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                          and Happiness

In the rush and clamor of daily life, it is all too easy to become so preoccupied with our own opinions and desires that we may easily forget to pay attention to what is really important. Our awareness of the glory and magnificence of the present moment is often given very little attention as we chase headlong after our own personal goals and ambitions in the never ending, never satisfied pursuits of the self-centered ego. Certainly we each need to have some measure of concern for ourselves, but when the whims of the ego become an all encompassing obsession, we have lost our awareness of what is really important, we have lost our true nature, we have lost our awareness of the Divine Presence.

Human beings living in their shells are mostly unaware of the privilege of life and so are unthankful to the Giver of it. In order to see the grace of God man must open his eyes and raise his head from his little world. Then he will see — above and below, to the right and the left, before and behind — the grace of God reaching him from everywhere in abundance.

Inayat Khan's spiritual teacher expressed these same thoughts so magnificently when he said:

There is only one virtue and
     one sin for a soul on this path;
           virtue when he is conscious of God,
                   and sin when he is not.

Muhammad Abu Hashim Madani

Many speak of annihilation of the ego, but perhaps a more useful way to approach this situation is to realize that we must put the ego in it's proper place as a humble and useful servant, not as the master which it aspires to be. Here are some thoughts about this process of overcoming the ego:

The point is not to deny our ego, but to extricate ourselves from our exclusive preoccupation with it.

One-Liners, Ram Dass

Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Gospel of St Matthew 6:33

Our journey is about being more deeply involved in life, and yet less attached to it.

One-Liners, Ram Dass

I abandoned and forgot myself, laying my face on my Beloved;
all things ceased; I went out from myself, leaving my cares forgotten among the lilies.

St John of the cross

While such inspirational words may seem like wonderful ideals, it is not enough to merely acknowledge these ideals, we must find ways to put these ideals into continual practice in our own daily life. In the Buddhist tradition, the sound of the bell is often used as a reminder to stop the chatter and become mindfully aware of the present moment, in which there is always the opportunity for a joyful sense of awe, wonder and appreciation. In everyday life there are many distractions and annoyances, yet even these distractions and annoyances can be used to our advantage if we use them as a reminder to recall the essential nature of our True Self, as in the following magnificent example from Thich Nhat Hanh:

Driving is a daily task in this society. I am not suggesting that you stop driving, just that you do it consciously. While we are driving, we think only about arriving. Therefore, every time that we see a red light, we are not very happy. The red light is a kind on enemy that prevents us from attaining our goal. But we can also see the red light as a bell of mindfulness, reminding us to return to the present moment. The next time you see a red light, please smile at it and go back to your [spiritual practices]... It is easy to transform a feeling of irritation into a pleasant feeling. Although it is the same red light, it becomes different. It becomes a friend, helping us to remember that it is only in the present moment that we can live our lives...

The next time you are caught in a traffic jam, don't fight it. It's useless to fight. Sit back and smile to yourself, a smile of compassion and loving kindness. Enjoy the present moment, breathing and smiling, and make the other people in your car happy. Happiness is there if you know how to breathe and smile, because happiness can always be found in the present moment. Practicing meditation is to go back to the present moment to encounter the flower, the blue sky, the child. Happiness is available.

Peace is Every Step, Thich Nhat Hanh

Although it may be easiest to use something simple such as a red traffic light to begin this wonderful practice, there are no limits to the situations or conditions that can be accommodated if one is truly sincere and mindful. Physical pain, emotional pain and all manner of suffering can be overcome through the use of this same beautiful practice.

It is only love that can bring about that happiness of which is spoken in legends, which is beyond all pleasures of this mortal world. ... Love is the fire that burns all infirmities.

Question: How do we see the love of God in the book of nature? We see all around us fruits and plants and animal life brought to fruition and then to destruction, and among men cruelty, misery, tragedies and enmities everywhere.

Answer: It is a difference of focus. If we focus our mind upon all that is good and beautiful we shall see — in spite of all the ugliness that exists in nature and especially more pronounced in human nature — that the ugliness will cover itself. We will spread a cover over it and see all that is beautiful, and to whatever lacks beauty we will be able to add, taking it from all that is beautiful in our heart where beauty has sufficiently been collected. But if we focus our mind upon all the ugliness that exists in nature — and in human nature — there will be much of it. It will take up all our attention and there will come a time when we shall not be able to see any good anywhere. We shall see all cruelty, ugliness, wickedness and unkindness everywhere.

Question: In focusing our mind on beauty alone, is there not a danger of shutting our eyes to the ugliness and suffering we might alleviate?

Answer: In order to help the poor we ought to be rich, and in order to take away the badness of a person we ought to be so much more good. That goodness must be earned, as money is earned. That earning of goodness is collecting goodness wherever we find it, and if we do not focus on goodness we will not be able to collect it sufficiently. What happens is that man becomes agitated by all the absence of goodness he sees. Being himself poor he cannot add to it, and unconsciously he develops in his own nature what he sees. He thinks, 'Oh poor person! I should so much like you to be good', but that does not help that person. His looking at the badness, his agitation, only adds one more wicked person to the lot. When one has focused one's eyes on goodness one will add to beauty, but when a man's eyes are focused on what is bad he will collect enough wickedness for him to be added himself to the number of the wicked in the end, for he receives the same impression.

Besides, by criticizing, by judging, by looking at wickedness with contempt, one does not help the wicked or the stupid person. The one who helps is he who is ready to overlook, who is ready to forgive, to tolerate, to take disadvantages he may have to meet with patiently. It is he who can help.

A person who is able to help others should not hide himself but do his best to come out into the world. 'Raise up your light high', it is said. All that is in you should be brought out, and if the conditions hinder you, break through the conditions! That is the strength of life.

You are love — you come from love — you are made by love — you cannot cease to love.

Life is a journey, and the quality of one's life depends upon the quality of the journey. And the quality of the journey is reflected in one's response to the present moment. If one responds to the present moment in a heartful manner, radiating loving kindness and overflowing with selfless generosity, then blissful contentment, perfection and tranquility are found everywhere, regardless of the situations along the way.

He who is really happy is happy everywhere, in a palace or in a cottage, in riches or in poverty, for he has discovered the fountain of happiness which is situated in his own heart. As long as a person has not found that fountain, nothing will give him real happiness.

A source of happiness, or unhappiness, all is in man himself. When he is unaware of this, then he is not able to arrange his life, and as he becomes more acquainted with this secret he gains a mastery, and it is the process with which this mastery is attained which is the only fulfillment of this life.

Social Gatheka II, Number 30, by Hazrat Inayat Khan (unpublished)


Wishing you love, harmony and beauty,

posted July 31, 2005