Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saturday, Feb.25: Happiness

One of the great heresies is this: happiness can come now. You know the story, the myth: the pursuit of happiness. Chase that happiness: go out and buy a bunch of crap, maybe you’ll be happy at the end of that. Or, try to lose weight, maybe you’ll be happy then. Or, get a boyfriend or girlfriend, and then the misery will end.

Nice story, and the truth, at least for me, is that if I’m not happy on the way to where I think I’m going, chances are that when I get there, I still won’t be happy, because there’s always another place to go. Of course, when I get to Hawaii and can walk, lie and swim on the beach, okay, that’s going to be nice. But what about the plane flight? Is that throwaway time, time that doesn’t count because it’s on the way to somewhere “better?”

Car time is often this, throwaway time, time to listen to the radio ( the only time I listen except for Saturday night with Prairie Home Companion and the reading of the short stories), or to spacing out, or now, the big rage: yapping away on the cell phones.

And when we talk, are we happy, unhappy, or just wasting time? Oh, wait a minute, we have important things to say, like: I exist, I’m dong okay. Or, I exist and things are awful, feel sorry for me. Or, I exist and I’m doing great, admire me. Whatever, you get the underlying theme: I exist.

And how to know that without yap, yap? Without sucking other people in to validate our existence?

Breathe. And know we are breathing. Sense our relation to gravity and sense our bodies and know we are here. Look around and know what we are seeing. Listen with our ears and know what we are hearing.

Is that enough to make us happy? Often, yes, just waking to awareness is a huge leap to happiness. This leap occurs via the back door, not by trying to be happy, but by ceasing to be unhappy. When our attention is on the present, unless we are in pain or danger of starvation or some state like that, we can usually be quite content, if not happy, because our attention is off what usually makes us unhappy: the yap, yap stories in our mind, that tell us that life is rough, that we don’t have enough, that so and so isn’t treating us right, or that we aren’t getting our fair share.

You know the stories. That’s what the work of Byron Katie is all about: finding out how we are making ourselves miserable. The process of her work is this: notice if we are in emotional pain. Find the thought associated with that pain. Write it down. Ask four questions. Turn it around.

Take the pain as a cue to learn, which gets us interested in learning. Take the pain as a chance to give ourselves options to believing in and wallowing in our usual misery.

Same with physical pain and the Feldenkrais work. Sense the pain. Notice how we are moving to create that pain. Do the movement a slower and a different way. Create some variation. Create a lot of awareness. Come back to experimentation and discovery. And then we might end up happy and not even knowing it because we are having such a good time participating in life.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? Just having those options out of unhappiness makes me happy. How about you?


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