No matter how it appears to others, we're all doing the best we can with what we've got. After all, we're all trying to be happy. Now our ideas about what happiness means & what level of happiness we can realistically achieve differ greatly! I once asked a young woman what she hoped for in the future. Her response: 'a Lazy-Boy recliner.'
Many just want to be as comfortable as possible in what they believe to be a hostile, machine-like, meaningless world. Because they have little or no knowledge or experience in these matters, they're absolutely certain that worldviews & self-concepts centering around loving inter-connection & universal consciousness are simple-minded, deluded & mere wishful thinking.
More & more people - including the brightest & most highly educated - are continuously experiencing intimate, loving, nurturing connection with everyone & everything, and their peace & joy have become independent of their circumstances, including pain, sickness, aging & death. This highly-desirable & sought-after state - awakening / enlightenment - is considered the pinnacle of human consciousness maturation / evolution, shared by shamans / healers, mystics, saints & "ordinary folks" of all cultures & traditions throughout the ages (see 'perennial philosophy' below).
Despite such vast differences in worldviews & self-concepts people hold, each individual tends to be absolutely certain that they are right, regardless of evidence to the contrary. Our minds seem far more interested in consistency than truth, so we often 'fail to see' or devalue data that contradicts, but gravitate towards & magnify data that confirms our stance.
“We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Anais Nin
“Whatever I believe to be true is immediately true for me. Whatever I know and am certain is real will be experienced as real to me.”
Helen Hamilton. “Reality Check. A Simple Guide to Final Enlightenment.” Balboa Press, 2021.
We all inevitably experience hardships severe enough to cause our immature worldviews & self-concepts to shatter, forcing us to rebuild more mature, more realistic, more trauma-proof ones. It is often a very slow road to discovering our true self & real happiness, which are independent of conditions.
If we're fortunate enough to live past middle age, then nagging aches, pains, stiffness, & progressive physical & mental deterioration will test us increasingly. Under 60 years of age & used to good health, you may think, 'No problem, I'll be able to handle it.' But in fact it gets tiresomely unpleasant as a wide assortment of barnacles relentlessly stick, progressively weighing down one's only leaky old rowboat! There are many valid reasons for old folks to feel grumpy - temporarily.
“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” Joe Klaas
Seniors' conversations often revolve around symptoms, disabilities, illnesses, surgeries,
prescriptions, medical appointments, death & dying. And it's
unbelievably easy 'to contract around' - to obsessively focus exclusively on one's own & loved ones'
problems, desperately wanting to get rid of them ASAP, while feeling frustrated, angry, tired, hopeless & sad.
This is especially so as pains & disabilities no longer quickly heal
as they did in youth, but instead relentlessly eat
away at one's body, mind & patience. Our usual egoic mind (small self) is
specialized to survive & mate. In old age, we're no longer giving
birth, and the fact & proximity of death is absolutely obvious. This profoundly unsettles one's ordinary egoic mind. And sadly, this limited, isolated sense of self is ALL many people are aware of!
BUT a solid spiritual practice, ideally established before stuff hits the fan, can make the "difference between heaven & hell" during trying times. Despite the current dogma of materialism, one's quality of life CAN be independent of circumstances.
“The term 'perennial philosophy' (Agostino Steuco 1497-1548), refers to these four realizations:
(1) there is only one Reality (God, Mother, Awareness, Self, Tao, Dharmakaya, Brahman, Great Spirit, Allah ...) that is the source & substance of all creation;
(2) that while each of us is a manifestation of this Reality, most of us identify with something much smaller, that is, our culturally conditioned individual ego (the 'small self');
(3) that this identification with the smaller self gives rise to needless anxiety, unnecessary suffering, and cross-cultural competition and violence; and
(4) that peace, compassion, & justice naturally replace anxiety, needless suffering, competition, & violence when we realize our true nature as a manifestation of this singular Reality.
The great sages & mystics of every civilization throughout human history have taught these truths in the language of their time & culture. It is the universality & timelessness of this wisdom that makes it the perfect focus for the spiritually independent seeker."
Rami Shapiro. “Perennial Wisdom for the Spiritually Independent.” SkyLight Paths, 2013.
“... grief, if you are afraid of it and pave it over, clamp down, you shut down. And the kind of apathy and closed down denial or difficulty in looking at what we’re doing to our world stems not from callous indifference or ignorance so much as it stems from fear of pain. ….
That became perhaps the most pivotal point in the landscape of my life: that dance with despair. To see how we are called to not run from the discomfort, and not run from the grief or the feelings of outrage or even fear. If we can be fearless to be with our pain, it turns. It doesn’t stay. It only doesn’t change if we refuse to look at it. When we look at it, when we take it in our hands, when we can just be with it, when we keep breathing, then it turns. It turns to reveal its other face. And the other face of our pain for the world is our love for the world. Our absolutely inseparable connectedness with all life.” Joanna Macy, interviewed by Krista Tippett on the On Being podcast https://onbeing.org/programs/joanna-macy-a-wild-love-for-the-world
"To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe -- to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it - is a wonder beyond words. Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Furthermore, it is a privilege to be alive in this time when we can choose to take part in the self-healing of our world." Joanna Macy
Helen Hamilton - The Way Of The Self