Perhaps the biggest obstacle to finding what we want is that we are looking for something else. What we're looking for is what we imagine that we need, what we think is missing, but we're mistaken, and because it is not what is missing, it can never be found.
Humans are motivated entirely by feeling. Everything that is done or thought is designed in some way to improve feeling. More happiness, comfort, safety, freedom, love, so it's important to know how feeling works. There is no inherent quality of happiness or unhappiness from which we draw. These feelings are entirely subjective and mutually defining. We literally imagine what it means to be happy in contrast to what we imagine it means to be unhappy, and these conditions are not the same for everybody precisely because of this subjectivity.
The significance of this is not to suggest that we can't find happiness, but rather that we can't separate it from the unhappiness on which it is based, so we can't be happy all the time, or even more happy than unhappy in the long term. The duality must balance itself out because it's mutually defining nature demands it.
In response to this function, which is not really hidden at all, we typically continually redefine what we need to be happy in an attempt to experience the movement toward more happiness, and we find that it not only doesn't last, it also imprisons us in a new set of conditions that may be lost at any time, resulting in unhappiness.
This is the game that everyone has played, and there are no winners. The happy/unhappy duality functions in a specific way and cannot be made to function otherwise. It can, however, be enjoyed for what it is and not be burdened with the expectation of delivering permanent fulfillment. If this is understood then it can be accepted that joy and sadness can and will be present at all times. There is always a darker side to our joy, and there is always a spark of joy in the depths of our sorrow. Our focus of attention on the dominant feeling makes it appear as though it's opposite is not present, and yet it must be so or that dominant feeling could not be experienced.
If you look closely, you will find that there is always a sense of something missing, a ground of sadness, a need to move forward, an optimism for the future, or however this is experienced. It's not just you. It's not that lots of other folks have figured out the secret and you haven't quite got it. Nobody has figured it out. This is simply what it means to be human. This 'ground' is the reason for your joy, your gratitude, your hope, your desire, your sense of beauty and wonder. It's the reason you get out of bed in the morning. It is why you imagine and create, why you seek love and feel compassion. Be grateful for your sorrow and know that the harder the ground, the softer the clouds.
The dualistic nature of feeling is not a problem. The problem happens when we don't understand and we imagine that it needs to be something else. Then we begin to struggle with it, and this struggle is suffering. Feeling is very simple; there is just what we could call happy and unhappy, or what some call love and fear. All of the other permutations and subtleties of feeling are the result of relating these basic feelings to whatever conditions seem to have caused them, and to the intensity of the feeling. Compassion and grief are the same but for the conditions in which they occur, and fear and terror are the same but for the difference in intensity.
The mistake that we make is thinking that there are some feelings that are acceptable, like sadness or fear, while there are other feelings that are not, like depression and terror. Depression and terror are not basic feelings but rather the result of what we do with those basic feelings in our minds as we struggle with them. If we don't struggle with them, we don't create them and don't have to deal with them.
What we actually want is not to avoid fear and sadness, but rather to avoid terror and depression, and this is a matter of not struggling with fear and sadness. Allow fear to be what it is and it will not become terror. Allow sadness to be what it is and it will never become depression. To know that fear is not only okay, but is the ground of love, is to embrace life as it is instead of how we imagine it to be.
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