Sunday, November 24, 2013

Happiness is a Journey

In the course of this life, I have struggled with getting to know my essential self. It’s a part of the struggle of being a sentient being with a moral compass, to struggle to find your way all while dealing with feelings of desire, greed, jealousy, love, anger, egotism…the list goes endlessly onward. I didn’t understand the importance of getting to know myself until after my marriage failed. I suppose you could say it was the spark that ignited my pursuit of finding my core. I was tired of feeling angry and having my feelings be whipped around at the whim of someone else’s. I am a 21st century female, capable of voting, acquiring gainful employment and still rockin’ it out in the kictchen (my choice!), so why was I still letting my partner influence so much of who I was and how I felt? I’ll share what I’ve discovered in the next few paragraphs, with the hope that it will provide you with some clarity, or maybe kick-start your own journey into being happy to settle in with your own thoughts and find the love you’ve been looking for waiting patiently for you to take notice.

Exactly what is Love? I’ve come to discover that love is the sincere wish for others to be happy, and to be free from suffering. Love is realistically recognizing others' kindness as well as their faults. Love is being aware of another person’s feelings but not being swept away by them. There are no ulterior motives to full-fill our own wants or desires, there is no pull to make someone just a little “better”, we love simply because that person exists, exactly as they are. Attachment is a close cousin of love and often exaggerates others' good qualities and makes us crave to be with them. When we're with them, we're happy, but when we're separated from them we find ourselves un-happy and tempermental. Attachment is linked with expectations of what others should be or do. Is love, as we have come to understand it in our culture, really love or a form of attachment…or in some cases a form of addiction to sexual gratification and the good feelings associated with being in an intimate, physical relationship?

Generally we are attracted to people either because they have qualities we value or because they make us feel good/wanted. If we observe our own thought processes mindfully, and carefully - we'll notice that we look for specific qualities in others.

Some of these qualities we find attractive, others are values that we have inherited from the society we live in or from our familial circles. Someone who has grown up in a family with little financial stability will often have the emphasis placed on finding a partner who has the ability to provide that stability. American society has created this attraction to others who are tall, lithe, bronzed Gods and Godesses’…

We examine someone's looks, body, education, spiritualism, hygiene, employment, and social status. This is how most of us decide on whether or not the person holds any true value to us. Subconsciously, we think “Will this person make me better.” In addition, we judge people as worthwhile according to how they relate to us. If they help us, praise us, make us feel secure, listen to what we have to say, care for us when we are sick or depressed, we consider them good people, and it is this type of people we are most likely to be more attracted to. But this is very biased, for we judge them only in terms of how they relate to "us", placing ourselves at the center of all existence, as if we are truly the most important person in the world. How does this person treat the people around you? How do they treat strangers? How do they act in traffic? Around children? We overlook that people are capable of being one way in the presence of one group and another elsewhere.

After we've judged certain people to be good for us, whenever we see them it appears to us as if goodness is coming from them. We expect to have that feeling of “goodness” radiate into us because we are with them, but if we are more aware, we recognize that we have projected this goodness onto them. How many times have you fallen in love with the expectation you have for a person rather than the person themselves?

The desire to be with people who make us feel good causes us to become dependent on getting that feeling from them. Your feelings cease to be your own and your emotions and reactions to life are linked directly to the source of your good feelings. Furthermore, we form fixed concepts of what our relationships with those people will be and thus have expectations of them. When they do not live up to our expectations of them, we're very disappointed, or may become angry! How dare they challenge the idea we have created for them!? Don’t they don’t they are responsible for not one person, but two? We want them to change so that they will they will match what we think they are. But our projections and expectations come from our own minds, not from our partner.

Our problems arise not because others aren't who we thought they were, but because we mistakenly thought they were something they aren't. What we call love is most often attachment.

We then cling to tightly to that person, thinking our happiness depends on that person.

Love, on the other hand, is an open and very calm, relaxed attitude. We want someone to be happy, and free from suffering simply because they exist. While attachment is uncontrolled and much too sentimental, Love is direct and powerful. Attachment obscures our judgment and we become impatient, angry, and impartial, helping only our dear ones and harming those who we don't like. Love builds up others, and clarifies our minds, and we access a situation by thinking of the greatest good for everyone. Attachment is based on selfishness, while Love is founded upon cherishing others, even those who do not look very appealing to the eyes. Love looks beyond all the superficial appearances, and dwells on the fact that they are just like us: they want inner peace, happiness, and want to avoid suffering. If we see unattractive, dirty, ignorant people, we feel repulsed because our selfish minds want to know attractive, intellectual, clean, and talented people. Love, on the other hand, never evaluates others by these superficial standards and looks much deeper into the person. Love recognizes that regardless of the others' appearances, their experience is the same as ours: they seek inner peace, to be happy, to be free from sufferings, and to do their best to avoid problems.

When we're attached, we're not mentally and emotionally free. We overly depend on and cling to another person to fulfill our mental and especially our emotional needs. We fear losing the person, feeling we'd be incomplete without him.

This does not mean that we should suppress our emotional needs or become aloof, alone and totally independent, because that too does not solve the problem. We must simply realize our unrealistic needs, and slowly seek to eliminate them. Some emotional needs may be so strong that they can't be dissolved immediately. If we try to suppress them or pretend they do not exist, we become anxious, insecure, falling into a depression. In this case, we can do our best to fulfill our needs while simultaneously working gradually to subdue them.

The core problem is we seek to be loved, rather than to love. We yearn to be understood by others rather than to understand them. If a person can learn to subdue their own attachments, we can most definitely have successful friendships and personal relationships with others. These relationships will be richer because of the freedom and respect - the relationships will be based on. We'll care about the happiness and the misery of all human beings equally, simply because everyone is the same in wanting and needing inner peace, happiness, and not wanting to suffer. However, our lifestyles and interests may be more compatible with those of some people more so than with others and that is alright. In any case, our relationships will be based on mutual Love, mutual interests, and the wish to help each other in life.

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