True Happiness by Jac O’Keeffe
Jac O’ Keeffe was raised in rural Ireland. Wanting to know about God she studied theology and music; however, after graduating in the 1980’s, her studies left her disillusioned with organized religion. Turning her focus to issues of social inequality, she studied adult and community education, and began a successful career interweaving community development with the arts, eventually holding national leadership positions at the Arts Council of Ireland. In 1997, working as a freelance arts consultant, her sixth sense awakened, dramatically changing her life.
Jac will be having a Friday evening event and weekend retreat in Carlsbad in early November. www.innerdirections.org/upcoming-events (760) 599-4075.
by Jac O’Keeffe from her book Born to Be Free
What does it take for you to be happy? Do you touch into happiness for brief moments or do you have periods of sustained happiness? Is happiness a feeling out there in your future that you believe you will eventually attain?
Do you have a formula in your mind that is the recipe for your happiness? When you fulfill that formula will you really be happy and, most importantly, will it last?
Is this happiness a consequence of finding the right partner, lover, house or job? If you believe that happiness is awaiting you in your future, then rest assured it will never come. Be prepared for a long wait, for that is simply an idea in your mind that keeps happiness at arm’s length. Happiness is a direct experience arising from your innate nature. The origin of happiness rests completely outside the perimeters of your mind. Your mind has no capacity to embrace, engage or interpret real and permanent happiness. A feel-good experience or temporary pleasure is not happiness. The happiness that every person can enjoy is of a permanent, unchanging and undisturbable nature.
If you can say that you have never been happy in your life, then you must know what happiness is in order to recognize that you do not feel it. Unlike other methods and techniques, a simple path towards understanding what happiness is, is offered here to you. The keys to living in the freedom of absolute happiness are in your physical hands right now.
Does your mind hold the opinion that you are not entitled to feel happy? Some people deny themselves happiness because there is too much suffering in the world. Others believe there is value in punishing themselves for acts in their past. Perhaps you believe that happiness is something that other people enjoy but somehow it does not happen for you. All of these reasonings are constructs of the human mind, serving only to keep happiness at bay.
Achieving personal and professional goals brings a relative satisfaction. Some people appear to have it all—a wonderful partner, attractive lifestyle, material wealth and so on. But, as things in life become more familiar, they generally become less entertaining. Every new addition to one’s life offers a distraction for a while, but the novelty phase associated with each personal or professional achievement comes to an end sooner or later. At the point of noticing this pattern, one recognizes that to set up another goal would simply lead to the same place—that place of inner dissatisfaction and emptiness. The search for happiness continues.
There is no readily accessible model in our modern world that tells us about real and permanent happiness. In this commercially-driven, economically-progressive era, the innate human thirst for happiness is cleverly exploited by commerce for its own ends. The sophisticated modern mind has created a concept of happiness, as if it is something each of us should apply effort to attain. Many believe that stepping out of their social status momentum would mean they would lose their chance for happiness. What would become of those who believe that to drop out means you cannot keep up with the pace and so you must be a loser? That defines one game of life, if you choose to play it in that way. There are many ways to play out your life. Take a moment to see if you want to write your script yourself or do you want society or another external influence to write it for you? This is your choice. Whether you exercise it or not, recognize at this point that the choice is yours to make.
So, what is happiness for you? Is happiness what you feel when you are going on a holiday, playing with your children, gardening, out on the golf course or having a drink on a Friday evening? If happiness depends on an external influence for you to experience it, then you are not feeling happiness. External circumstances that allow you to enjoy a good feeling when relieved from pressures of work, when you step out of your mind and relax with alcohol, are in nature or playing with children, cannot induce true happiness. These escapes from your normal day-to-day experience present valuable distractions and are a source of pleasure and relaxation, but happiness is a different thing.
For example, you may believe that you would be happy if you had a house beside the sea. This belief can develop into a desire and you can focus on achieving it. When you realize that goal and get your house beside the sea, this desire naturally subsides and allows a natural stillness to arise in your mind. You may even think you are happy now that this desire is fulfilled.
However, this happiness is short-lived. Why? It is not in the nature, characteristics or the properties of a house beside the sea to afford happiness to its dwellers. A house, no matter where it’s located, does not have the capacity to give happiness. If it did, then it would follow that all people would find the same level of happiness in having that object. In contrast, some will find the same property conjures feelings of loneliness and isolation. The quality of happiness is not in the nature of any object. So, if a house beside the sea is not responsible for making you happy, where does this feeling of happiness come from when you initially acquire that desired object?
Happiness arises from within. It is a quality of your innate nature.
Thoughts distract you from consciously abiding in and enjoying your innate nature. Thoughts create all desires and desires can be all-consuming. Your mind can convince you that attaining a particular object of desire will make you happy. The truth is that when your mind is still, a natural feeling of happiness arises within you. Your true nature is causeless and living causeless happiness is your natural state of being. When a desire is satisfied, the desire subsides and mind rests for a period. The absence of desire, the absence of thought, allows what is within to be experienced.
