On Facebook I recently asked the question:
– What are you lacking right now to be happy? What is your excuse?
Many answered and responded. Some wrote they lacked nothing. Others missed more money, some love, others wanted better health and some world peace. Surprisingly many announced their happiness and contentment and lacked nothing.
Then came the answer I feared would come.
– The cancer is back. This time it has gone to far.
How do you expect me to be happy?
Is the question still valid, or is it put to her, just downright insensitive and cruel?
This is my answer
Eckhart Tolle once made a personal observation at the depths of a heavy, heavy depression. In a flash of inspiration he asked himself whether the one witnessing the depression also was depressed? He assumed that he could not be two different entities, so he was left with a choice. He chose to identify with the witness. The depression lifted and sent him to a state of bliss. After being in this state for a whole year, mostly sitting on a bench in a park feeding the pigeon, he then wrote several books and became a famous teacher. Happiness is perhaps not the right word. Contentment and freedom is more appropriate. We can all make this choice, even when life seems most dark and hopeless.
I am free
The freedom Eckhart Tolle and others are talking about, is freedom from experiences, in the sense that experiences cannot affect me. Whatever happens, I am always the same, unaffected and free. Life is full of experiences, mostly good, but sometimes bad things happen also to good people. From the perspective of the physical body life ends for all without exception, as the ultimate disaster and defeat, death. But is not death equally natural as being born?
All things must pass
What, should I not let myself be influenced by painful events? It is natural to react. It is natural to grieve. But sooner or later life has to go on. Sooner or later there must be a process of forgiveness and acceptance. Pain must be processed and each needs one’s own time. Grief, loss and pain do not pass before it is possible to let go. Some cling to such experiences for years, others with a greater degree of freedom process such events faster.
There is no death
This may sound strange, but death is only theoretical. It’s something I think might happen. But I’m not dead now, and this question is about what prevents me from being happy right now. Not tomorrow, in a year or 20 years from now, but right now. Besides, there is no death, because if I were to die, I would have to be there to experience it, and then I cannot be dead. And should death be the ultimate black hole without existence, then there is nothing to experience, so nothing to worry about. Yes, the body dies, for sure. But I, as consciousness, existence, subject and this witness, cannot die. It cannot die because it was never born. Consciousness is like space, it has no beginning. When I understand that this is who I really am, this can open up for freedom. And the realization that right now, I am whole and complete, nothing is missing, and a sense of peace and contentment arises naturally with this knowledge.
What about pain?
With physical pain it’s difficult to be happy. The witness is still free and unaffected. Establishing this identity and perspective can create a distance and a more relaxed attitude to pain. The pain does not disappear – it still hurts, but the pain can be reduced as a more relaxed mind more easily can pull away from the senses. This happens when we go to sleep, it is a natural painkiller when the mind relaxes and lets go of the sense impressions coming from the outside world. Pain is something we all want to be free from, doing everything we can to avoid both in ourselves and in others. Sometimes the only relief is time.
Life is now
We are all going to die. Some push that day into a distant future, as far as it virtually disappears and becomes invisible. In our culture, death is always happening to someone else. Others may get a diagnosis and wake up to the fact that this day is within weeks, months or years. The question is still how I feel right now. Tomorrow does not exist – nor the day after tomorrow or the future. With the exception of pain, there really is no excuse for being happy right now. Even as the body wears out, and one day our earthly existence is over, life is still happening right now. Life can only be appreciated in the moment – because life exists nowhere else.
PS. I hope these words are helpful, and not just words and salt in open wounds. I try not to give advice, but I try to explain that this question has validity even in difficult and painful situations in life.