Have you ever gone on vacation and spent half the trip daydreaming about how wonderful life would be if you lived in that tropical paradise? I’ve done this myself many times.
Realtors thrive in the tourist centers of the world, and timeshare companies rake in billions of dollars every year, because we believe life is better over there.
We believe if we could just make enough money to move to a different state, or a nicer area of town, our lives would improve.
What Happens When I Arrive?
Some people do make the money and move to the Bahamas — or at least to the nice house in the burbs. But what do they see when they get there? What do they feel?
They see themselves staring back out of a luxury bathroom mirror. And at first, they feel a sense of pride and satisfaction for having achieved their goals, for having “arrived”.
But after a few months go by, and the high wears off, they discover their anxiety and sense of lack followed them across town.
Paradise didn’t solve a thing. Their restless and discontented mind hitched a ride through the pearly gates and turned the whole trip into yet another impossible situation.
Friends come and go, marriages implode, fortunes are made and lost, but the one thing you’re stuck with throughout the years is you. And if you’re not a happy person, you won’t be able to escape to any place that will change that.
Can I Learn to Be Happy?
No… and yes.
You can’t learn to be happy because the you that you think you are doesn’t have the capacity to sustain happiness.
You can be happy because once you drop the you that you think you are happiness will reveal itself as your natural state.
Happiness doesn’t come from money, success, or popularity. It doesn’t come from repeating positive affirmations. And no, it doesn’t even come from daily meditation.
Natural happiness — aka ananda (bliss) — arises out of Awareness Itself. It’s your innermost state of being.
You can’t buy happiness, nor can a friend lend it to you. No amount of good deeds will help you earn it. In fact, there’s not a single thing you can do to achieve it.
You already are happiness.
Then Why Do I Feel Like Such a Joyless, Dismal Wretch?
You’ve heard the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” A cheerless person who contemplates this statement might sink into depression. Because what it says is that even if you achieve your greatest goals, even if you become rich and famous, even if you marry the perfect partner, that miserable wretch of a you will follow you off into the sunset.
Digital bookstores (Do we still have physical ones?) are overflowing with self-help manuals. Some people read hundreds of them over the course of their lives — presumably, because the first hundred or so didn’t actually help the self. At least not in any permanent way.
The self-help genre has many great books which have guided countless people through trying times. But the one thing most all of them have in common is their focus on self-improvement. Their goal is to make a better, smarter, stronger, faster, sexier version of you.
Spiritual work has many similarities to self-help. But it’s primary aim is not to improve you — it’s to get rid of you.
More accurately, to work spiritually means to dig through all the superficial layers that you think you are so that what you really are can be revealed.
Sounds simple, right?
I’ve been on the spiritual path for a long while, and I’ve met people who think they’re the next coming. Literally.
I’ve met people who imagine themselves to be fully awakened, or to be Master-healers, or avatars of wisdom. I’ve met Sri Sri Sri Gurujis, and countless teachers who hide behind exotic titles, long hair, beards and strands of malas.
But what I rarely find are people who are really working inside to free themselves of themselves. Instead, most are trying to replace their old, more worldly ego with a spiritual one.
What they discover is that their “angelic” ego is no happier than the material one.
You’re not going to be a happier person if you trade in your jeans and polo for a New Age costume. Try it if you don’t believe me.
Go out and purchase a flowing, white collarless shirt with three buttons down the front, a pair of white cotton pants, and some sandals. Put some beads around your neck, some patchouli behind your ears, and a copper bangle around your wrist. Come back in two months and tell me if you’re any closer to enlightenment.
Maya (the cosmic illusionist) spins many webs. And the spiritual ego is yet another of her traps. In fact, it may be the stickiest of all.
If you desire to be happy — truly happy — you need to run as fast as you can from anyone who tells you that you’re the next world-healer. When your psychic tells you that you’re a reincarnated Egyptian sage who can channel the lost wisdom of the ancients and usher in the next paradigm of humankind… sorry, you’re being conned.
True Happiness Is Possible
Wherever you go, there you are — until you’re not.
And when you’re not, YOU are.
Emerson once said, “Let us take our bloated nothingness out of the path of the divine circuits.”
I believe he was trying to guide us toward the same truth many other sages have found, that our “bloated nothingness” is the problem. It’s the cause of our suffering. It’s what blocks the path of our natural expression of happiness.
Spiritual work cleanses “the divine circuits”. It teaches us to surrender our illusional sense of self so our true Self can shine through.
When you surrender you, wherever you go, there YOU are.
If you can learn to live in that surrendered state, it won’t matter whether you’re in a tropical paradise, or in the cold, gray, run-down part of your hometown. Whether you’re immersed in nature, or in an overcrowded metropolis, you will be happy.