For many years now, I've been consumed by my fears, my hang-ups, my doubts and dread and uncertainty... I hid from the world and was completely alone. I wouldn't let anyone else in. I tried desperately to find others, but I was using sorrow as a lure; I reached out a dark hand and only became more upset when people (understandably!) didn't want to take it. Who would want to be dragged into the abyss? And yet it was all I knew. It was who I was. I was my problems, I thought, so unless somebody understands them, we have no hope of connecting. This, of course, made me feel even more hopeless, and kept me alone.
A few days ago, however, I had what I feel was a tremendous spiritual awakening. I see the world - and myself - like I never have done before. I feel like a whole different person to who I was just a week ago; the 'me' that I was for years seems like a distant alien.
So many doors feel like they're opening. I feel like I've been curled in a ball with my eyes shut, and now that I've stood up and looked at the world around me, I see beauty that I never saw before. Paths when I thought there were none. Wonder, where before there was only fear.
I wish it were possible to transfer this feeling to others... To explain clearly what I even mean. Sadly, though, I think it only worked because I was truly ready for it. All the seeds had been in my mind for years, and it was only through the downpour of a storm of despair that they suddenly started to sprout. Those who aren't ready, mentally, would probably just raise a perhaps-cynical eyebrow at the wisdom that's changed me, dismiss it, and move on... But we all have to travel a certain amount into our journeys before we can reach certain milestones. No toddler can ever understand quantum physics. These milestones happen at different times for us all, however, depending on our needs and the effort we put into seeking real truth; I feel that the fact I've been lagging behind all other milestones that matter to others (education, employment, accommodation, relationships) is partly what led to me reaching spiritual milestones instead.
The 'secret to happiness' I've discovered is simple yet profound, and it seems to be the one biggest thing that all manner of robed spiritual teachers, suited self-help gurus, and helpful therapists all point to...
I'll try to summarise it, fully aware that these will just be a series of hollow inspirational fluff unless the spark is already there inside you.
- You are not your mind. Your mind is a parasite; a collection of all the psychological dust and dirt that's accumulated during your time on this Earth. Its constant mental chatter - much of which is negative - is a disease, a contamination, insanity... and yet it's so widespread that we all assume it's natural and right.
- The mind takes the reins in your head and declares itself 'you', but it is not. It defines itself by labels; race, nationality, gender, past experiences, future hopes, occupation, hobbies, beliefs. When these things are challenged in any way, these are attacks against the mind - the ego - and bring about a response such as anger, or fear.
- Ultimately these reactions are attempts by the the mind/ego to survive. To be wrong is to die; to have what it believes is its identity threatened is to risk annihilation. A religious person being told that there is no god. An atheist being told that there is a god. Hearing that your favourite anime is not all that great after all. The mind ties its existence - its identity - to these external labels, and goes into firm, stressful self-preservation mode when they are questioned or attacked.
- But you are not your mind. Your mind is a tool, to be used for analysis, but it does not define you. It is a beast, ravenous for constant feeding. Just as a pet owner with a rambunctious dog, you make it your master, and are reduced to nothing but its slave. But this needn't be so. It's possible to control it, rather than letting it control you.
- Time is poison. We spend so much time dwelling in the past or the future, fretting over what might be or what has already passed. These problems - all of which are mere fictions; they are not physically happening now at all - come to define us, and rob us of so much peace and happiness unnecessarily.
- Focusing on the present moment is key. Forget who you were in the past, or who you might be in the future. Those people are fabrications, and it is literally impossible for you to ever be them. If you tie your identity to such phantoms, you can never stop to smell the flowers, to really enjoy what you have in the present moment, however much or how little that might be.
- The external world can never bring you happiness. If you tie your happiness to conditions - such as wealth, comfort, relationships, employment, status - then no matter what you achieve, you'll always be wanting more. Reaching your external goals might bring relief from anxieties for a time, but before long the yearning will return, with pain as its constant companion. A gregarious billionaire can live in constant despair, while a homeless, solitary vagrant can live every moment in intense bliss.
