Yesterday I was reading one of my journals from 2008, in which I wrote:
“Everything is like an endless struggle -wanting happiness but never really getting there “
I believed that happiness was waiting for me ‘out there’ in some distant place or state of being. It made complete sense given the fact I was caring for my severely disabled and very challenging 7 year old son while being extremely unwell myself. The situation was unbearable. While social services had thrown all the help they could at us, I was barely surviving. I wanted my life – as I knew it – to be over. Whilst I did go into some very dark places, I had enough presence of mind to know that I didn’t actually want to die. I didn’t want to leave my child. I wanted to be happy, I just didn’t know what it was or where to find it.
I didn’t realise then that happiness does not exist in some other place or even necessarily in the present moment because – if we’re honest – many people’s present moments are absolutely horrible. And while they may help, quite often no amount of shifting perceptions or affirmations or prayers change the realities that some people are unfortunate enough to have to endure. I tried all of them. I thought if I was spiritual enough my situation would improve: I’d recover, my son’s behaviour would become manageable, and I’d finally be happy. What I now realise is that it was never really happiness I was after in the first place; it was inner peace.
Happiness is a temporary state that usually depends on external circumstances. Inner peace goes deeper. It’s our true state, existing beyond shifting thoughts and emotions and circumstances. If the self was a lake, happiness and other temporary emotions would be the ripples that come and go, subject to disturbances such as stones and twigs and boats, whilst inner peace is its depth.
When we go deeper, we realise that the present moment truly is the holy grail because it is only when we stop and pay attention to the now that we tune into the stillness of the lake that exists within us. We are no longer being thrown around at the complete mercy of what life throws at us. Whilst outer circumstances may be dreadful and cause immense pain and apparently endless suffering, we know that the strength and magnificence that lies within us is truly endless.
Moreover, when we connect to the stillness within, we access our Divine truth. We don’t see our thoughts and perceptions as the ultimate reality because we have experienced a greater reality. We will have the wisdom to know whether we can and should change the situation we are in, or whether to walk away, or there is nothing to be done but tap into the Divine power of acceptance.
This is far from easy. In my case, it took me seven more years before I reached rock bottom and realised what Divine wisdom was asking of me. It went so against the grain of what I, my ex, and indeed society, thought a mother should be. I was brought to my knees and you know what the saying goes – if life brings you to your knees, pray. Well I was so angry at God that I neglected my spiritual path for quite a few years. I didn’t understand why I was so ill, why I had a child with such difficulties, why my life had to be so hard. I still feel the pain. I had to make a very tough decision that affected me and those around me for many years. I felt immense guilt for a long time but it was the only decision I could have made.
I’m not in the terrible situation I was back then; in fact my outer life is quite peaceful all in all, only my thoughts and emotions cause disturbance. I am not always happy but I understand that happiness was never something to gain; it is something we experience at times, if we are fortunate. Being in touch with our natural state can inform our thoughts, emotions, and experiences for the better, but sometimes circumstances just hurt. In such times I remember the calm lake that is my true Divine nature and know that whatever disturbs me in life, I am safe. I connect deeply with my inner self, and I am at peace.