- Posted: Monday, June 07, 2004
- 3493 words
ED: Hello. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein. Welcome to a Fireside Chat with bestselling inner-life author, Guy Finley. Today I thought we would talk about happiness. We all spend probably 99.9% of our time and energy doing things that we think will make us happy. Yet, judging by the way most people walk around, and by the state of the world, we're not doing a very good job of it. Guy, where are we going wrong?
GF: There are words in the English language -- happiness, peace, contentment, security, confidence, wholeness, completeness -- that have been turned into pathways. Especially in Western culture (but it's really worldwide), a human being is born and given at the formation of personality a series of ideals that if he could succeed in grasping them, he would somehow or other simultaneously have in his hands whatever it is that is associated with that ideal. Happiness is associated with the ideal of being a successful human being. Peace is associated with the idea of having certain powers or possessions, of being socially approved. When I think of happiness, I feel a certain happiness if I can. I think of peace, I think of freedom, and I feel those feelings. But for us, as we are presently constituted, the way our mind works, those ideals are all connected to possessions of one kind or another.
It's an unfortunate condition, but one that can be finally remedied as a person begins to wake up and realize that for all of the ways in which they have approached getting their hands on happiness through some corresponding position or possession or power that they believe would be the foundation for that state, those things always dissolve. They always fall away. The conditions that conspire to produce the happiness then change and become what produces the punishment, which is the loss of what we thought we accomplished.
Happiness does not belong to a man-made condition. The problem is, you'll never convince anybody of it. We haven't been made soft enough yet (which is an amazing thing because of how much pain most of us are in) to begin to receive certain kinds of impressions that by their presence in us bring to us the very thing we're looking for without ever having to reach for anything.
In the long run, Ellen, happiness, wholeness, contentment, peace, confidence... all of those words are about one thing and one thing only: the way in which a human being participates in the movement of life and what that human being takes from being in that movement. Presently we are human beings participating in the movement of life, but we are participating in an imagined life, meaning one that we believe if we accomplish this and get that, it will produce the end that we have set out to get. So we are in relationship with a set of images and ideas that always fail us, even if for a moment we get our hands on the gold ring. It isn't too long (and everybody knows this) before you look down at your hand, and it's green because the proverbial gold ring has turned out to be brass.
So happiness has to do with wholeness, and wholeness has to do with a condition that already exists in a human being's mind and heart by which they are a willing participant in a life that is coming to them.
The split second that we go out to grab something for the purpose of the happiness imagined once we get it, by the very fact that we're reaching for it, we are (a) afraid we may not get it, and (b) if we do, we become attached to it -- which means dependent and frightened.
There's a completely different process by which a person needs to approach this idea of happiness, and that is what this work is all about.
ED: So, true happiness is really on a whole other level of our existence than we normally search for... it's a whole different kind of thing.
GF: You know "my Father's house has many mansions"? It's a room that we are already in; it's just that we're in a small part of a room. There are all of the pictures on the walls that we believe if we can just keep there or get new ones to look at, we'll be able to extract the sensation of self we want from them.
I look at my checkbook, or at the plaque that says I got a PhD, or I look at my friends who are all toasting me for the moment. I look at these images in this little room, and when I do, I'm happy, content, confident. But as soon as one of those pictures starts to change, I'm right back to trying to figure out how to fix things.
So, this larger room within us doesn't have pictures on the wall. For the metaphor's purpose, it has big windows.
ED: I thought it was interesting that you were equating happiness and wholeness, but in the very act of identifying something that we say will make us happy, we've already divided ourselves.
GF: And set ourselves up for the subsequent sorrow, which all of us know comes. A happiness that is derived from an idea about it never comes to us by itself. We have this experience over and over and over again, and yet we keep letting this same nature (which is really just a desire machine) fabricate the next image in our mind that as it is formed, we derive a sensation from it, whatever that may be. When I get that dough, the new job, when I'm living in that new house, and I see it and I feel it, I believe that the feeling that I'm extracting from the picture is the same as the real quality that I set out (naturally) to look for.
It's a strange thing. The true upward path is a kind of process by which a person begins to be weary of being betrayed by their own thoughts and feelings and the sensations they provide. So that little by little, we stop thinking to ourselves that "I'm going to give myself the experience of happiness." I'm not going to make this effort any more, because I realize it's an empty effort. I realize it's not complete.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't strive to be the very best, accomplished, perfected human being we can be at whatever we're doing. But to look for happiness or wholeness in an idea that we have about ourselves is to look for a way to hold something that cannot be held by the nature that imagines it. It's impossible. It takes a little work on a person's part. We don't think to ourselves naturally in a way that when we're thinking about things that we are outwardly oriented, but to think is to orient yourself towards something outside of your true nature.
