Happiness and Balance
We all seek different things in life and use different tools to try to acquire those things. Whether professionally, materially, physically, or emotionally, we all have different goals. Yet, even throughout our differences, there is one that comes up quite frequently, and that is happiness. Happiness is presented to us as an unwavering state of ecstatic delight over all aspects of our lives, a high that never ends. We must always stay radiant and smiling, thinking positive thoughts and have the most wonderful of experiences regardless of the situation. If ever a low is hit, it must be remedied as quickly as possible, through consumption of some thing or another. It is necessary for us to remain in the exuberantly joyful state, for how else could we be happy? We couldn’t, we would only be pretending to be, and quite badly at that. So we better get whatever will make us happy for a moment again, and indulge while it lasts. Though we wouldn’t have to worry, for once this high subsides again, it is a simple matter of moving on to the next object that will give us a boost, to maintain that state for as long as we can. That is happiness.
There are many words to describe that state; ecstasy, euphoria, elation. Yet it also carries with it the qualities of fearful and escapist. It is so because it portrays a fear of feeling “bad”, or unpleasant sensations, seeking to always feel “good” or pleasurable stimulations, and thus escaping the reality that is. It is wholly unbalanced, for it’s denial of a vital aspect of the truth at hand, always seeking to attain a state which we believe should be the case; and this is up to each and everyone one of us to engage with or not, for that is our freedom of choice. So try, live it, attempt, observe, and feel. Did it bring you what you desired? Did it last? How do you truly feel?
If the answer to any of the questions above brings about a negative response, then perhaps another solution is required to attain what we so desire through our quest for happiness. This is when balance comes into play.
This is another concept that is portrayed as a permanent state, a goal we should seek until we have reached it, and look up to the people who have it all together, who have this perfectly balanced life. Job, family, relations, friends, school, sport, pleasure, self-care; those are just a few of the elements that make up our lives, and which we must find a way to balance, to put together in a neat fashion so that we get the most out of all of them. Preferably in a clean calendar, so that we can be proud of how balanced and well put-together we are. Though, it is also important to not be too strict, and incorporate an element of flexibility and spontaneity to be properly balanced, so that must be included in the calendar as well, without it being too restricted. Once we manage all that, congratulations, we are balanced. Or are we?
This state of balance shares one major resemblance with our quest for happiness, and that is that they are both based on clearly defined ideas of what is good and what is bad, of what is wrong and what is right, of what we should do, and what we should not. It is obvious to us that we must always seek the good and avoid the bad, since bad unbalances and makes us unhappy. That’s the way it is. Or so we like to believe. The truth is otherwise though.
One Step Back
In order to have a better view at what balance is composed off, we must first take a step back from those concepts of good and bad, looking at them on a spectrum, with a small line as our current state. Some things feel good, and bring our little bar closer to the “happy” end of the spectrum, while other things feel bad and bring us closer to the “sad” end of the spectrum. It is important to acknowledge that the spectrum reaches far beyond sad and happy, but for simplicity’s sake, those will be used for example.
Someone gives us a gift, we feel happy, our state moves more towards “happy”. We break something valuable to us, our state moves towards “sad”. Those are truths, in the sense that we cannot deny that we feel different things. A gentle caress feels pleasant, a broken bone feels painful. Thus, it might be natural for us to seek what feels pleasant, and avoid what feels painful; and we would be right in doing so, our survival might depend on it.
At the same time, we cannot simply avoid everything that feels “bad”, for things always happen. There are an infinite number of causes which could lead our state to fluctuate towards one side or the other, many of which we have no control over. Hence, many would say it is foolish to attach a goal of such high importance as happiness to a bar in constant movement. I agree with them; and now is the time for the cheesy line we have all heard before: “we wouldn’t appreciate the sun if it wasn’t for the rain”.
