Running away from happiness. That’s what I’ve been doing much of my life. Have you unconsciously been doing it, too? Sometimes we do it in such subtle ways that we don’t realize we’re doing it. For example, do you find yourself planning for the future and hoping for something better than this moment? Do you catch yourself thinking that if you stay persistent and patient, things will eventually get better in the future? Do you think that if you were able to change just one or two things about your life, you’d have a better shot at happiness? Why do we keep chasing after happiness, as if it’s something elusive that cannot be experienced right now? It’s funny how when we’re chasing after happiness, we’re actually running away from it because it’s available to us in each moment.
Prior to awakening, I was always caught up in planning for the future and could not understand why some people chose to make short-term goals only or how some people could be comfortable with postponing decisions for later. Little did I realize, my attempts to control and plan were signs that I was an anxious person who was lacked trust in myself. I definitely didn’t trust in anything bigger than myself, either, since I used to be an atheist.
It’s been about a year and a half since my awakening began, and I have much to learn. Maybe the biggest challenge for me to overcome at this point is learning how to let go. When I first came across those words “let go” last year, I rolled my eyes and wondered how I could do that. Let go and surrender? It didn’t make sense to me, but then one day I finally understood what all those spiritual teachers were talking about.
The year following my graduation, I felt extremely tired and burnt-out. The fatigue was debilitating at times, and I was frequently hard on myself for not knowing what to do with my future. I also felt guilty for needing a break to rest. After suffering day after day and never seeing any improvement, I decided to stop worrying about the future and accepted where I was. I didn’t know if it would help me feel better, but I knew that worrying hadn’t benefited me in any way. Around the time that I decided to let go was when a lot of my energy finally returned. I’m not saying letting go was the only thing that helped because I’m sure my diet and exercise helped a lot, too, but letting go certainly decreased my stress levels. Not only did I start feeling more energetic at that time, I felt a lot more happiness and inner peace. I finally understood that living moment to moment produced more clarity which enhanced my ability to make decisions and find some of the answers I had been seeking.
Unfortunately, I didn’t stick with the lesson I learned for very long. The “letting go” lasted maybe a month or two, but then I succumbed to my old anxious ways after being questioned by others what I was going to do with my future now that I was done with college and had obtained a master’s degree. I’m not blaming anyone for being curious and asking questions. I just realize that getting bombarded with certain questions can trigger a lot of insecurity and anxiety in me. I think there’s another lesson to learn in that.
I’ve tried to be easy on myself for slipping up and allowing my uncertainty regarding the future to cause stress and anxiety again. I believe it’s sometimes helpful and necessary to stop planning and withdraw from everything to work on ourselves, but our conditioning from society often leads us to feeling guilty/lazy/defective/pathetic for not having a plan and being as much of an active participant in the external world as we once were. We feel like it’s not enough that we’re living, learning, and growing in a way that makes sense only to us. We might know just how much we are growing on the inside, but to an outsider it may appear that we are stuck in complete stagnancy because this kind of growth cannot be observed externally.
In addition to feeling guilty or upset with ourselves for needing a break from all the hustle-and-bustle and stressful demands, I think it’s very common to want to rush through certain stages of the awakening process. When we’re feeling loving and joyful and grateful, it’s so easy to appreciate the process. But when the messy stuff shows up, like fatigue, ego death, lack of motivation, or the resurfacing of old, unhealed wounds, most of us want to rush through it, escape it, and avoid the pain. Sometimes we get sick of feeling like a caterpillar trapped in a cocoon. I know how frustrating it is to want to feel free and light like a butterfly, when I honestly feel more like a slimy slug who is trying to get things together, but I can’t quite find that solution I’ve been seeking. What I’ve learned is that suffering occurs when we do not want to accept where we are.
In order to let go, I have learned that it requires a change in perspective. Instead of thinking about what’s going to happen tomorrow or next month or next year, try to focus on right here right now and just accept it. I’ve decided that I need to continue making more of a conscious effort to live in THIS moment and embrace it fully because it is all that we ever have.
I like this quote by Paul Dunn:
Many spiritual teachers have talked about mindfulness and staying in the moment. This was a great message from Osho about living in the here and now. My favorite part was when he said, Live intensely and totally now because the next moment will be born out of this moment; and if you have lived it totally and joyously, you can be absolutely certain that the next moment will bring more blessings, more joy.