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how to get there and always find your way back
By peter fairfield
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLCCopyright © 2012 Peter Fairfield
All rights reserved.
Beginning Deep Happy
When a fool hears the Tao, he laughs ... the utter simplicity!
—Dao De Jing
Happiness is your nature, It is not wrong to desire it What's wrong is seeking it outside, When it is inside.
Just like the great seas and oceans that are unaffected by huge and raging storms on the surface just a few feet above, we can experience the ebb and flow of conflicting and difficult events of the world outside of us, yet still connect to the stillness, peace, and happiness in the deep and essential parts of us. In other words, once you get used to it, you can exist in the crazy world and still remain calm, connected, and aware inside. This is the essential message of Deep Happy.
Everyone wants to be happy. It's what drives the good and the craziness of the world. The quest for happiness is the basis in some way for everything we do. All forms of life want to be happy, even the tiniest of us. I remember in high school looking at amoebas under a microscope. I put a very tiny particle of meat on the slide. All the amoebas rushed to get to it, like a big pre-holiday sale at Macy's. It was very clear that the particular amoeba that got the protein experienced something quite different than the other amoebas. The one who got it seemed happy, if you can say that about an amoeba. Its body expanded, while the others seemed frustrated, their little bodies contracting and bumping into each other as they moved away. Their patterns and movements were very different than they were before they went after and lost the food. All forms of life, even microscopic organisms, experience transient happiness—if not on the emotional level, then at least on the chemical, neuronal, and survival level. As potentially conscious beings, we have the opportunity to experience the place inside of us that is safe and connected: that is Deep Happy.
It might seem easy to be happy, but happiness can be elusive and paradoxical. Reading, driving a car, and even walking seem easy, but we had to learn how to do them by letting their processes become imprinted into our nervous systems and daily patterns. If we want to excel, we can take advanced training to read faster, drive better, and walk and exercise more efficiently. Learning to experience Deep Happy is very similar.
You might be wondering, "Why do I need to learn to be happy? Shouldn't I just fix my problems? Wouldn't that make me happy?" That's a fair question, but you are reading this book, I assume, for a reason. Either you haven't been able to fix your problems or think you have already done so and you still feel like something is missing.
The odd thing is, it often happens that at just the moment when we finally feel happy—when we get our new car, find the tax documents we have been looking for all day, or even just get a moment of peace—something else comes up and takes a bite out of our happiness. This kind of happiness, although certainly welcome whenever it comes, is transient. It is a kind of happiness that depends on something happening or not happening. It is not a happiness that we can count on; most of the time, we can't even predict what will bring it or how long it will last.
So let's re-examine what happiness really is. On a superficial level we can say it is a generalized experience of feeling and sensations caused by many things that we usually lump together: satisfaction, resolution, safety, and reward. We eat a good meal when we are hungry; buy a new espresso maker when our old one breaks; feel the morning sun after a cold night; appreciate a good listener; win an argument; fall in love; end a bad relationship; start and finish a great book. This list could go on to fill a whole library. All of these things and probably most that you can imagine involve some kind of change—some thing or situation becoming better.
Much of our time involves seeking or refuting something to attain happiness. This is a never-ending process. As we grow and develop, it becomes more and more subtle. For instance, feeling good about ourselves because we didn't want or need something seems more developed than succumbing to the desire, but it is still part of the process of cause and effect. We remain in this mode until we come upon another way. For most of us, ending the cycle of "searching and getting" usually means we have left our bodies.
The deeper happiness inside of us is a happiness that does not change. It has a different quality than the outer experiences of satisfaction and safety. It is like a wonderful tone that vibrates subtly and pervasively throughout our bodies and within each cell, thought, and perception. As outer challenges and problems absorb our attention, a part of us always remains unchanged. Our core essence is always in resonance with a deep and profound happiness. We just have to remember that it is there waiting for us.
Most of us have had at least some happiness in our lives. For many people these momentary peaks of happiness are what hold us together through the tedium and routine of everyday life. But I ask you: What happens to the experience of being happy all the rest of the time? It may surprise you to know that many of us resist deeper happiness without knowing it. We get very used to being and staying just the way we are, often with great limits to our ability to feel pleasure, ease, joy, and especially personal satisfaction and even simple fun. These limitations are learned restrictions that either match with the patterns and tone of our birth families or are the result of overwhelming physical or emotional trauma, which then anchor themselves in the structures of our physical and energetic body. These blockages can stay with us until we find a way to heal and release them. As you read this book, you will be able to uncover and heal these blockages.
