Happiness is Inside not Outside

Acting in the relative world can be exhilarating; there are endless new ways we can entertain ourselves in the 20th Century – everything from going into space, goat yoga, virtual reality gaming, naked bungee jumping, etc. We are lucky to live at a time where the world has so much to offer. Soon there will be self-driving cars – however at the moment it’s crazy – we’re driving hunks of metal at 80 miles-per-hour as we hurtle around. So what activities do you enjoy? Personally, I went through a phase where I loved to act in movies, model and belly dance with snakes, however now I enjoy guiding meditations, helping others and manifesting ideas. We all evolve and develop unique and diverse interests. The trick is not to expect those activities to make us happy. First, we need to find happiness within, then simply play in the outside world. Everything becomes delightful when we are no longer clinging to things, expecting them to make us happy, or wanting them to last forever. What happens when our business fails, our body becomes weak, the goat kicks us, the virtual game crashes or we just don’t fancy getting naked anymore? We might feel unhappy. We then might believe that setting up another business will bring us happiness, or having plastic surgery, or getting a new computer, or kicking the goat that kicked us. We even may get some brief relief but there is another way.

There is something called decompression, which is like a ‘mini-depression’ that people go through when they have a peak experience then return into the default world. You may have experienced decompression when you return after an incredible holiday. I used to notice a low coming off a film set or returning from Burning Man. For those of you who don’t know, Burning Man is an artistic community of 70,000 people, that pops up in the Nevada desert for a week. It’s often life changing for people as they live harmoniously together surviving extreme conditions, giving and receiving gifts (because there’s no money) and participating in a lot of dancing, dressing-up and hilarious workshops. The reason I no longer feel sad after Burning Man is mainly due to inviting stillness into my life and meditating daily.

Burning Man 2013

Burning Man 2013

So, how does meditating dissolve lows? The Bhagavad Gita says “established in yoga[union] perform action[karma]”. What it means is, first connect with transcendence, then go about daily activities in the world. Transcendence is what the mind is desperately searching for. Transcendence is blissful; if we were a bee it would be a sweet smelling flower. Sometimes we might experience brief waves of it when absorbed in the present moment completely. This can happen in those special moments: when we’re at Burning Man and a magnificent art-piece appears out of a dust storm; opening an surprise gift; the moment we fall madly in love; or partaking in an extreme sport that forces us into the present moment. Some of us however get addicted to shopping, sex, money-making, gambling or adrenaline, as the mind desperately searches for transcendence. When the mind is lost and searching it goes outwards, not inwards. It tries to use the divided outside world to create unity, but it fails. The outside world is divided, impermanent and there is no unity to be had. Unity happens when we turn inwards and connect with our true nature or our true Self. The original practice of Yoga (not gymnastic stretching in front of mirrors) is all about union.

In the depths of our being lies our true Self – this is the place where pure consciousness arises from. When we meditate effortlessly we may access this peaceful place and experience samadhi. The mind absorbs this transcendence then re-emerges into the relative world more stable and more able to see clearly the true nature of reality. Now we can simply delight in the passing phenomena without demanding it fill a void within us; we are already full-up and some days overflowing. We may also notice that we get sucked less and less into the web of maya and we can enjoy playing in the world. The ‘me’ that takes life seriously is seen as an illusion.

Burning Man 2018: My husband and I appearing on the playa as Shiva and Parvati. Picture by Professor Violet.

Burning Man 2018: My husband and I appearing on the playa as Shiva and Parvati. Picture by Professor Violet.

Eventually we may feel more complete and clinging may disappear. We need not worry about life becoming boring or flat; when we’re established in being our awareness takes over and we find more joy, more energy and more creativity. Whatever we do may become delightful: going to the supermarket we may be thrilled at the abundance of items; taking a shower we may smell the soap; stopping at the traffic light we might gaze at its vibrant shimmering color; or we may absorb the distant hum of passing cars. We might even feel slightly strange because we no longer hate ‘that’ person, are less bothered in traffic and become independently happy. A lost mind blames others when IT is responsible for its own suffering. It can be a painful pill to swallow when we realize suffering is mind-made and is self-inflicted. Part of the awakening process is stopping pointing the finger outwards and pointing it inwards; what am I thinking now that is not true? This process of self enquiry can burst the bubble of illusion.

You may have heard people talk about ‘self-realization’ or say phrases such as ‘go inside yourself’, ‘find yourself’ or ‘discover who you are’. When we transcend we begin to understand what these phrases mean on a deep level. What they point to is the pure consciousness or stillness that is the foundation of who we all are. This field of calm is always available to us and never leaves us, it is us. ANYONE who has a human nervous system can transcend and find peace; you don’t have to be special or live in a cave all your life. One of the the easiest and fastest way to go inside is through effortless meditation practice.

In conclusion let’s never take ourselves seriously – especially our thoughts – and heed these wise words from Max Ehrmann:

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence".

By Aruna Shields (CHP, CMT)

Meditation Teacher, Therapist and Former Bollywood Star