In a previous post we discussed the realization that one can only be in command of how he or she responds to occurrences in their lives, rather than try and control those events. This idea was tied to the notion that we somehow came to believe that fear is an obstacle on our way to happiness. In that respect it was also discussed that fear is actually the dread of losing control; a misguided idea as having control is but an illusion to start with.
My life experience had taught me, mostly through hard-learned lessons, that even at the worst of times, if I realized and acknowledged that I am not in control but rather just in command, nothing looked as bad as it first seemed. Adversely, on occasions when I allowed myself to treat fear as an opponent, thus trying to gain control, even peaceful situations looked threatening, borderline hopeless. Curious isn’t it?
A handful of examples: when present in the moment, death is but a pathway to either moving on (if one believes in an afterlife,) into what may be an even more exciting adventure, or an end to a life hopefully well-lived; a journey that needed to come to an end. I’ll divert here for a moment and mention that it is my belief that we die not because of disease or old-age or some other trivial reason. We die when we have reached our capacity of how much change we can absorb in one lifetime. And then, like leafs at autumn, we clear way to the next generation of thinkers, movers and shakers. But this is a topic for another post. Back to happiness – when we are in the present, there is no room for fear, there is only the moment. If I am aware and breathing I am still alive. Like an advice I once heard given by a man who celebrated his 100+ birthday – “The secret for a long life?” he answered a news reporter’s question, “it is to keep on breathing. So long as you are breathing you are still alive…”
The conclusion thus far is that we can only command the moment, not control events nor the future, as everything else is an illusion or didn’t happen just yet.
Another example: many of us fear old age. I believe that we age gracefully if we love ourselves, and if we do, we also take good care of our body and soul along the way; the food we eat, exercise, no drug or alcohol abuse. Thus we are likely to appreciate what stares us back in the mirror as the years go by. I am happy with the person I am, not trying to control what I am not.
On a larger scale when we are in the moment, we don’t really feel threatened by our neighbor’s faith, gender or skin color, nor do we feel a need to control them or take over their land. None of these exist in the present as the mind doesn’t go into a “what if” mode.
Getting into the present may take some practice. Meditation taught correctly can come handy. The most common complaint I hear from novice meditators is that “I tried to shut my mind off but thoughts kept bursting in.” This is an incorrect method to meditate. Meditation is not about shutting down the mind but rather about cultivating mindfulness; a better way of listening.
If meditation is not your thing, there are other ways of learning to be in the moment – from music and various arts, to sports, cooking, and even cleaning the house… Just keep in mind that whatever method one selects, this requires training and may take time. There are no instance results. It is much like preparing to run a marathon; if you never run before more than a short distance, and decide give it a go full length your first day, it is likely you will give up and say “it is not for me.” We need a trainer, lots of ongoing practice, and we need to build skills which will then allow us, like the trained driver mentioned in a previous post, to respond correctly when the road becomes slippery. Without such training, when encountering a situation our confused mind may perceive as threatening, we may freeze in fright or become violent. Such responses may yield unwelcomed results; all because of our inappropriate respond to fear. With practice not only fear is recognized as a teacher rather than a foe, but we also discover a source for an endless spring of happiness.
What is happiness? What is real happiness, not the one we blurb on occasion as an afterthought? For me happiness had never been about accumulating possessions – material as well as immaterial e.g. achievements at work or in the academic field. Happiness cannot be caused by anything tangible as if it does, the moment that cause is removed, joy will be gone as well. When I do get something I really wanted for a long while e.g. a new camera, or a good coffee machine, there is a feeling I would categorize as excitement, not necessarily joy. Happiness, hopefully, comes a little later, when I get to prepare the coffee. I actually enjoy the process of laboring over it, and maybe even more so, when sipping from the cup and savoring the fruits of my focused attention. Thus here too, happiness is being in the moment – smelling the aroma, taking the time to let the taste buds sample and savor the flavors. And this applies to just about everything – from expressing your creativity at work, regardless of your line of work, to finding the right words to describe your thoughts in a blog post.
This blog entry had turned out to be a little longer than I planned. Thank you for sticking with me, reading it all the way through. That too makes me happy! I will conclude by pointing out what you may have already noticed: that these four elements reside in the same boat: fear, control, happiness and the moment. We want to have control, thinking it will give us safety (which can be a measure of perceived happiness,) only to lose control and thus experience fear. We then mistake fear to be the enemy that prevents us from being happy, and rather than letting go of the idea we need to control and learn from whatever life throws our way, we react with either violence or inaction. Only when we acknowledge the moment with everything it has to offer, may we experience real happiness fully. Thank you again for joining me on this little journey of happy discoveries.
Learned from: A lifetime journey and a yearlong blogging.