“If we cannot be happy in spite of our difficulties, what good is our spiritual practice?”
“There is a direct connection between the quality of my life in every respect and the quality and quantity of my spiritual practices.”
~ Jim Lockard
I saw a post on social media the other day which said in essence, “I haven’t been happy since November 6, 2016.” That’s a long time not to be happy. It is also a sign that the person who posted that statement believes that his or her happiness is tied to external conditions – conditions over which he or she has little or no control.
Unhappiness, in its various forms (anger, depression, complaining, etc.), is like a plague in our times. Amplified by social media (especially the comments sections!!), and driven by the 24-hour news cycle, it is an epidemic. While it may seem reasonable to be unhappy in the world today, it is a creative energy that we cannot afford to expand. Our thoughts are creative, as we in New Thought know, and unhappy thoughts can make unhappiness a habit.
“Complaining becomes a habit. Focusing on the negative also becomes a habit. It’s one of the most detrimental habits you can possibly have. It can negatively impact you socially, affecting your personal happiness, but it can also subconsciously sabotage your money and success.”
~ T. Harv Eker
The answer IS NOT to ignore the world around us or to stop caring about the well-being of others or what is best for society. The answer IS to recognize that there is always suffering in the world, that everyone is on his or her own pathway in life, that some of us will be destructive, even cruel. Having the spiritual discipline to see what is and what is not mine to do is critical. Developing the spiritual poise to discern how and where to engage and to show love, wisdom, and compassion at all times is so critical. Our practices help us to develop these qualities to levels which allow us to live a happy life and still be a positive influence, still stand up to injustice, still care deeply about our planet.
“Realize you can be happy this moment for no reason. Otherwise, you eternally depend on conditions for happiness. Unconscious of this moment, you remain a victim of circumstances.”
~ Arthur D. Saftlas
Cultivating happiness as a way of being is different from having moments of happiness. A happy way of being means that we are viewing the world through a lens of inner acceptance of joy. We have decided to be happy and not allow external conditions to rob us of the joy of life. This may sound like a contradiction, but it is only contradictory to the conditioning we face in our society – driven by old limited ideas, mass media wanting to gather our eyes and ears to sell us things, and habit. When we clear our consciousness of blind adherence to such a worldview, other possibilities open up to us – including happiness.
“Things that matter are not easy. Feelings of happiness are easy. Happiness is not. Flirting is easy. Love is not. Saying you’re friends is easy. Being friends is not.”
~ David Levithan
“Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”
~ C.G Jung
The quotes above speak to the reality that a happy way of being does not mean a life without challenges or sadness. The speak to a life of determination and being unattached to external outcomes. The difficulties of sustaining a happy way of being are largely due to the truth that most of us are surrounded by people and a society which has developed a fear-based way of being. Rising above this into happiness takes clear intention, disciplined practice, and a conscious awareness of who we really are.
“Each of us must learn to live with paradox, or we cannot live peacefully or happily even a single day of our lives. In fact, we must even learn to love paradox, or we will never be wise, forgiving, or possess the patience of good relationships.”
~ Richard Rohr
The unpredictability of life and all of its paradoxes are not things to be feared, but to be deeply appreciated. There are wonders we have yet to access, surprises around every corner, and aspects of ourselves which we have not yet revealed. Bringing a way of being to this reality which supports openness to the new and to paradox means that we will be happy more of the time. And every “miracle” starts with a problem. Positive spiritual warriorship includes the ability to discern whether, where, and how to engage. Warriorship includes a healthy version of the Destroyer Archetype – the aspect of self which, when mature, knows how to remove things which no longer serve us, or are our responsibility.
Our practices should include forgiveness and gratitude. Forgiveness to release needless attachment to grievances and old wounds; gratitude to foster deep recognition of the blessings of every life.
“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.”
~ G.K. Chesterton
Happiness is a decision which, with practice, becomes a way of being.
Copyright 2018 – Jim Lockard
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