Happiness is elusive for many people and we often search for it in all the wrong places! We seek happiness in the instant gratification of our desires, in the accumulation of possessions, accolades or relationships, in our accomplishments or in the delights of our physical senses. The pursuit of happiness motivates many of our actions and efforts in life. We spend a great deal of time, effort and money in the acquisition of ‘things’ believing that once we have the right partner, house, car, bank balance, physical attributes, possessions, holidays or children we will be satisfied and fulfilled, that happiness will descend upon us and remain our constant companion. We all want to be happy and avoid suffering as much as possible. Yet many of us have found that it is suffering that breaks us open to compassion, wisdom and understanding. It is often our suffering that enables us to realise that happiness is not derived from the outer circumstances of our lives – that indeed, happiness is an inside job.
Perhaps it is a quirk of human nature that we don’t actively seek the ingredients for real happiness until the unexpected, the unasked for and sometimes, the unthinkable happens in our life. Life is full of uncertainties. Our struggle for understanding and acceptance can cause us to find and honour the great spirit within ourselves and in so doing we find self-understanding, resolution, humour, courage, wisdom and more. In human form we can discover the peace that passes all understanding, where we are no longer defined by our physical limitations or attributes or our mental and emotional turbulence. Real happiness is not disturbed by the outer circumstances of our life. Indeed real happiness is not disturbed by trauma, tragedy, illness or death of our physical body. I have witnessed many people who, at the time of their death, were able to let go lightly of their physicality and dissolve into the great mystery from whence we come.
From the moment of our birth, our consciousness begins to enmesh itself into our physical body according to the feelings we experience. Before birth we rely on ‘womb service’, after birth, time will tell. The feelings we experience have as much a biological impact as an emotional one. Whether we feel safe, secure, loved, cared for, valued and joyful or deprived, fearful, neglected, abandoned, abused or rejected, the chemicals of our feelings flood from our brain and body and provide biological information to the cells of our body.
In the first few days and weeks of life a baby doesn’t really understand that it is physically embodied. If their limbs are left to jerk about uncontrollably he or she doesn’t yet understand what these new sensations mean. At about six or seven weeks a baby catches sight of its own hands, studies them and gradually learns that they have a direct relationship with him or herself. The baby’s focus is then on getting their physical body to respond to their desires to roll over, crawl, sit up, stand and accomplish a myriad of physical possibilities. In the best of all possible worlds, everyone in the family cheers and claps whenever the baby accomplishes any of these feats and the baby feels fabulous and rewarded for their efforts. We feel that we are absolutely gorgeous, capable, amazing, lovable, loved and loving. This becomes our biology as well as forming a platform on which more complex experiences follow.
Babies radiate love and happiness effortlessly regardless of the colour, intellect, disability, religion or wealth of the people they encounter. However, in our early weeks, months and years we are immersed in the soup of our family’s prejudices. We don’t understand the intellectual concepts that our parents articulate but there is a sound around resentment and bitterness, a sound around anger and frustration, a sound around judgement, a sound around ‘the others’. This is where we learn that there are people who belong to ‘us or our group’ and ‘the others’. If you were born into a wealthy household then poor people may have been considered less. If you were born into a poor family, then wealthy people may have been considered as different because they have ‘more’. If you were born into a Christian household then the Muslims may have been ‘the others’ and vice versa. Young children don’t understand the ‘why’ but they do pick up the feeling that we must close our hearts to other people who are different from us. Depending on our family and what they value, we begin to see people who are richer or poorer, fatter or thinner, more or less educated, fitter or less so, happier or not, religious or atheist, intelligent or not so, as belonging to our culture or not as being different from ourselves – the ‘others’.
to be continued…..
N.D., D.R.M., D.B.M., Dip Cl. Hyp., I.Y.T.A.
Petrea King is a well-known author, inspirational speaker, counsellor and workshop leader. She has practiced many forms of meditation since the age of seventeen and she is also qualified as a naturopath, herbalist, hypnotherapist, yoga and meditation teacher.
In 1983 Petrea was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia and was not expected to live. Meditation and the integration of past traumatic experiences became paramount in her recovery, much of which was spent in a monastery near Assisi in Italy.
Since then, Petrea has counselled individually or through residential programs more than 60,000 people living with life-challenging illnesses, grief, loss, trauma and tragedy. Petrea sees crisis as a catalyst for spiritual growth and understanding and as an opportunity for healing and peace.
Petrea has received the Advance Australia Award and the Centenary Medal for her contribution to the community. She has been nominated for Australian of the Year in each year since 2004.
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