“Happiness is our natural state. Happiness is the natural state of little children, to whom the kingdom belongs until they have been polluted and contaminated by the stupidity of society and culture. To acquire happiness you don’t have to do anything, because happiness cannot be acquired. Does anybody know why? Because we have it already. How can you acquire what you already have? Then why don’t you experience it? Because you’ve got to drop something. You’ve got to drop illusions. You don’t have to add anything in order to be happy; you’ve got to drop something. Life is easy, life is delightful. It’s only hard on your illusions, your ambitions, your greed, your cravings. Do you know where these things come from? From having identified with all kinds of labels!” ― Anthony de Mello, Awareness
Life…as you know it.
But I’m getting ahead of myself (as always).
If you’d asked me 30 years ago what personal transformation was apt to describe, I’d have expressed it in terms of changing my then circumstances to something far better. It wasn’t always enshrined in material wealth, but there was heavy leaning in that direction. (There’s a reason so many people covet, as I did, the Rolex watch, the Mont Blanc pen and Porsche: if nothing else, it gives meaning to their effort and oddly faux life.) And I’m quite sure, if I hadn’t experienced a sudden shock, followed by a profound insight (see The Heart Sutra), I’d still be on the hamster wheel now chasing down the very next fix; and that might include the fix of getting off the hamster wheel and enjoying a life of leisure — I wish.
However, for many people, they neither experience anything remotely transformational nor do they see that 100% of their emotions, felt perceptions and experience come from their out-of-whack thinking, for, if they did, we’d see a revolution of love and appreciation, not one replete with greed, lust and hatred.
I know that I may well be overstating my case, but, fundamentally, the moment we come alive to true self — see New Seeds of Contemplation by the late Thomas Merton — we understand that freedom does not arise from chasing down a series of incremental goals but getting in touch with the ‘I’ in ‘I Am this or that’.
Of course, you may not care a jot about transformation and even less so about the world at large, but sooner or later all of us come to a point where the questioning goes beyond a better life built around stuff, to a life of freedom from our mind, which drives us crazy by dint of never allowing us to fully enjoy anything for any length of time.
Just to be clear, if you’re seeking happiness, it won’t come from changing your outer world to fit your thinking. Instead, you need to relax completely into the moment and observe your thinking for long enough to know, hopefully by insight and not because I say so, that you’re not your thoughts. If you need to test the hypothesis, see if you can stop your thinking or deliberately modify your thinking. You can’t. On the other hand, the moment you disassociate yourself from your thinking, you’ll begin the slow transformation towards freedom.
“When you listen to that [inner] voice, listen to it impartially. That is to say, do not judge. Do not judge or condemn what you hear, for doing so would mean that the same voice has come in again through the back door. You’ll soon realize: there is the voice, and here I am listening to it, watching it. This I am realisation, this sense of your own presence, is not a thought. It arises from beyond the mind.”
So, waking up.
Is it choice?
Of course it is: either you want to be separated from the stress of constantly chasing your tail or you don’t. And even if you’re sceptical about this whole ‘no mind’ thing, I’d wager it’s still way more helpful to investigate your thinking self than it is to operate on auto pilot where the non-conscious thoughts and actions are as predictable as the self-deluded outcomes.