From Caroline’s 2012 Salon – Part 2 of 4
We have given a name to an organic force of Nature that we recognize has a certain quality to it that results in states of bliss when we are in harmony with it. We call that force “happiness.” I am not surprised people find “happiness” difficult to define for exactly this reason – the elements are rooted in an organic life force. Here’s an example of what I am talking about: We are happy – if not happiest – when we are living in harmony with our inner nature. We feel most content, most balanced when the choices we make reflect our true feelings. We feel honest and clear. We are not hiding secrets from anyone, we are not betraying ourselves, we are comfortable speaking honestly when in discussions (not about wounds, just about life), and we feel openly and generously loving toward others. Feelings of insecurity such as, “Am I loved as much?” do not enter your mind. You are confident about being loved and loving – not in return, just loving because of the quality of person you are.
At the core of this life philosophy is a deep understanding that you are a part of Nature and you reside within the cycles and laws of Nature. You, and everyone else, are therefore subject to the on-going cycles of life: Death and Rebirth; Gain and Loss; Joy and Grief; Feast and Famine; Bonding and Abandonment.
Further, as a human being, it is a given that you will age and experience the breakdown of your physical form. Responding to aging as if it were the enemy of your physical body is a guarantee of misery.
During your life, you will experience betrayal, both as someone who will betray others and be betrayed by others. You will lie to others and others will lie you to. You will judge others unjustly and you will be judged unjustly. You will hold onto grudges and others will not forgive you. You will be introduced to strangers to love and strangers will fall in love with you. You will be saved miraculously from harm many times, sometimes knowingly – most times invisibly. You will be guided to be certain places on time. Sometimes those places include accidents. Other times you will meet future partners and best friends. And when the time comes, you will be called home, ending the journey of your physical life on Earth.
There is nothing personal about these cycles of life or these experiences. They are archetypal. That is, they are essential ingredients that make up the alchemy of the human character. These ingredients make us the same, and vulnerable to each other. They tie us together like invisible threads through our weakest links so that we may stand humbly before each other. One of the roots of unhappiness is telling yourself that you are better than others, that you do not do what others do, or that you are incapable of their negative actions. No you’re not. None of us is incapable of any negative action because we are all made up of the same ingredients.
When we tell ourselves we are better than others, then we begin to believe that we are separate from Nature itself and the cycles of Nature. We begin to tell ourselves nonsense like, “The cycles of Nature do not apply to us because we are special. We are not like those people.” And soon we begin to feel entitled. We tell ourselves that because we are special, we are entitled to protection from the cycles of Nature, such as: Death and Rebirth and Abandonment and Bonding and Feast and Famine. In fact, pretty soon, we start believing we can strike up our own bargains with God. Here’s a popular one: If I am a good person and do everything right, nothing bad will happen to me. After all, I’m special and entitled.
Separated from the cycles of Nature and armed with a head full of self-constructed mythologies, off you go into a made-up world that doesn’t really exist – except in your own mind. Your happiness becomes based upon these myths holding intact, all of them built upon illusion, as Buddha would say. Inevitably, of course, one of those cycles and one or two of those experiences will manifest, shattering this fantasy. (This is usually the point at which people ask, “What kind of God does this to people?”) Perhaps a betrayal erupts in a marriage or maybe a sudden job loss happens. There is no shortage of examples of how the cycles of life express themselves in our lives.
Recently a dear friend of mine experienced the loss of her home, her business, and her sister. She went through – and is still transitioning through – a heartbreaking cycle of death and rebirth. Though her grief continues to pulse in her heart, signs of rebirth are beginning to emerge around her, as that is Nature’s way. She can’t help but think, “I need to move on now.” Indeed. “I’ve had a few ideas about doing this and that.” Oddly, I’m not surprised. It takes time, but Rebirth is inevitable.
Let me add that she certainly recognized there was nothing personal about this trilogy of death events; that is, she did not make her sister’s death her death. Her sister’s death was not about her; it was about her sister, obviously. It was synchronistic to many other endings in her life, and noting that, she recognized that she was deep within the cycle of endings/death and new beginnings/rebirth. In other words, this was the Nature of life.
I am convinced that people cannot articulate their ideas about happiness because they are completely dissociated from its very mechanism, which is Nature itself. Not understanding how you belong to and are subject to the way life works, you have no alternative but to make up your own story, your own mythologies, and hope they work. You will shy away from people who threaten your “happiness” myths, and you will perform all sorts of silly incantations and heel- clicking, hoping to instantly transform your life into a happy zone. None of that will ever be more than a kick-fix – ever. Listening to music and talking with your friends will never, ever have the power to create a happy life. (Who believes that stuff???)
Next week – Why we struggle with happiness.