it’s so easy to get caught up in the idea of happiness always being one step ahead. “i’ll be happy when i get this new job” “i’ll be happy when i move out” “i’ll be happy when i dye my hair” “i’ll be happy when i’m in a relationship”. we can too easily fall into the habit of making our happiness a conditional – something that’s only going to occur once we’ve achieved other things.
a couple of days ago i realised that i’d fallen back into this mindset, but in a more subtle sort of way. i kept expecting the same things to make me feel the same way they did in the past, and i’d get anxious whenever it didn’t happen. if i didn’t feel instantly zen after meditating, or still felt out of balance after doing some yoga, i’d feel as though i’d failed some how – these things used to make me happier in the past, so why isn’t it working now! there must be something wrong with me, because these practices haven’t changed!
i was using the excuse that my practices were enabling me to properly process emotions, that sitting down for 40 minutes to meditate or stretch was the only thing i needed to do in order to work through a difficult feeling or thought. and then i’d push the discomfort to the side because i’d addressed it, right?
in reality, i was trying to speed up the process of fluctuation that our emotions go through, in order to linger on the highs and move quickly through the lows. but uhhhh that’s not exactly how it works Emily!
as i’m typing this i thought about a journal entry i wrote some time during year 12. i was depressed for a lot of the year, but there were interspersed periods of time where, unforced, i could find meaning in all of it.
“I truly believe that happiness is about letting go. it’s not some big end goal or definitive destination. i like to believe that the possibility for happiness exists in each and every moment. the issue is, when we focus all of our attention on trying to grasp this state of mind, it eludes us. happiness has a tendency to sneak up on us when we’re not paying attention. it is found in the most innocent moments: driving your lil car down to woolies and your favourite song comes on; walking into your room, smelling the blend of lavender and peppermint oil and immediately feeling home; that moment in meditation when you let go of all focus and your mind becomes completely serene. i believe that true happiness lies in these simple things. the only thing is that you have to be in the moment, experiencing it fully, in order to be aware of it’s capacity for joy…”
essentially, the only thing we need to do is be aware. if there’s a difficult emotion boiling over, notice it. don’t force it out of mind because it doesn’t fit into your image of how this moment should feel. there’s no blueprint for life. it’s up and down and side to side and it’s always going to be messy. and you’re always going to be messy because emotions don’t always make sense. the most important thing is that you allow yourself to feel, even if you’re not sure why an emotion is there. it is valid, simply because it is.
this practice of non-attachment and of being here with our emotions is what leads us towards true contentment. a state of perpetual happiness is unattainable. but what we can achieve is underlying contentment. in meditation they use the image of a ‘blue sky’: like storm clouds, difficult emotions make the sky seem dark. but if you were to travel above these clouds, the blue sky is always there. in the same way, we can feel angry or lost or confused or jealous or unhappy, and yet still have this overarching contentment because we are being truly present with our emotional states and not trying to make the clouds dissipate too quickly. we just observe.
this post has been a little all-over-the-place because that’s how i am at the moment. but ultimately, the take home message is just to be here now. if you’re sad, feel it, truly. you don’t need to become it, but you sure as hell need to recognise that it’s there. don’t sweep your emotions under the carpet, and (this one’s for you Emily) don’t sweep the image of you sweeping your emotions under the carpet under the carpet. just notice whatever is going on and accept it for what it is. and over time, maybe you’ll realise that’s where contentment lies: in whatever is.