Many people have asked me a deceptively simple question over the years, “What does it take to be truly happy?”
So let’s see if we can shed some light here. For most people this journey begins when we finally not only realize, but become willing to admit to ourselves that we are not actually happy most of the time. This is the first step and it is a huge one.
Given the mass proliferation of external distractions that our modern world and its technology have supplied us with, it is easier than ever before to mask any unhappiness. But the time will inevitably come when the masking is simply no longer effective. The truth finds its way to the front of the room and can no longer be ignored or pacified. That’s when the journey begins.
Often times it is some pernicious event or realization that precipitates this fork in the road – perhaps a divorce, loss of a loved one, loss of a job, an addiction, etc. – but not always. There are some who, for reasons they cannot yet fully understand, begin to feel compelled to seek another way, a better way.
Once the seeking begins in earnest, it usually follows a fairly predictable trajectory. First we start reading – a lot. We hear about a book recommended by a friend or maybe we saw it on Oprah. That book leads to another, and another until we have ingested a large quantity of information. Our intellects are entertained and engaged, we are having “a-ha” experiences, it’s all new and fun, BUT, the novelty wears off eventually and many people simply abandon the path and settle back into familiar patterns.
The group that chooses to push on finally realizes that all the new found knowledge is great but they also know they still aren’t truly happy. They know that in order to move forward, they must begin to integrate the new learnings through practice. They begin to incorporate their chosen path into their lives. They begin a daily meditation or prayer practice, perhaps yoga, maybe church, synagogue, workshops, or frequent walks in nature. All of these activities help to further the budding personal growth but eventually, routine sets in and they still are not satisfied that they “there” yet. They have traded in being book junkies to being experience junkies but real happiness is still coy and elusive.
If they are to ever move past the first two stages, a profound realization must occur which is, they are seeking fulfillment from without, from the external. There they will not find it, ever. The focus must turn inward.
While everything that had led them to this point is very valuable, the real work begins here. This is where the practice of meditation, contemplation or prayer begins to reveal, in glimpses at first, the real truths. This is where we begin to understand that transcendence is the only path. We begin to understand intuitively, not intellectually, that we must transcend our identity of separateness which is an ego based illusion.
We begin to learn that everything we seek is within us. That happiness, value, and meaning live within us. That we are neither separate from one another nor the universe. Eventually the greatest of truths will reveal itself in a way that we understand directly, experientially, intuitively and completely – There is only ONE (I am that I am). There exists no separation. In our understanding of this all pervasive truth, our actions are directed not by our self-serving ego, but by the only creative force in the universe. We no longer have need to overcome the ego, it has fallen away in the blinding light of love and truth.
Is it an easy path? Not by a long shot. Is it quick? Less so even. Is it attainable? Not only yes, it is inevitable. All will eventually find their way home through the lessons learned in “earth school.” Meditation, contemplation, prayer, the stilling of the mind are the conduits to ultimate happiness. It is a journey all will make eventually and a journey some are ready to make now. The choice is, of course, yours but only the choice of when to begin, not if.
~ Edward G. Dunn