Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Changing how I look at happiness

If "happiness" isn't a useful word to you, try another one (fulfillment, bliss, joy, ...).

I feel it's important that I change my perspective on it.

I usually think of it as something I'll get, by doing or achieving the right things. I may not think of it this way consciously, but that's fundamentally how I treat it. I think most people do.

If I'm feeling spiritual, then maybe I'll get it by achieving the right meditation states. But it amounts to the same thing.

But what if joy is something that you do, not something that you get? When you achieve the right things (according to whatever standard you've set up for yourself), you do joy. It doesn't come from some magic fairy, or some part of your brain that's outside your control.

If you find the word "do" too striving, perhaps the word "allow" is sufficiently soft. But either way, it's not some outside force that lets it in.

But this doesn't go far enough. Okay, so joy is something that I can "allow." What if I don't feel worthy of it? Then I may not allow it. If I look closely, it's because I feel that I don't deserve it. So then maybe meditation subtly becomes the process of earning joy.

Now another twist: joy isn't something that I deserve or earn. It's a responsibility. A sacred duty.

Perhaps for some, turning it into a "duty" makes it feel oppressive, like a chore. For me, I link it to the Bodhisattva Vow I took some years ago. That was one of the most emotional moments of my life. It was the feeling that I'm devoting my life to the most meaningful purpose, with witnesses. In the same way that parenthood may be a duty but is also (I'm told) the most sublime of joys, the duty of being happy can be viewed as the greatest gift I could bestow myself and the world.

How could it be a gift to the world? One simple reason is that I get more done when I'm joyful, and I'm also kinder. True joy is never selfish. An even more direct reason is that everyone wants to be joyful, so why not be a role model?

I intend to really internalize that.
Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. -- Marianne Williamson 

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