We grew up believing that certain basic attitudes and ways of being create inner happiness: kindness, stillness, generosity, forgiveness, and being in the now. We are encouraged to be peaceful, still, and calm. However, when we do drop into that moment of quiet and clarity, what often arises is everything inside us that is not quiet and not clear: our worries, fears, memories, feelings, withheld expressions, and doubts. These inner voices can have a wide polarity. Part of Deep Happy is learning what to do when we notice this happening. On the good side, they can range from easy thoughts that creatively inform and remind us of things we need to notice, remember, or think about. But they can also manifest as physical and emotional numbness or raging storms of confusion and intense feelings that can overtake us, eventually filling all available space with inner noise and powerful diverting images. Most of us live somewhere in between, though the voices of guidance and wisdom are always there—even when they are hard to hear.
We learn from our families and society to "protect" ourselves with these internal thoughts and voices so that we stay away from the feelings and emotions that are locked away deep in our bodies. To do this we either make ourselves numb or we use the excessive stimulation of all the "things" of the world. Though we unconsciously put them there to protect us, in reality they keep us from ourselves. This is the great confusion of our current world. The setup is this:
We have our natural inner clarity and guidance. It gets covered up by confused thoughts, conflicting emotions, and uncomfortable physical sensations. On top of that we surround ourselves with the frenzy of our busy lives or the dullness of being stuck without knowing what we really want. When we can begin to turn our attention back in and finally notice the comfortable place inside of us, we can release the "goop" and find our way to a life that gets easier—much easier.
Our world supports the drama of our continuing misery with all the diversions we could ever need, all the enabling mythology and for many of us a political, economic and social milieu that holds us in a perpetual state of unease and concern and clouds over the many positive things that are also occurring. Many of us are able to deal with the intensity of modern life by finding some quiet time now and then. This is a good thing—it is the only way that we can calm our overtaxed nervous systems. But sometimes the apparent experience of stillness and inner reflection can in reality be dullness, numbness, and disconnection masquerading as peace and calm. Closing off from the craziness of the world is a healthy tack in the short term. But to emerge from the craziness whole and clear with our wits about us takes a different strategy. We may not initially be able to remove ourselves from our daily challenges, but we can learn to listen to ourselves again, even in the midst of the fray, and in so doing, reawaken the real peaceful and happy place that is always within us. With a little practice, this sacred place can be a reliable source we can find our way back to again and again, until we finally get it that we never have to leave.
To accomplish this we must begin by discovering who we really are and living in the world as it really is. The merging of these creates a synergy that is both pragmatic and creative; it eliminates the effects of most of the things that trouble us.
One of the important stages in developing this personal coherence comes as we unite the voices inside of us. We have all experienced "I should, I shouldn't" conversations with ourselves. We have all done or said one thing while thinking or feeling something quite different. These mixed voices can counterbalance the effect of our initial good actions and overshadow or shift the wisdom, energy, and tone of our original good idea. These shifts in outcome can also come from trying to do the "right thing" or listening to our head without taking the time to sense the deeper wisdom of what our heart is telling us. A famous story from Nepal illustrates this very well.
In the 1970s, a U.S. Peace Corps worker in Nepal decided that the several-thousand-year-old tradition of terracing the hillside rice fields so that they slanted downward could be improved upon. He figured that slanting the fields inward toward the hills could conserve water. His Peace Corps team spent a huge amount of time and energy restructuring all the ancient rice fields, encouraging the local villagers to restructure their way of doing things that had worked for thousands of years. It seemed to work at first, but as the first rainy season wore on, the water that had pooled up in the area where the field met the hill began to seep underground. Eventually the ground underneath the fields eroded. All the rich earth that had been developed for centuries slid down the hill, ruining the local economy and leaving many previously prosperous villages without food or livelihood.
Obviously, the Peace Corps worker had a good intent. But his desire to "do good" and his lack of appreciation for the knowledge and practical experience of the Nepalese farmers kept him from seeing that he was making a bad decision. These patterns of personality that cause us to act and react are often very hard for us to see in ourselves. They have probably been with us since the womb, and are what hold us so firmly because we are so used to them. They are primarily patterns in the body and nervous system, but they are also the accumulation of certain conceptual ideas that we hold as sacrosanct. We call the accumulation of these influences our outer personality. The good news is that we can change.
