Have you ever wondered why happiness is so elusive and no-matter how much you zip around, work and accumulate things; happiness always seems to be unattainable. Even if we do manage to feel happy; it is only momentarily and before we know it we find ourselves down in the doldrums of fear, doubt and anxiety once again. So what is the key to lasting happiness? Is it achievable in a lifetime? Is it necessary for us to spend a decade in the monasteries in Tibet or the ashrams in India?
The full story
The ego fabricates stories in order to keep us a step away from being happy and at peace. The non-verbal scheme of the ego includes convincing us that we will attain happiness and peace in the future when we get “this” or achieve “that”. It also tries to sell us the idea that we can not be at peace because of something that has transpired and therefore cannot be changed.
True happiness and deep peace has everything to do with embracing reality – the moment of Now. This is what Buddha called the “suchness of life” and opposition to this “suchness” or “IS-ness” is the the primary function of the ego. A plethora of various forms of psychological suffering begin to crop up when the ego succeeds in displacing the mind from its throne – the present moment – doing this is what fuels the ego which then creates more suffering and negativity. It’s a deadly downward spiral and almost all of us are trapped in it. The ego operates from behind the curtains and its primary strategy is always to keep its host oblivious to the tricks its pulling on us. Think for a second and ask yourself; how many times have you observed people doing exactly what they condemn others for doing? How many times have you tried to point that out but have only been met with denial, clever justifications, anger and tricky arguments? On a grander scale; have you noticed that this phenomenon is not only limited to individuals –it applies to groups, political parties, religions, governments and corporations alike?
To put an end to this vicious cycle of perpetuated unhappiness, you have to take total responsibility of what is going on within NOW – forget about everything else and simply ask yourself, “what am I feeling NOW” then be totally attentive and become aware of the negativity/unhappiness within you – also notice the voices that justify this unhappiness. Awareness equals psychological freedom and unawareness equals rigid identification with thoughts and emotions. Not being aware of the mechanics of your inner state is like falling asleep while driving at high speeds – becoming aware gives you the power to retake responsibility and to choose happiness and peace over the vicious control dramas of the ego. Freedom from the ego is not something that will happen in the “future”, its “now”. To quote Eckhart Tolle, “You cannot find yourself in the past or future. The only place where you can find yourself in the NOW. Spiritual seekers look for self realization or enlightenment in the future. To be a seeker implies that you need the future. If this is what you believe, it becomes true for you. You will need time until you realize that you don’t need time to be who you are.” 1
The core of the ego and it’s cunning devices
Fear and greed-based thoughts disguised as “self” is at the very core of what ego is – this is the mind made “me” which is always looking for ways (real or imagined) by which it can be “more” – this also explains the ego’s insane addiction to the future. This also explains why the ego is hell-bent on looking at the present moment simply as a means to an end – and when the end is achieved the ego comes up with another end… The ego habitually uses the tools of separation and conflict to enhance its image and to strengthen its identity (this is the “us” vs. “them” syndrome). Statements such as “believers vs non-believers” are now almost cliches – haven’t we all seen nations, religions, corporations and tribes draw their sense of identity by opposing another group of people? Food for thought: who would the believers be without the non-believers?
The value in being self-aware and in the “Now”
Being compassionately aware of this trickery will trigger the dawn of a deeper, indestructible, un-attached and peaceful presence which can loosely be called the higher Self. This awareness is free from the trappings of the external world. Its far more intelligent. Its joy is unconditional. Its peace is deep and ever-lasting.
Operate from this level of self awareness while going about your day to day activities and drop the idea of using the present moment as a means to an end. Make the “doing” more important than the expected results of the “doing”. The future never arrives – our lives are always NOW. Living in this way means that you have accepted the suchness of life and have understood the futility in arguing with whatever arises in the present moment.
“I am not my thoughts, emotions, sense perceptions, and experiences. I am not the content of my life. I am Life. I am the space in which all things happen. I am consciousness. I am the Now. I Am.” 2 – Eckhart Tolle.
Arriving at the truth by peeling away all falsities
It is definitely worth pointing out that a real spiritual teacher will not be interested in selling you his beliefs, rules, intellectual theories and ideas. Because the real essence of happiness (and even spirituality) has nothing to do with thoughts, words and huge fortresses of beliefs and opinions; but it has everything to do with the formless, ever-present, impartial, and still truth withing you. Therefore the job of the spiritual person is not to add onto your existing thoughts, beliefs and opinions; but rather, to remove all falsities that separate you from that truth within – actually coming to this inner truth (as opposed to only intellectualizing about it) is what brings deep inner peace and true joy and happiness.
However, words have their role to play as well. Words are capable of pointing one towards the divine stillness and truth within – like signposts point us towards our geographic destinations. But beware of the fatal mistake of confusing the signposts for the destination. Unlike ordinary thoughts and words which say “look at me”; truth-bearing thoughts and words will always imply, “look beyond me”.
The destination is, always has been and always will be, within us.
In the words of Eckhart Tolle, “Most people spend their entire life imprisoned within the confines of their own thoughts. They never go beyond a narrow, mind-made, personalized sense of self that is conditioned by the past. In you, as in each human being, there is a dimension of consciousness far deeper than thought. It is the very essence of who you are. We may call it presence, awareness, the unconditioned consciousness. In the ancient teachings, it is the Christ within, or your Buddha nature.Finding that dimension frees you and the world from the suffering you inflict on yourself and others when the mind-made “little me” is all you know and runs your life. Love, joy, creative expansion, and lasting inner peace cannot come into your life except through that unconditioned dimension of consciousness.” 3
Eckhart Tolle is basically a “spiritual advisor” who currently has little influence on Western psychology. Yet his Eastern-inspired philosophy of life is an important supplement to the mental health profession, and many of his books are important tools in terms of self-development and mental balance. Today psychology begins to get inspiration from several of the great wisdom traditions, and Tolles philosophy is perhaps crucial for the modern human who suffer from stress, worries, spinning thoughts, mental noise, high standards of efficiency and little knowledge about the real joy of life.
Bibliography and references:
1 Author: Echhart Tolle . Stillness speaks, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X . Chapter 5
2 Author: Echhart Tolle . Stillness speaks, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X . Chapter 4
3 Author: Echhart Tolle . Stillness speaks, New World Library, August 2003 ISBN 1-57731-400-X . Chapter 2