connecting psychotherapy and spiritual growth for human awakening
The concept of happiness seems to predominate in spiritual literature today. Happiness arouses strong feelings. Some of us are reactionary towards it, while others spurn it. Some people's aspirations are higher—they delight in the struggle, welcome the suffering and savour the ordeal that may lead to the goal of spiritual enlightenment. Others are simply pleasure-seekers, hedonists merely masquerading as spiritual seekers.
Others of us are perplexed. Aiming for happiness is simply not a realistic goal in spiritual practice. When we embark on the journey of the soul, or the way back to ourselves, we are treading a path that is characterized by self-sacrifice, loss and renunciation.
Renunciation doesn't mean sack-cloth and ashes, or a loin-cloth and a begging bowl; it means non-attachment to those relationships, accolades, belongings, roles, events, circumstances, emotions, feelings and prejudices that we identify ourselves with. Only when we have shed our attachments can we become, as the Zen people say, “worthy of wearing the patchwork robe”; in other words, of living in the world.
Living in the world is a great blessing and we needn't think too quickly that we are already doing it. Born into a world of ignorance and blessing we may only begin to seek when we have become disillusioned enough with the outer world, when we have become so deeply disappointed by the world of appearances that we are compelled to turn in and look deeply into the inner realms of the soul and the spirit. Seeking is the prerequisite for truly living in the world; before that we are hardly here, barely present!
To truly live in the world we must be profoundly present and to be present we need to surrender to our true self. No thing, no appearance, no relationship, outer wealth, personal accomplishment or characteristic can possibly compare with our natural and innate treasure, the jewel of the heart, our most precious possession—our inner self. The capacity for spiritual awakening, liberation and transcendence and living the divine life is the fulfilment and the actualizing of the blessing which is given to each of us: to live in the world…truly, happily.
Happiness isn't what we think it is. We cannot hold on to the egocentric existence of self-contraction and the regeneration of misery through resentment and be really happy—only relatively happy. Spiritual happiness is not affected by changing circumstances because it reflects our eternal nature, the divine. It will not be sought; it cannot be attained; it is not the purpose of spiritual practice or discipline—it is simply the natural expression of the illuminated state.
True happiness is a consequence of the profoundly natural life, the awakened and liberated existence of the human being who has given up everything, the renunciate, the one who lives in freedom, through longing only for the divine.
This article was published in Spiritual Guidance, October 2011, on servingyourjourney.com.