I’m seeing that a happy life requires us to eliminate our patterns that don’t work and refuse from then on to harm ourselves or other people.
As we peel back the layers of the onion, we uncover our basic happiness and innocence, always there but hidden. That’s why the love in our hearts is so often represented as a buried treasure.
Let me peel back another layer.
Besides avoiding being wrong and seeking affirmation, the number three motivator for me is wanting my own way.
That goes very deep. It’s almost so deep and universal as to be invisible, a part of the background of obviousness, Werner Erhard used to call it.
I get impatient. I want what I want now. I think I should be able to reach up and grab the fruit off a tree. I have not grown up and out of selfishness.
Again this is a behavior pattern which I can just stop, without putting anything in its place to replace it. (1) I’ll let what comes next arise organically.
Having reached this place on my journey, life is feeling, to use Shankara’s image, less like a courtroom and more like a gymnasium. I’m starting to enjoy the twin tasks of self-observation and self-improvement.
Calling oneself, which is what I’m doing here, can really be easy. It doesn’t have to feel as if we’re being dragged through the mud along a corduroy road.
I try it on (whatever it is), test it out, and see if it fits. If it does, I own it. I was taught that in a three-month encounter group at Cold Mountain Institute. Gosh, it made my life easier. Stop hiding. Stop resisting. Simply own it.
As psychologist John Enright said on that retreat:
“Unawareness leads to momentary relief and continuing pain; awareness leads to momentary pain and continuing relief.” (2)
Why wait for others to call us on your baloney? Call ourselves and avoid the “continuing pain.” Unless we have a reason for experiencing that.
Raising any pattern of behavior to awareness is in fact all that’s required. Like the centipede who can’t walk after it becomes aware of its hundred legs, so we can’t do our bad stuff once it’s up to awareness. We choke on the words and trip on the moves.
Awareness is the cake and a commitment to myself is the icing on it. An example is commiting not to harm oneself or others.
I feel as if I’m slowly inching myself along a narrow pathway on the side of a cliff. One careful step at a time.
(1) I say “without putting anything in its place to replace it” because we so often don’t act on a matter of self-improvement because we can’t think of what to do in its place.
In fact, that’ll arise naturally. We don’t have to think about it.
I hope therefore that it makes acting on self-improvement easier if we approach a harmful action as something we simply need to stop. We don’t have to think or worry about replacing it.
(2) Awareness, Communication, and Responsibility Workshop, Cold Mountain Institute Resident Fellowship, January 20, 1979. See John Enright Dictionary at https://goldenageofgaia.com/spirituality/the-path-of-awareness/john-enright-dictionary-1976-1980/ Very worthwhile reading.