Updated: Jul 1, 2019
Hello and Happy 2016! I hope this year has started well for you!
If you've been following my blog you'll know that 2015 was an interesting year for me. I had some astronomical highs and then ended the year on a bit of a bum note career-wise. But overall it was a good year and I learned a lot.
This year however has already taken a massive turn for the better (more about that in another post) and it's down to a few key reasons, so I thought I'd share some of those insights as a starting point for the new year.
This is basically what I have learned about happiness… 1. In order to be truly happy you have be prepared to feel like shit sometimes Yeah, I know that sounds counterintuitive but one thing I've learned from being on the spiritual journey (in other words, life's journey) is that happiness is not a stable emotion. In fact, it's not justan emotion; happiness is essentially a choice. But it only becomes a choice once you can separate yourself from your emotions long enough to accept them and come to realise that feeling unhappy/sad/angry etc is just a story. 2. Letting go of our stories is a choice too (and not always an easy one…) A friend asked me last week what I meant when I talked about "stories". A story is the padding we build around an event. It's the assumptions we make about why other people are doing things or why situations have played out the way they have. Those assumptions can seem very real, especially when society or your culture or your family can back-up and justify that same version of the truth.
But stories are dangerous things and they keep us stuck in our misery. However, the hardest part of letting go of our stories isn't the actual letting go, it's the ability to see them and know them as stories in the first place.
Unfortunately, stories will seem real until a) you can grasp the concept that you are choosing to create your own reality and b) once you grasp the concept, you then need to learn how to catch yourself to know that you are distorting the truth. Those two things would take 20 blogs or more to explain, so I'm going to take the risk here and assume that you either know what I mean or that you can at least understand conceptually what I'm trying to explain.
3. The ability to let go of stories doesn't guarantee happiness And then, as if it's not already complicated enough… The ability to recognise stories doesn't necessarily create instant happiness. It's not spiritual Nescafé. One of the most frustrating things about the spiritual path is that the further along the path you travel, the more you are able to unravel your own bullshit.
But… it doesn't actually stop you from creating bullshit (i.e. stories) and neither does it excuse you from becoming frustrated with people or situations even though you know that ultimately everyone is doing their best with the resources they have. So, purely being "spiritual" or having an understanding of your stories doesn't guarantee happiness either. There's more to it than that…
4. Happiness is dependent on your allowing yourself to feel like crap After reading the above I wouldn't be surprised if you're confused. The upshot of happiness is that you have to be willing to fall down emotional holes, to feel your worst and "forget" that you are making up stories. But that doesn't happen overnight.
No matter how evolved you are, you will repeat the same mistakes. And when you're repeating them you'll forget what you know about happiness. So, in order to really be happy, you have to be willing to feel like crap. But that's not happiness you might say. Well, actually, it is. Or at least it can be… 5. Happiness is available even when life is what you might consider to be shitty. The happiness that most of us talk about is conditional, a bit like love. We consider ourselves to be happy when things are going according to our plans. We say we love people but only if they love us back. We consider ourselves to be happy when people are being nice to us or when we've got money in the bank, or we're on holidays. But that's not real happiness – that's just a story – it's conditional. And stories can be shattered – even the good ones.
6. Conditional happiness is never lasting. True happiness is infinite. So how do you tell the difference and how can you create the latter? True happiness is available by getting comfortable with things that you don't like. By coming to terms with the truth. Truths such as: money comes and money goes; that people will love you one day and hate you the next; that today life might be full of joy but tomorrow everything could change, or that life also comprises of death.
All of those things will happen to each and every one of us at some point in our lives, and the downside is, we'll never know when. But if we are prepared to feel sad and if we can accept that we might feel angry or bereaved then we're at least one step closer to true joy.
7. True happiness doesn't mean we can't feel all the other emotions too. True happiness is not dependent on things going well. It requires a much broader and spiritual perspective because it's not mutually exclusive to anger, fear or sadness, it can actually sit right alongside them. But it takes the ability to have a dual perspective – or in other words to see the bigger picture as well as the details.
So if you want to make 2016 a happy year, start by making a pact with yourself to be willing to feel all your emotions and to be willing to stop categorising them as good, bad, better or worse. The best way I have found to establish a firm and lasting sense of joy is to be at peace with All Of Me. And that means the good bits, the shitty bits, the bits that cope well and the bits that crumble under pressure.
If you are willing to accept All Of You as simply a small part of the whole then you're on the road to true happiness. Because once you can be OK with being angry or upset, or moody or frustrated then you're beginning to form a duality perspective – the ability to feel your feelings but be the observer at the same time.
It's a deep and complex subject but if you start today by picking your least favourite trait (i.e the one that drives you mad or the one that other people are always pointing out to you) then start making friends with it. Start becoming OK with having that side to your personality. It's not about dissolving it or changing it, it's about literally accepting it as it is. No matter how big, bad or ugly you (or anyone else) believes it to be.
Just let it be what it is. From there I guarantee you'll begin to see that happiness is possible even when you're acting out or being your "worst".
True happiness is about perspective (choosing to allow yourself to feel all your feelings and not label them as good or bad) and acceptance (being OK with feeling something other than happy).
Theoretically it sounds complicated and counterintuitive but the gift is in the experience. So give it a go. Spend the next couple days or weeks examining your "worst" traits. Get to know them. Stop avoiding them or shoving them in a basement with a sign that says Don't Go There. Get all of your emotions out on the table and Set Them Free.
Once you make that choice, the rest i.e. True Happiness will simply begin to unfold.
What have you got to lose?