Getting Real

What is Spirituality?

How are we to understand the soul?

What is the purpose of Spirituality?

What do we need to live Spiritually?

What does Spirituality Involve?

Why is it we fail?

What is going on in my life?

What kind of work should I be doing?

What I am supposed to be doing?

Will I ever be Happy?

Will I ever meet someone?

Where are we all heading?

             The DK Foundation

                             Getting Real 10

                        Will I ever be happy?  


This is favourite question and is almost invariably put without much optimism and with an air of resentment or self-pity, implying what has happened to my handout? What has gone wrong in my case? It implies that happiness like oxygen is on supply by courtesy of nature and that unhappiness is a failure of the system rather than a product of the way we view life.

One of the major causes of misery is the expectation of happiness. This is not intended as an epigrammatic quip. It is a fact. In the West, where we have now a considerable amount of padding between us and the bare essentials of existence, the focus of endeavor has become our emotional well-being and ‘happiness’ the benchmark of attainment.

Yet what is this happiness? The dictionary in my computer says it is the noun derived from happy which means lucky or fortunate. The dictionary on my bookshelf, a quintessentially British publication, makes it the noun from feeling, showing or expressing joy.

Whatever the dictionary definitions, I know when my clients ask the question ‘Will I ever be happy?’ that what they mean is will there ever be an end to their suffering. Happiness has become the antonym of emotional pain; it means things coming right in the end.

By and large, we are lacking in objectivity when it comes to our own emotional states. We can accept the idea that organisation and application produces results on the material plane but have not that same expectation of mastery on the emotional level. And this is where we make things difficult for ourselves because this is exactly what is needed, not to end suffering but to end the control by and perpetuation of unnecessary suffering.

This distinction is important: our emotional natures are reactive and our emotional reactions are quicker than our thought processes. They are designed to be: they have a job to do. They are agents in the process of learning atonement and breaking down separation. They are agents of soul consciousness. If physical pain gives warning of abnormal physical conditions, then emotional pain gives warning of aberrant emotional conditions. Could we, as individuals, afford not to hurt when we witness or experience cruelty or see other suffering? Could humanity as a whole afford not to? Where would be the incentive to progress? This pain is designed to alert us to the existence of the ‘heresy of separation’. All emotional pain, whether it is the suffering of non-requited love or the pain of bereavement arises from some manifestation of this heresy against the soul, which denies the connectedness of all things. Our suffering alerts us to this and motivates us to bring about change. We must conclude that humanity will continue to suffer until there is no more separation in its consciousness.

We expect too much - or is it too little? - Of ourselves when we aspire to stop our emotional natures registering pain. What we have control over is unnecessary suffering, i.e., suffering over things that do not matter to the real person: that part of us which exists under the conditioning, the suffering which is prolonged as a result of getting caught up in patterns, and the suffering which results from a perceived inability to move situations on. We achieve this control by applying the mind as we would if the task in hand were the achieving any other kind of goal, with the aim of reducing the amount of time and energy made available to and consumed by emotional reactions. Where there is resistance to this idea - and there frequently is - it is usually because we are so deadly serious about our emotional reactions and treat them with a reverence which makes the thought of any kind of intervention improper, and because our Western our emotional reactions and our desire natures are over-stimulated, manipulated and non-authentic, likewise our desire natures, we suffer like hell over something for which we have no need or use but which has entered our pantheon of expectation.

People in the advertising industry are being paid huge salaries to ensure that this remains the case. It is a fact of life in a consumer society and it is a waste of time and energy denouncing it unless one is going to take stand against it in one’s own life. Any one who wants to get free from unnecessary suffering, however, has got to be prepared to re-appraise his value system with the aim of eliminating those things which can be called non-authentic: the standards and the expectations which are ‘imported’, which do not reflect his own personality but are the product of conditioning. This is a basic responsibility we have to take for ourselves if we wish to reduce unnecessary suffering.

We import not only desires, but tastes, attitudes, moralities and expectations which may be entirely contrary to our true natures and yet we still hold out the hope that they will bring happiness because they have been sold to us for that purpose and we are, more often than not, more in touch with the ideas circulated by the media than we are with our true selves.

Maybe our suffering is giving definition to that true self, just as the black area on a photographic negative defines the object.