An unmanaged mind presents another desire soon. This in turn convinces you that you can revive your subsiding state of happiness by attaining another detail that will make it all perfect again! This state of temporary happiness can be enjoyed with the subsidence of desires. Yet, within the state of happiness, there is a moment of causeless happiness. But the mind very quickly takes over and offers an objective cause and the cycle of anticipating a repetition of the state of happiness begins again. Managing desire and your mind, which is the source of desire, yields an opportunity to rest in and enjoy the innate happiness abiding always. Happiness is natural and does not require support of desires, thoughts, emotions, effort, goals or finances!
The feeling/experience of happiness does not change according to external circumstances; it is not contingent on extraneous human living. It is within us all, dormant perhaps, but innate to human life force. Happiness exists independently of external circumstances. To say that you were happy until your husband died is not understanding happiness. That is not happiness because happiness cannot be given or taken away by anything that life throws at you. It is internal, unchanging and constant. It is still, it is calm, and it is complete. It searches for nothing, it does not seek anything, it is absolute. Your access to it is in your capacity to be still, to relax and to stop engaging with your thoughts. Thus, the only thing that can stop you from feeling happiness is you.
To continue to look outside for something that is already inside only serves to distract you from looking within. There is a fundamental flaw in the pursuit of happiness. It can never be attained from without and so to pursue it in any way is futile. The very idea of a quest for happiness is a misnomer.
Happiness is a natural rhythm within you and, as long as you trawl the mind and desires in search of it, you will not find it. All external circumstances, activities, possessions and events are designed to keep the mind entertained. But happiness is outside the realm of the mind; it is outside the functionings and capacity of the mind. It is in the realm of placing your attention on your innate nature. To feel and experience real happiness, causeless happiness, requires a conscious or unconscious surrendering of your interest in your thoughts.
On arriving at that point of knowing that physical things or people or situations cannot make you happy, there are possibilities for where to step forward. Many increase pressure on their relationships, expecting more than the relationship is designed to yield. Some look for another that may offer a more exciting sexual distraction. These options present their own consequences. Others arrive at a place labelled depression, presented as disillusionment with life. The meaninglessness of everything has become evident. When nothing satisfies, general motivation to live lessens. In truth, this is a moment to be celebrated. The search for purpose and meaning is now ripe to begin.
A choice is presented. You can take a good and honest look at life and face the hard questions about the purpose and meaning of your life. You can go further and ask what and who you are. Thus, you may begin to feel and address a yearning to know the truth. This involves taking a risk and entering unknown territory that will bring change. The only other option is to continue as before, accepting that the world does not satisfy and, when emotional pain gets too much to bear, alcohol and/or drugs, recreational or pharmaceutical, are society’s answers to this naturally occurring yearning for understanding, spiritual knowledge and happiness.
Arriving at the place where you know that there must be more to life and to you, is an opening, not a dead end. Your choice to walk through this opening must be made in total awareness; this is not a rabbit hole that you can peep into before deciding if you will enter. The choice is simple; take a risk or continue as is and play it safe.
As one starting point, have you considered that some place within you recognizes happiness? If you know what happiness is not, then maybe you might know what it is. All people have a sense that the capacity to feel happiness is within them, and some have experienced it. This path towards truth leads to happiness and more. There is much that lies beyond your mind, so do not limit yourself to the desire for feeling happy but see where this road can lead.
Explore who you are beyond your mind, beyond the identity that your family and society has placed on you and that you have placed on yourself. Who are you when you expose the deeper and secret parts of yourself to yourself? Who are you when you go beyond the murky unsavories? Be totally honest with yourself. Maybe there is kindness and a calm and peaceful nature under the recesses of all else within you.
Let us see what you find. All of this leads to a place beyond your mind, so be prepared to know that you are not your thoughts. You have thoughts. The number is estimated to be in the region of 90,000 daily. But they are not you and do not define you. Let us see what there really is to you when you peel back all your experiences and suffering, and all the memories that may be over-active when they better belong at rest and ignored with the distant past. Experiences are very valid at the time when they occur; they brought us to this point. But let that be their total value. Don’t drag them around like a comfort blanket but glean their best use and be present to who you are in this moment.
Your mind will use any material from your life to draw your attention from the present moment. Mind does not exercise quality control; it will throw up stories and feelings from your past or imagined future to prevent you from directing your attention elsewhere. Mind constantly presents the past or future as present. As you walk this road within, exploring the questions of who you are and what you are doing on this planet, your mind is quickly out of its depth. It will make every effort to distract you and pull you back to what it calls “real life.” I put it to you that your mind has no sense of what ultimate reality is; your mind is a tool to help you function effectively in this world and it is limited to that function. The questions that you may have, that lie beyond day-to-day living, science and philosophy, can all be answered from within you. Yes, all of them, but it requires throwing out thoughts and concepts that you may hold dear.
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From Born to Be Free. By Jac O’Keeffe. Copyright © 2009-2019 by Jac O’Keeffe. www.jac-okeeffe.com