Meditation on Happiness Avoided
I have been challenged recently that I am just as worried about being happy as I am being miserable. My first thought was ridiculous! Couldn’t possibly be true. However, this idea has percolated for a few days and I am now somewhat sure that my friend might be right.
I have these mental ruts that I fall into. We all do. Old ideas that appear dressed up in new outfits that cause me to think that some out dated idea has relevance today. If I trace the thought or underlying feeling back (those two seem to be one and the same for me) they go back to a place in time, usually a long time ago.
What I noticed yesterday was that if I can trace it back to where I think it originates, I can find no event or incident that really supports the sustained belief, especially one that would support me holding it for forty plus years.
It is almost like I became afraid of being happy as a kid. So in a defensive and misguided effort to never be let down, I began to undermine and sabotage any real chance of happiness in an effort to avoid ever being sad.
I have been reviewing the past and the data is not great. I can find only one situation that happened to me that would cause me to have the amount of fear that I currently possess. And that happened a very long time ago and I have dealt with it repeatedly as it was kind of a big deal. This one incident caused me to have this overwhelming feeling of lack of safety with others.
It appears that I took this feeling and allowed it to dictate the rest of my life. I can see now that even if some shit did go down that made my world unsafe, that has long since passed except for my complete unwillingness to let it go.
I am still examining the carnage of my years of avoidance and distance between me and others. But even at first blush, I can see the very many times that I choose safety over happiness. It is almost like because of some bizarre mental twist, I was not able to see that it is possible to have both. Somehow, feeling happy resulted in me not feeling safe.
The result has been that I have spent the better part of my life waiting for the other shoe to fall which is not a good way to live. Being constantly vigilant is exhausting, time consuming and only robs me of peace of mind in the only moment I truly have, which is now.
This is not to say that I haven’t had a happy life. I have. Except that if you were privy to my internal dialogue you would be horrified to know all the places that I was SURE that it was all going wrong. It would be funny/not funny if I could share with you all the permutations of how I thought things would go down, how you would react, how the script always left me alone, humiliated and broken.
I have, for sure, had my turn in those spots. However, I mostly took decisive action that put me there. It isn’t like I have been some hapless victim of circumstance. I have been privileged and cared for always. But you wouldn’t know that if you heard what my head said about it all...
So I am looking at my dramatic script writing that robs me of being happy. My over active brain a liability for sure. I think, and I am just getting this, that perhaps my brain took over to make me feel safer. If I remain in my head, above the fray of my feelings, then I can feel safer. It is a weird pattern:
Have a feeling
Have a thought take over because the feeling is too much to handle
Have a lot more thoughts to cover up and dilute the feeling
End up eventually making everything worse
I am going to try to alter my pattern:
Have a feeling.
Get to know it well.
Ask questions about it.
Watch the mental gymnastics I do because of a simple feeling.
Not allow my head to take over and tell some tale about it all.
Just feel the feeling and move on.
The best way I know to do this, or at least begin this, is on the cushion. Take it to the mat and just literally sit there with it. Watch my head spin out but stay with the underlying feeling. It isn’t going to kill me, and I might actually learn how to stay present with a hard emotion. I do not have to shut it down or retreat to the safety of my mind. Lord knows, I have been recently leveled with the knowledge that my mind is often a very dangerous place where I tell fictions about you, me and the whole sordid tale.
I am going to get out of the thinking business and see if I can manage to set up shop in the feeling area. It is terrifying. But I am pretty sure peace, equanimity, love and happiness await me on the other side of all my hard feelings. Because that is what has been true for me always. I can’t control the feeling that comes. But I can, if I can create some space around it, get to know it better and pause before acting out. For me, the pause absolutely must come in my thinking. Because I have a thought, then an action. All because I had a feeling.
This whole being human thing is hard. I am tired a great deal of the time and it is usually my own mind that is most exhausting. I wear me out...so I am sure that I have a similar effect on you. So on those days that I am particularly off-putting, please know that it is way worse in my head. And you can be grateful that your access there is quite limited.
I have a favor to ask to help me along on this feeling journey that I have long been avoiding...if you hear me talking about what I think...ask me what I feel...do not let me get away with telling you that I think I feel. Hold me accountable and insist that I do the work to get down to the feeling that I am really avoiding.
In the meantime, I will just be over here on my cushion...