ED: And it is always related to the past.
GF: Yes. Even if it seems to be a future promise, because that's nothing but a derivation of something that didn't work out, so we re-configure it. Now I've got a new future, so when I look to something outside of myself -- a thought or an image that produces even the finest sensation -- I have by the very act of identifying with that, turned myself over to a process by which I must be betrayed, because no image holds the reality that we imagine it does.
There is a reality. There is a happiness, Ellen, but most of us wouldn't know happiness if it came up and bit us on the arm. We wouldn't! We've had moments, but the problem is -- for most of us -- the moments of real happiness aren't registered by us as happy because we're not conscious of any pain in those moments.
I'm sitting at home, I look out the window, and I see a thunderstorm starting to take shape, or I see a deer. I have a moment with something natural and alive, and I'm not thinking about myself. I'm in relationship with the whole of the moment. And in that small measure in scale, that's the beginning of a person realizing they have a nature that doesn't need to touch something in order to be touched by it. Then we change.
ED: This is really why none of our efforts to make ourselves happy can possibly work, because we don't even know what it is that will make us happy.
GF: In a way, that's right. It's sort of a terrifying thing for us. Maybe you've done this: You're sitting at home thinking about new Berber carpeting, or about changing the west wing of your house, or adding a closet -- whatever it may be -- and as you start to think about it, you're thinking, "Oh, no....", even as the idea is forming! Because you've begun to come to the end of the sensation that promises pleasure, happiness, but secretly is bankrupt. So it's frightening. This is an important thing. This is why self-knowledge, the work to learn the truth of things -- both from within yourself, and if you can find a source of true self-knowledge that you can begin to look at yourself through so you can awaken this inside of yourself -- is so important. There are moments in a person's life -- critical moments, turning points -- where you see the fact of something, and when you see the fact of it, because you have yet to understand, you have yet to be given a certain kind of knowledge, or in you is lacking a certain quality, you look, and rather than face the moment in which you do not give yourself another source of happiness, you will compromise with yourself and accept second best. You'll accept a substitute. All forms of self-defeating behavior -- drugs, alcohol, over-eating, over-entertaining, running around -- are ultimately substitutes for a person coming closer to the part of themselves that is naturally in relationship with wholeness. When you can begin to understand some of that, you're willing to sit there for a moment and bear what happens to you when you realize that you can't give yourself the wholeness and happiness that you want. Then little by little, you'll start to have that because you've begun to die to the parts of yourself that believe they're capable of producing happiness for you.
ED: Recently you gave a talk on the subject of happiness, and you told this great story, and I would like to try to tell it briefly. It was a story about a prince who was sent by his father, a good king, into the "cave of time," and the prince was told he would find a treasure there. He was given a candle, and he was told that he must not let the candle go out because that light would lead him to what he desired. So, here's the cave in front of him, he wants to find the treasure, he moves forward, and as soon as he moves forward, the light goes out. So he lights the candle again, and after awhile he realizes that every time he moves towards what he desires, he loses that light of consciousness, awareness, true happiness. But when he just stands there and puts his attention on the light only, then things change for him. He is standing in a different place.
GF: That's exactly right.
ED: It's a great explanation for everything that you've been talking about.
GF: Yes. This is deep, but it's also important to understand: we are not the thinker. Now, I can sit and think about a program. I can work out an idea. I can think to myself that something is not stated clearly and I need to make it clearer. I can think like that. But apart from moments in which a person applies themselves to a process of thought, thought itself is always running. We live in a certain kind of invisible sea of thoughts and feelings, and these thoughts are not only running themselves consistently, but they are also running through us. So that when a person is spiritually asleep (as we talk about), what's happened is that the mind, in the pursuit of the sensation that experience brings it, produces an image and then pursues it in a continual process of self-stimulation.
The mind is a self-stimulating machine. It produces sensations that then the whole organism picks up and pursues in order to bring an end to discomfort, believing that somehow or other I am different than these sensations. The point being this: that as those thoughts come up, each thought passes through me and I identify with it. My attention is captured by the thought because in that thought there are sensations that are satisfying whatever self it is that is dominant. When I'm identified like that, that's what it means to be in the cave of time. I'm moving from where I am to where I want to be as though there is an actual distance between theses two ideas, and they're really one and the same self. To be identified is to fall asleep.
How many of us know what it's like to be captured by a thought of anger towards someone and be unable to see what we're doing to them, even as we seek the solution that anger tells us? I'm cut off from the world to the degree that I'm identified with any thought or feeling that passes through me. The little light represents my awareness of this mind that only knows itself through being identified. The mind that chases happiness, by being identified with an object, always finds that the illusion exists (meaning the image is illusory and it disappears). The part of us that is capable of seeing that doesn't change the fact that this thought process goes on, but it allows us to no longer be punished by it. So life begins to move through us, which is what the meaning of that story was. Then I'm no longer chasing things. Rather, the whole of life is coming through me and to me to fulfill this very light that is waiting for me to enter into it.
