What or who are we attached to? What is our happiness dependent upon? What invisible strings are tying us to our ego?
A good friend of mine has been on a spiritual pursuit for years. He was a highly intelligent, personable, healthy and highly financially successful person. But like many people who achieve material success, he found it dissatisfying and he instantly shifted to wanting the sort of spiritual success that simply gets defined as ‘happiness.’
He realized after all of his achieving that the whole point of ‘success’ was actually to gain more happiness or satisfaction. And if he got the success without the reward, then it just wasn’t worth much at all.
His new challenge was that he wanted to be happy. But that’s just another way of saying that he was dissatisfied with his life as it was, and we can’t be happier if we’re disappointed. To be focused on achieving happiness means we are also focused on stopping unhappiness. That is engaging with negativity.
The problem is when we want something outside of ourselves. As Eckhart Tolle says, “You ‘get’ there by realizing that you are there already.” No person’s truly rewarding life is dependent on anything other than the understanding that we all feel whatever we focus our attention on.
It’s a bit like learning to multiply numbers. We all accomplished that in a split second—just as soon as we had the insight that allowed us to see the idea of multiplication from a perspective where it simply made sense.
It’s not a complicated concept. 5 X 4 is five bags of four apples. But until we can recognize the principles underlying the examples, even simple multiplication can seem very, very hard. It’s the same with finding a rewarding life. Until we know how to do it, it seems hard. After we know how to do it we have trouble understanding why other people can’t do it because it’s so much easier than being an unsatisfied ego.
A lot of my students will change through a series of small, incremental insights. A few weeks of Aha! moments and they’re different people. It’s the Aha moments that do that. And those happen inside of us. That’s why they’re called Insights.
They’re really a reorganization of our comprehension. We see things in a different way after having them. A small invisible adjustment can suddenly see new lines connecting the dots in our head and that new perspective can leave us with a totally different picture of how the world works.
Some of those insights happen at a base level, where a concept is writ large over the person’s entire reality. And like my friend did, those people experience full-on epiphanies. They are literally different people the moment afterwards.
My friend used to walk around slouched, with his head down. He wore almost exclusively dark colours, and if he spoke it was often as sharply judgmental as it was intellectually sharp. His view of humanity was fairly bleak, and his life was a repetitive collection of meaningless activities in that none of them even brought much joy. He was still a fundamentally nice guy, but you rarely heard him laugh at anything that didn’t involve someone else’s suffering.
Now he’s like spending time with a newborn. He literally beams love. He walks around with his head up, wearing bright colours, and he smiles a lot. He’s much more generous with those around him, and he only sees the best in each and every person he knows.
He’s more willing to be honest about important things, and he can be both more generous and he can stand his ground more firmly. He’s developed more meaningful connections to everyone from his parents to his siblings to his co-workers and friends. He is perpetually in a state of love.
If you were to ask my friend what the difference is between his life before, and his life now, he would tell you that his happiness is no longer dependent on any specific outcome.
He is rich because there is nothing he wants. He is peaceful because there is nothing he wants. He can be loving to anyone because he does not want anything from them. He knows he does not feel their love for him, he knows he feels his love for them.
He no longer pursues happiness, he enacts happiness by being very childlike. Very young children want to share their good fortune, they want to be playful and not harbour useless thoughts about obligations or times other than Now. They are little Buddhas and now he has joined them.
My friend is a beautiful person and I experience great joy when I think of his transformation. He’s inspiring to many people and much of what challenges us in life is over for him. Yes, his enlightenment will continue to be a practice. It is a verb—he will have to use the power of his consciousness to maintain that “place.” But just like you can’t forget how to multiply numbers, he can’t forget that he knows what the Truth really is. And he won’t go back to living in ego simply because that other world just looks too crazy once you’ve seen the Truth.
We should review our lives. They are often filled with conditions for our happiness. Our boss has to be this way or that way, our romantic partner must do this or that, our friends must do this or that, our government must do this or that, our society must do this or that, we must change or this or that way. It’s exhausting.
There are no musts. There is only what Is. Accepting that, and looking for what we already love about it, is all we have to do. We only need to let go of our attachments to the idea of happiness and instead simply enact it as a verb. Rather than thinking about happiness, it is time to be happiness itself.
Now go create yourself a beautiful day. I love you.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.