Standing in the Way of Happiness

I attended a wonderful event on Thursday hosted by the Mindful Order of Being. It was held at the Swedenborgian Church, the most beautiful and rustic church with a ceiling held up by these huge and magnificent tree branches. SO COOL.

We broke into groups of three, and each of us got three minutes to speak about:

What makes us come alive and what holds us back from doing it?

I was blessed to be in a group where everyone shared from a place of authenticity and vulnerability. It’s easy among a crowd who consider themselves “spiritually evolved” to find a certain amount of unknowing pretentiousness — a need to continue being the teacher even when it’s time to be the student or subject. At the end of the exercise, we all got back into the larger group to discuss our observations. Most of the observations voiced were about how our feelings and fears hold us back from doing what makes us come alive.

One daring soul volunteered that many blocks in life are not internal but external: money, physical illness and real life responsibilities.

This is a topic that “spiritual folk” either love or dread to address because it usually involves some need to explain the Law of Attraction/quantum physics of thought/manifestation — basically that everything in our external worlds is the result of our inner worlds. As correct as it can feel to go to this concept, it’s also pretty freaking hard to describe in a sitting. And to this concept the group went. Needless to say, it didn’t quite connect with the audience. My take on the situation was that it sounded, as it often can sound, like cockamamie wishful thinking.

I ended up chiming in myself, but from a different angle. And, well, I liked so much how true it felt to me that I thought I’d share it here:

How we define what brings us happiness determines the degree to which it can be taken from us.

This is not an indirect way of asking people to lower their standards and find “more attainable goals.” It’s looking deep inside at what feelings we’re truly seeking when we say we want XYZ. For example, if I say I want to start my own business but have no money to do so. Okay, what about starting a business is actually making me feel alive? Because my soul and my heart don’t know what a business is — that’s entirely an external construct. Maybe at its core, starting a business represents a feeling of being fully invested in something that I care about. Maybe it’s a feeling of giving myself a voice and feeling empowered. Does money really stop me from investing myself in something meaningful, having a voice or feeling empowered? Or let’s say practicing yoga brings me happiness but I broke my leg and can’t practice for months. What about yoga do I truly love? Is it the poses and motions and breathing that bundled together represent “yoga”? Or is it the fact that I love getting out of my head and paying attention to my body? Am I really blocked from happiness by the physical condition of a broken leg?

A personal example is a lifelong desire to do something big to help humanity. I always had this grand dream that was so large and so far into the future that my present was paralyzed — I didn’t know what my specific contribution should be and had no idea how to figure it out. So I kept on at my corporate jobs, kept on with my life in a semi-guilt and hoped that someday the solution would dawn on me. It wasn’t until just two years ago that I realized that what brought me joy wasn’t starting a massive benevolent movement or an amazing do-good company. What was truly underlying my desire to do these things was a desire to express kindness and to feel caring — that’s actually what made me come alive. So instead of deferring that until the external circumstances aligned, I began expressing kindness on a smaller but equally beautiful level. I started with my family? And I came alive. I became kind and caring to strangers. And I came alive. To colleagues and friends. And I came alive. I became who I wanted to be. I found myself living my dream because the true dream was a feeling and way of being, not a great idea or a perfect job.

In closing…

The building blocks of our experiences are who we are and how we feel. These are both created from within. When we distill down what makes us come alive and feel happy, we arrive at feelings we want to feel and the beingness we want to embody. And these, unlike external circumstances, are only at the mercy of our own choice and commitment.

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