More unnecessary suffering will be ended in the immediate term by ‘letting go’ rather than ‘taking on’. Grafting a set of ideals and goals onto an unreconstituted emotional base and/or an unrevised value system is unlikely to have any lasting effect and this has been the flaw in so many of the recent self-help methods based on positive thinking. They have overlooked the extent of the investment in the old way of being. There may have been suffering, dreadful suffering, but as long as there is the hope that there may still be diamonds to be found amongst the rust, the old way of being will be kept on standby. We are very afraid of giving things up, afraid that we might give something away and then find it was about to deliver, afraid that without this focus in our lives we will lose part of ourselves and the thing which although it has caused suffering, has given us an identity and our lives purpose and drama. This is particularly evident in destructive relationships and in cases of where an addiction is the principal cause of suffering.

For this reason, the kind of suffering that brings us to our knees has such value. This can be one of the roles of illness. When suffering brings us to our knees we are more ready to accept the existence of the aberration, more ready to accept that we may have to let go of what hitherto we have refused to acknowledge as the cause of suffering and more ready to give up on the hope that we can make two and two equal five. Then, a new approach, a new way of thinking may well be able to give a structure, energy and inspiration to the process of change. Until then, we may not be able to afford to be without our suffering.

In the past fifteen or so years, there has been every encouragement given to evading the fact that in order to end unnecessary suffering we have to be prepared to look honestly at ourselves and get rid of our negative tendencies.

From the adverts persuading people to buy relatively inexpensive stones and aromatherapy oils to promote certain states of mind, to those inviting investments of thousands of pounds in expensive courses designed to promote a positive attitude to life, the encouragement and the products have been there. The problem of these things is not one of validity, but of proportion. How much can these things be expected to achieve in our lives if we continue to behave opportunistically and consider that it is fair game to steal and cheat whether that is in matters or of money or love, or if our yearning for something is so strong that, in our heart of hearts, we view learning to cope with out it as second best? Spirituality may be being offered as a consumer product, but there is a limit upon what ‘buying in’ can achieve unless it is to encourage effort, which is rooted in a sense of purpose.

We have to start with what we have and we have to be prepared to let go of what our own suffering is telling us is the problem. This requires developing the habits of self-honesty and of learning to call things by their correct name. So much suffering is prolonged because we hide our true motives from ourselves by the way we explain things to ourselves and to others. We mask confusion or fear of the consequences of taking action behind a show of principle or high-mindedness. It is love, we say by way of justifying inertia, it is worth the sacrifice! Is it? 

By and large we are not sufficiently in touch with our own motives and our own limitations when it comes to sacrifice and giving unconditionally. There is far more merit in honestly stating that one cannot do something than in going through the pretence of giving but with an ulterior motive or giving what one does not have to give. In the longer term, honesty is likely to involve less suffering for all concerned.

Letting go or giving up on a situation may produce its own kind of suffering but that does not invalidate it as a course of action. When one is painted into a corner, strategy and maneuvering may be required to get out. For example, the choice of profession could be the source of considerable discomfort but the parental disappointment, which might result from giving it up, may also be a source of acute emotional discomfort. A marriage may be the source of great unhappiness to one of the partners but so too is the prospect of breaking up the home and disturbing the children.

These are the dilemmas which people are facing every day and they are a source of huge suffering. In the final analysis, each of us has only so much time, so many opportunities and so much energy and two and two never will make five. When confronting a dilemma we have to make a decision about how best we stand to redeem what remains of our lives and this includes the potential remaining in those lives, and to trust that whatever hurt and damage we might cause by taking one course of action, we stand to be able to make a repayment. That repayment may not be to the people we have hurt but to other people whose lives we may touch if we are more positive about our own lives. The chances are there will be more merit in this than in remaining in a stagnant situation generating negativity and losing interest in life. This is not at all the same thing as doing what one pleases. This is to accept a responsibility for self and for others, for the quality of life, and to make a conscious decision.

Faced with dilemmas in which there is a promise of pain in all the available options, it is not difficult to understand why a person so placed might wish for happiness, for two and two to make five, and for a new year, a new decade, a new century or a new millennium to bring about great and miraculous changes. With these kinds of irrational expectations we set ourselves up to fail and to suffer still more. What can a new millennium do to help us if we cannot help ourselves?

If there is to be less unnecessary suffering, both individually and collectively, we have to work purposefully and intelligently towards that end. Purposefulness brings its own kind of courage and its own kind of reward.

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