I think many people out there are miserable because their expectations are unrealistic. If, for example, you’re thinking you’re going to reach some point in your evolution when you’re ecstatic every moment of every day, I think you’re going to be disappointed, and I don’t believe you’re ever going to reach that place. It seems many people are searching for the “high highs”, and as a result, they find themselves dealing with the “low lows.” We’ve all heard it a million times, but it bears repeating: happiness is not a destination, it’s borne from your process.
When we get caught up in the externals, in the results, in the material proof of our successes, we’re way off the path of what brings us fulfillment and true satisfaction. An object will never be able to provide you with feelings of worth or meaning for long. Neither will an altered state of consciousness. Nor will another human being. What do you spend most of your time doing? Really look at that, because most of your time adds up to most of your life, and if you’re spending a large majority of it feeling dissatisfied, or like you’re just punching a clock, or doing what you’re “supposed” to be doing, I wouldn’t expect life to feel very good for you, regardless of your bank account. In other words, you might be making lots of money and accruing lots of stuff, but if you don’t love the way you’re spending your days, it won’t amount to a happy life.
Happy doesn’t mean ecstatic. I know we see all of our friends with their shiny Instagram lives and pithy status updates, but please understand everyone goes through the same stuff. The people who are genuinely happy with their lives still have their struggles, their challenges, their days when they don’t feel like getting out of their pajamas. It’s not “all good”, and it’s not all positive, and you don’t have to be grateful for every experience you’ve ever been through, or every loss you’ve yet to endure. It’s a tough gig, being human. It’s awesome, it’s wonderful, it’s interesting, but it’s not easy. We get sold a false bill of goods, and sent down an unfulfilling path until we wise up and get right with ourselves.
Take a look at what you’re contributing, and how you feel about it. Working toward something you believe in feels great, but it’s not easy. Take a look at the people with whom you’re spending your time. It’s one of your most precious gifts–that, and your energy. Sometimes when we step back from the “grind”, or the “rat-race”, we realize we’re giving our time and energy to pursuits and people who weaken us, rather than strengthen us, and maybe we remember it shouldn’t be a grind, and we aren’t rats. Obviously there are the practicalities of life. We have to be able to feed and clothe ourselves, we have to keep a roof over our heads, and if we’re responsible for other people, we have to make sure they’re taken care of as well. But what lights you up? What feeds your soul? What excites you, scares you, inspires you? These are questions you’ll have to answer if you want to be at peace. That’s my definition of what it means to be happy. It means you’re feeling good about the way you’re living your life. It means you’ve figured out what your particular gifts are, and you’ve found a way to share them. Does that way have to be the thing that keeps a roof over your head? No, not necessarily. I think that’s ideal, but I think the main thing is to be sure you’re devoting a nice chunk of your time to those paths that bring you joy, and that offer you an opportunity to share what’s in your heart.
Self-acceptance is another huge part of the puzzle. If you despise yourself, you’re not going to be happy. Obvious, yes? If you have healing to do, there’s simply no avoiding it. If you’re enraged, ashamed, in a cycle of blame and shame, you’re going to have to move right into the center of your pain and have a seat. You do not have to stay there for the rest of your life, so don’t tell yourself it’s too hard. What’s too hard is living your whole life feeling frustrated and lost. Sitting with, examining, and understanding your issues, your pitfalls, your raw places and those tendencies that aren’t serving you, are the very things you need to do to liberate yourself from a lifetime of suffering. You can’t avoid your rage, or internalize it, or attach it to people outside yourself, or numb it out and think it’s going to go away, because it won’t. You have to deal with the source, and that’s deeply uncomfortable, painful work, but it’s also finite. Once you have a thorough understanding of why you feel and have felt the way you do and have, it will lose its grip on you. I promise you, this is the way it works. I’m not saying you’ll never have to deal with it again, I’m just saying this stuff will not own you anymore, it won’t rule your life, your behavior, and your choices. It won’t show up in its unrelenting way and block you from feeling a sustained sense of meaning, purpose and peace. Then you can go about the business of figuring out how you want to spend your time, and with whom, and how you’re going to share your gifts, and if you start to do your days like that, you’ll find you’re having some pretty happy and fulfilling weeks, months, years and decades. It’s not what we have, it’s what we give. Focus on giving, and the having takes care of itself. You’ll always have enough with this formula, because what you’ll have is meaning and purpose.
Lastly, take this literally several times a week–get sweaty. Feel your heart pumping. Remember you have a body, and use it and move it. Become your breath and your heartbeat and your sensations, and get out of your loud mind with it’s relentless and obsessive thoughts. Yoga is great for that; that is actually the purpose of yoga–to calm the storm that rages in the mind. It’s not about turning yourself into a pretzel, it’s a way of moving through life. It’s about the quality you’re bringing to whatever it is you’re doing. We practice being present on our mats, so we can be present in our lives.
Sending you love,