I do much of my work over the phone with people from all over the world. I was working with a physician and acupuncturist in Chicago who was questioning why her practice was not growing as she wanted it to. I had her take a moment and imagine her practice becoming very busy, with many new and interesting clients. As she did this, her voice tightened a little and I could tell that a part of her was resisting the idea. As with many of us, her head wanted one thing, but the rest of her perceived the idea of more clients and greater success in a different way.
My client's professional training had taught her that to be a good physician one has to be very serious and professional. She did not allow flowing energy and physical renewal to be part of her personal experience while performing her clinical duties. The more clients she worked with, the more worn out and resistant she became.
My client had not learned to nourish herself while working. She expended energy, but she was not used to taking it in at the same time. She failed to create a reciprocal loop—A process of putting out energy through action and intent and simultaneously allowing energy to flow back. Again, this is a common cause of burnout and work dissatisfaction.
I worked to help her shift both her energetic patterns and her learned concepts about what success looks like. I showed her how to reprogram her physical patterns of subtly tightening various parts of her body, so that by the end of the session when she pictured herself with more clients, her physical and energetic body opened and she felt a deep ease and happiness. Pretty much everyone has patterns like my client's, and they are easy to change. It just takes a little bit of time, study, openness, and honest curiosity.
One of the basic truths that Buddha taught is that "life is suffering." This might sound a little pessimistic for a cool guy like the Buddha. But what I think he meant was that life is suffering only if we live and find our meaning in the outer world of cause and effect, ebb and flow—a life where we only pay attention to material things and don't discover the deeper unchanging reality that dissolves suffering. This inner connection is the source of the solutions that our world so desperately needs.
Buddha taught that all suffering comes from only three sources: desire, aversion, and ignorance. In other words, wanting something we don't have; not wanting something we already have or are afraid we will get; or misperceiving or ignoring what is right in front of us. In other words, suffering is caused by feeling that we cannot be happy unless the reality around us meets our expectations.
Here is something to think about:
All of the things you can think of that make you happy are relative! All of the things that make us happy tend to change. When they change, so can the possibility of our happiness.
Deep Happy is just what is left when everything else disappears.
Most of us live in what my wife Conde calls a "Hamster Nation"—we endlessly run through our lives, rarely getting off the wheel of outer experience and activity to touch the intrinsic deeper reality. We are often so busy or "tuned out" that we miss the full experience of living in our miraculous physical body that anchors us to our multifaceted world and to the experience of simply being.
For some, this endless "Hamster Nation" activity can even involve sitting on the couch, closing off from the activities of outer life through dullness and habit. Please don't get me wrong here. We all have a right to sit on the couch and veg out. I personally love my couch. It is a joy to come home and find my safe place to sit, away from the intensity or boredom of life, and feel like things are okay again, at least for a little while.
A few years ago, after an agonizing divorce, I rented a house on a mountain by the sea just north of San Francisco. I spent my first month there sitting on my couch, staring out at the changing colors of the vast ocean, not even thinking, just being. It was all I could do. This was a conscious choice and a strategy for beginning the process of healing and discovering where to take my life next. But if sitting on the couch (or wherever our "soft place" is) is all that we do every night—pushing the world away rather than to creatively and consciously opening up to it—then we are still running on that hamster wheel. Of course, it can be a very good thing to "find our cave" and hang out there until the storm passes, but when the storm is over we get to go outside again. It can also be an interesting process to bundle up and go for a walk in the storm, enjoying the power and beauty of it.
We all have a right to our own version of the hamster wheel. However, it will not bring us lasting fulfillment or Deep Happy until we begin to accept ourselves as we are and open our senses to the events that engulf us. As we begin to accept, we find a level of living that is not dependent on the transient events of the world. Before long, the fleeting interest and excitement of the good meal or new shoes will, rather than wearing off, connect us via these wonderful sensory experiences to the intrinsic biological happiness that is within each of us. This is when our constant search for the "unknown something" begins to quiet and our hamster wheel begins to slow down. Please don't misunderstand me. I love the outer things of the world: shopping, travel, sex, food, even football. But the deepest part of my experience does not depend on any of those things.
Excerpted from DEEP HAPPY by peter fairfield. Copyright © 2012 Peter Fairfield. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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