For a long time now, I have taught that the three pillars of unconditional happiness are presence, choice and love. Love is best known as the space behind connection. Connection being one thing and another meeting in some place. According to which definition, this entire universe is build upon the principle of love/connection – the entanglement of particles which come together to form the physical reality that we know and love. Choice is one of the pillars because in remembering and meditating upon the fact that in each and every moment, we have a choice to do or not do whatever it is we desire. In fact, if we don’t see the choices available to us, it was – at some point – a choice to either put something in the way of us and the choices or it is or has been a choice to maintain whatever it between us and our choices. And presence… well presence holds a deep secret.
The secret of presence is one which I could not begin to accurately describe but I’ll give you a tip-of-the-iceberg understanding of it and why it’s on the list of the pillars of happiness. When we are not present, we cannot see the love inherently obvious in this universe. When we are not present, we cannot feel the love which is inherently obvious in this universe. When we are not present, we cannot see all, if any, choices which are available to us in times of difficulty. If we are not present then we cannot see the volume of the choices available to us in any moment. Presence holds a secret, a secret of untold joy and appreciation… A secret of unnameable freedom and connectedness.
Presence, Love and Choice are the three pillars of unconditional happiness. When in balance with conditional happiness, unconditional happiness provides us with the basis for a long and healthy life. Why do I say that it must be balanced with conditional happiness? Well, there is something to understand about Happiness and the Ego. The Ego is, as is conditioned by our modern lifestyles, is much like Twitter – to use a modern example. You might only want to follow a few Tweeters, but between the advertisements, the retweet function and the “someone you followed favourited this tweet”, it’s damn near impossible to actually know who you followed in the first place. Similarly, the ticker tape of the ego – the thinking mind – offers up an average of 48 thoughts per minute (that’s between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day), most of which are not useful or even important.
If the thinking mind is so busy with offering up all these thoughts all the time, just imagine what happens to those thoughts if happiness is not cultivated. 10, 15, 20 of those thoughts might be negative, destructive, critical per minute if we are happy. Which gives us another 28 more – give or take – to see become negative and destructive if the conditions for a base level of happiness aren’t met. I’m not suggesting here that trying to force those thoughts into being more positive and empowering is a good idea. That would be like trying to straighten our spaghetti or brush every hair in the same direction. What I am suggesting, however, is that if we – without any real attachment to the outcome – pay attention to fulfilling our basic human (personality) needs. (Survival/Balance, Identification and Connection). When these needs are met in a gentle and subtle way, then we have more space for the things which are more sustainable.
The ego will never be truly satisfied. Anything comparable to Twitter is evidently a never-ending stream of things which are, for the most part, useless and not at all what you signed up for. Notice that the ego is addicted to things. It loves to conceptualise and label. It loves to know, or think it knows, and want and hate wanting and hate hating wanting and so on. As well as all of those things, the ego, as is conditioned by our modern society, is addicted to feeling better – in terms of superiority – than almost anything it can feel better than. And if it can’t feel superior then it will settle for significant – or the victim of something, even if that something is itself. There really is no end to the addiction of the ego. It will literally to anything to preserve itself. Its “self” being your body, your story and your identification with those things. As such, expecting it to be satisfied with the fulfillment of your basic human needs is a lofty expectation. However, if fulfilling those needs turns an average of up to 28 thoughts per second into more positive and constructive thoughts then it’s worth doing.
Once that is taken care of though – or even before – we must introduce presence. Presence being conscious and deliberate focus on exactly what is happening right now. But, naturally, there are some of us who have great difficulty being in the present moment, or perhaps staying there for an elongated period of time. Many of us carry pain from the past or project worries into the future. If we were to be able to connect with the present moment we would actually notice that, as Eckhart Tolle has said, “problems cannot survive for very long in the now.” We’ve all heard the saying about focusing on the past bringing depression and focusing on the future bringing anxiety. What is forgotten on the end of that all too often is, “Living in the moment you’re actually in brings you with a tremendous amount of peace.” But nonetheless, this access to the present moment seems to be blocked for a handful of people.
The obstruction of entering the present moment fully is where psychology comes in. For as long as I have been known as a spiritual teacher, I have carried with me one constant phrase, “What I am doing is helping you strip away who you think you are, to reveal what you truly are.” And I have also been quoted in saying, “Psychology is the key to spirituality, get to know yourself and you will know the universe at large.” This is true, but ambiguous. For the ambiguity, I apologise. For those who missed the ambiguity, what I meant by that is that when you get to know who you are, you will realise two things. The first, that your “self” is not real and the second, that who you really are something not immediately tangible.
So, what is the role that psychology plays in spirituality? It is a key. Understanding your ego makes more space for you true self to shine through. Your true self is something I cannot speak on while really doing it justice. But it suffices to say that you’ll know what it is when you experience it. Psychology is a valuable tool for understanding how to clear away the nonsense that your thinking mind is chattering about. The mind chatter, something that your ego just spews out based on the associations your subconscious mind has been taught to make, is pretty much the only thing in the way of you and your true nature.
When the ego mind offers you suffering and it carries weight – because you are identifying with what it has offered – understanding that the ego is doing its best to protect you is integral to releasing your attachment to that pain in the moment you are experiencing it. As such, working with a conscious psychologist – or even studying psychology yourself – is beneficial to help to remove these obstructions. In fact, working with the more deep seated issues in your subconscious mind is actually a form of presence too. