Lying down for a rest, my mind took me places that made me sad. I was thinking of how meditation and reflection bring you face to face with yourself and the workload is to not turn away, but instead turn toward what you see. As my thoughts meandered around the things I might not want to see, I thought about how we all want to be happy, to feel safe, to not be afraid. And what keeps us from being happy often is just this – not considering what it is that is keeping us from it. It can be easy to see how other people’s strategies for happiness aren’t working. Not so easy to identify our own strategies and see why they aren’t working.
Life itself will teach you the strategies that don’t work after we butt our heads against the wall enough times. Sometimes even that isn’t enough – we can see the failure yet stay attached to it for lack of a better plan. We continue to use food, entertainment, drink or smoke, shopping, busyness, etc. to soothe us and make us feel “better”, even though we know those things don’t ultimately give us happiness.
In fact, it’s probably safe to say that any false strategy to produce happiness will ultimately grant us grief instead. We become addicted, tied up, attached to the thing and it becomes a barrier to our well-being.
I thought of my fears. And of how we all share the same ones, once you boil them down. We all fear death, getting old, being sick or suffering with extreme infirmity or crippling poverty. And we fear these things for those we love – that they will suffer, be ill, grow old, die. We fear losing everything and everyone we love.
But we don’t face these fears. I think this is at the heart of our difficulties. It’s why happiness is so fleeting and illusive. It runs through our fingers like water. We can’t grasp it. Even the things or people that we have in our lives that make us feel truly happy don’t come with a guarantee of permanence.
And yet … and yet it is the testimony of those who radiate serenity and well-being that happiness is there to be had. Not grasped with our desperate fists, but like a deep pool to rest in and become enveloped in, supported by. Happiness is something to jump into, splash around in. And I think looking at our fears, facing them and learning how to release them is the way to change our actions from grasping to swimming.
Attraction/Aversion = grasping
This is key. Take the big fear. Death. I want to live. I don’t want to die. But the fact is: I will die. I will die. Not facing that squarely and honestly keeps me in bondage. It’s like standing at the pool with weights shackled to my ankles. I can’t jump in. I can’t rest in this pool of happiness and serenity with the weight of this fear. I will die. Face that and life becomes richer, more precious. Priorities change. Other myriad weights from other chains fall off independently of any effort and the pool becomes a possibility.
The fear of aging? I don’t want to get old. But I will, I am. Unless I die, I will get old, I will be ill, I will lose everything. Why not face these fears and rest in the arms of serenity? Suffering over them holds no guarantee of them not happening. They will. Not facing this causes untold suffering, grief and anxiety. How can you truly enjoy anything or anyone with the weight of your fear binding you up? Even the lovely things become a burden by their impermanence. How many times have you tried to hold on to a magical moment and lost it by the trying?