can energize your dream. I will help you reach a level of clarity and perspective – about yourself, others, your life, your work and the world – that allows you to live your truth, every day. Trade the way it is for the way it could be.

Book of the month On the Day You Were Born, by Debra Frasier. Yes, this is a children’s book. Yet that’s precisely why it is an adult’s book as well.  Because somewhere along the way, between then and now, we forgot why we matter, and how the entire world is part of us and we are part of the world. It’s a world far bigger than ourselves and our view of it; it’s a world that loves and supports us. And it’s a world that reminds us – both that we matter and that we have a responsibility. Within that frame lies the key to our happiness … And if you’re on Cape Cod, you’ll find this book at the Market Street Bookshop in Mashpee Commons – 508-539-6985.

Download April 2014 pdf

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