In a way, that line is true. Opposites make us appreciate on another, for they bring each other into existence. It is also true that both can be enjoyable, just as they could not. This is where I suggest taking a step back and looking at the whole spectrum. We are conscious that we cannot always feel happy, and that we can sometimes be sad. It is also true that even if we feel pain frequently, there are always times when we don’t.
That’s the beauty of it.
We are able to experience both sides and the plethora of sensations they bring, regardless of whether we judge them as pleasant or not. Because our judgement doesn’t really matter. They are there anyways, due to our lack of control over them. Hence, judging them one way or another only makes them heavier, adding unnecessary weight to energy that just wants to move. Emotions. E-Motions. Energy in motion. If we hold on to them by putting pressure on yourself for feeling them, the movement stops, and that energy stagnates within us. So we keep feeling that way, plus our pressure; an example of this is when we feel jealous, and then convince ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way, so we feel bad for being jealous, making us feel frustrated, while at the bottom of it all, there was a feeling that was simply not expressed properly. Thus, by simply acknowledging our jealousy, asking ourselves what could have caused it, and accepting it as being legitimate, we allow it to move on, and ourselves in the process. Everything is impermanent. Equanimity is the key.
Unifying the Separate
This is not to say that we should not the thrilled about living something that makes us feel joyful, or that we shouldn’t feel angry for a certain reason, but simply accepting that that’s how we feel at the moment, and letting ourselves feel it. This place of self-observation is where the can see the full spectrum of our personal experience. The real beauty of it lies in the fact that even though our emotions are always fluctuating, that the world outside is always transforming, and that we ourselves are constantly changing, there is a place of calm. In all the chaos, there is a place of serenity, of peace.
Observation is the way to bring opposites together. Not a disconnected passive observation, through filters and insecurities, but an authentic open presence, to ourselves. This presence is what allows us to simply be. With anything that is there with us. Pain can be pleasant in more ways than one, pleasure can carry this painful quality with it, and one of the most beautiful experiences we can live is a heartbreak, because it shows us the value and depth of what we lived. Yes, it is painful, but it wouldn’t be as beautiful if it weren’t. Sensitivity is a wonderful ability, for it allows us to feel everything, and sensory input is our mainframe when interacting with ourselves, our bodies, and the world around us.
Simple observation brings peace with it, so we are always aware of where our bar is situated on the spectrum of feeling good and feeling bad, and so we can act in consequence of the states we desire to live in that moment. Active observation allows us to choose our actions with more clarity, to get what we truly desire. Balance in our lives is not something external, but an inner state of constant awareness and acceptance, standing strongly on our feet so we can let all the feelings and emotions flow trough us. Standing solid so we don’t fall over. And if we do, enjoy the pain from it, dive into it, and use it as a catalyst to stand back up again, wiser than before. Standing strong doesn’t mean being stiff, but entering the dance grounded and aware, allowing us to follow our flow and the motions that arise. It is from this place of solidity that we can fully choose our next movement, the direction we want to dance in, and the way we move our bodies there. We are in control of ourselves throughout the movement all around us.
Once we dance, not afraid of where the music will bring us, that’s when we can be deeply happy. In the place beyond judgement, where things just are, we can appreciate both pain and pleasure, happiness and sadness, movement, and stillness. The funny part is that, even if that place doesn’t exist per se it is always within us, so we always have access to it, even if we can’t physically enter it. It is the source of our conscious experience after all, the source of our being here.
In the end, the best way to remain happy and balanced is to simply not doing anything but release our own judgements and giving ourselves the permission to simply be as we are. Only then can we reach the source of happiness, letting it flow freely through us. I do truly believe that happiness is our base state, not the joyful ecstasy, but the peaceful serenity with what is. This being so, the secret to reaching that place is simply not blocking ourselves from it, but allowing ourselves to be present to what is. This state will never disappear, is always accessible, we must simply choose to pay attention to it. The rest is the dance to keep it interesting.
So flow free, and let yourself be, we will see each other in the place beyond.