- You can be happy right now. Right now is all we have. There will never be a point where you are not existing right now. If you pin your happiness to the past, or the future, it will be forever out of reach.
- What I describe as 'happiness' here is a sort of peaceful bliss... An acceptance of all that IS, as opposed to preoccupation with what was or what might be. It emerges from mental quietude; from turning off thoughts completely.
- You might think that turning off thoughts is a bad idea... which itself serves a very potent example of the destructive power of the mind. It criticises, it doubts; it feeds on fear and pain and despair and ties its identity to external factors. It fears its own death, it fears subservience, and so it does all it can to convince its host that it is necessary. Like a snake-tongued vizier corrupting a once-pure monarch. "You need me. You ARE me."
- Ignorance is bliss... as they say, and it's true. True, deep, soul-shivering bliss can only emerge in the absence of all thought. Once the beast has been put to bed, your true self can shine through, and the true nature of your consciousness becomes apparent. Like storm clouds clearing away to reveal the pure blue sky and bright sun they'd been obscuring for far too long.
- Becoming the master of your mind doesn't mean losing it. It means reducing it to an object, a tool, apart from yourself, rather than defining yourself in conjunction with it. When you distance your identity from the mind's collection of labels, hopes, and fears, nothing can hurt you, because 'you' are not that mind. Almost like stripping yourself of your clothes, and seeing them stabbed with a sword, knowing that such a thing cannot make you bleed, though it would have done if you were wearing them.
- Living in the moment is the heart of all of this... Really looking intently at everything around you, right now, without generating any thoughts or judgements about it. Just look, listen, smell, touch, taste, and accept without trying to tie it into your mental framework. Throwing all of your meals to your beast will make it entitled and greedy, while starving you and running you ragged. Let the mind sleep, while you feast on the now. Only wake it when you need it to solve a problem in the immediate present, or to calmly make plans for the future; never to fret over what might happen or what once happened.
- The mind may object to all of this. "If I did this, I'd never achieve my goals! I'd live a bleak and empty life!"
That - as well as being an example of the mind's constant need to seize control - isn't true. If you make every moment blissful, then there is nothing more than life can possibly provide that will bring you more pleasure, or fill any holes in your soul. You have already won, no matter what you do, no matter where you go, no matter who you're with. You will no longer generate or dwell on problems, vastly improving your own experience and those of anyone who you interact with. Life will become a game, a dream, something to enjoy rather than something that defines you. Just as you know that you are not your character in an MMO, and as such you can enjoy yourself and take in all the wonders that the world has to offer with little worry, once you distance yourself from your earthly identity - your mind - you will realise that everything is so much easier. Nothing matters anymore, and as such you are free to explore it all with childlike wonder and a burden-lifting sense of security and confidence.
At the heart of it, this is all more about a feeling, than a set of rules or guidelines... Once you know how it truly feels to have a clear mind, to disassociate yourself from the beast within, to experience raised consciousness, you will understand everything that I say here. Have you ever been in love, and noticed how love songs that meant little to you before suddenly take on new layers of profound meaning and feeling? Nobody can explain love to you unless you know how it feels... though perhaps they can guide you on the path to finding it. This is no different to that.
It's not about meditation - though that helps - or about mystic secrets and magical incantations. It's all about realising, deep down, at a profound level, that you are not your mind; it is a parasite, and you are its host. You can control it; it need not control you. Free yourself of time - preoccupation with the past or future - and you free yourself of problems. Live in the moment. Make your mind a tool. Take the time to smell the roses. Only then will the fog of mind clear away, revealing the true light of this life and the being you yourself are behind the mask and underneath the clothing.
My own anxieties and fears are still with me... but they feel like a residue, and they no longer consume me. As if I've stepped out of the water I've been submerged beneath forever, and now I simply need to take time to dry off. But I can see the light for the first time in my life. If my words here can help you see that it's there, even if they don't lead to your own enlightenment, then that would be a wonderful step in the right direction, I feel.