ED: So it's really all inside of us. It's not the thing that goes through us that makes us happy. It's the self through which it goes, the level and consciousness of that self that is what is happy.
GF: We need to make it more simple. Come awake to yourself right now, and if you don't know what it means, you become aware of yourself. Aware of yourself means that you are sensitive to the thoughts and feelings in you. You are aware in a whole way what it is to be you at that moment. That whole awareness is the larger room in which all of these little things live... all of the preferences, the pleasures and the pains, all of their movement, their relationships, all of the things those relationships produce, all inside of this moment of awareness.
That awareness, Ellen, just like the light in this room, touches everything in the room and everything outside of the room so that in that light, in that awareness that we are capable of being in, by its very existence, we are part of an inlet and an outlet. Just like a bay sits and collects the waters that move in and move out -- exactly the same way. And the bay doesn't have to do one darn thing. Water comes in, all the big fish, starfish, and squid flow in and flow out, flow in and flow out.
ED: And the bay is not identified with any of it.
GF: No, because the bay is a different nature, and it gets all of the qualities in the water. It experiences the whole of it. That whole experience -- without effort -- is what happiness is.
ED: You said something in the talk on happiness that relates to all of this. You said that everything good must come to the person who finds his true nature, just as waters must run to the sea.
GF: That's what I'm saying to you. This is not something you can go buy a seminar to, pay umpteen dollars, and in five days get a degree that says you're a spiritually awake human being, or whatever it is you can do today. You can sit right in your room, by yourself (which is why most people don't do it), and begin to become conscious of these tides, awake and sensitive to their movement, and on top of awake and sensitive to them, recognize that anything that is going through you that wants to identify with them has to be not a part of them. Then you begin to truly let go. Then these very forces begin to do within you what you and I are intended to have happen to us, which is to be transformed... not to transform ourselves, although part of our participation requires a willingness to allow this to go on, based on understanding, but to actually sit in our own life, moment to moment, and participate, and to participate more and more fully in what is going on in that now, in that moment. And in proportion to that ability to participate, we say goodbye to all our punishing relationships and all the things that we pursue in order to bring ourselves the very thing that our nature is already set up to give us.
ED: And when we have found our true nature, when we're living from it, what that means is that we're really in the right place, and that's why the waters naturally flow to it just as they would flow to the sea. We're at the right level to receive all of it.
GF: We are, by law, liberated. Nothing can interfere with that. On the other hand, everything we do to try to produce that, interferes endlessly.
ED: Once we've achieved this, we're still living in a world, and things happen. Can a person who is living from that nature still feel that wholeness, that contentment even in the face of whatever life may happen to bring?
GF: Life begins to take on a new meaning. You can't change the outcome (as we're talking about) without a person recognizing, obviously, if the result was going to be different, the equation itself must have somehow changed. So that as the equation changes, meaning that as I begin to recognize I can participate with life in a completely different way, the very fact that I begin to recognize that, changes my perception of the world that I'm in.
ED: So even the way we see these events that other people call "bad," we don't even see them in quite that same way.
GF: That's the point. We don't see them in the same way, because now we're not looking at events through eyes that are either resisting them or pursuing them for the purpose of bringing happiness or shedding suffering. We're actually in a relationship within ourselves with a different order of our being whose very existence and activity in us changes the whole of the relationship we're in with the world around us.
ED: We're no longer dependent on anything outside of us to tell us who we are.
GF: Precisely. Because, to wax somewhat poetically, the Great Life itself, God Himself, Universal Intelligence, Living Light, has begun to tell you who you are. But it's actually inaccurate to say "tell you who you are," as what really happens is you begin to lose interest in being who you've been because your present nature is so constantly being changed. The forces are so active in a human being that there is no interest in what was, nor any interest in what may be, because it is fully engrossing to be awake, to be alive. It's a full-time job.
ED: Or, as you say, it's a full contact sport.
GF: That's right. Truth is a full contact sport.
ED: So, from what you said, true freedom and happiness go hand in hand. They're one thing.
GF: Yes. The more we understand ourselves, the freer we become, because we're no longer limited to the constraint of thought and feeling as it produces images for us to find ourselves in. Shedding those images is shedding the self that produces them. Shedding that self is the beginning of an order of satisfaction that nothing can take away from us.
ED: Thank you, Guy.
GF: You're welcome.
ED: This has been a Fireside Chat with bestselling inner-life author, Guy Finley. I'm Dr. Ellen Dickstein. Thanks for joining us.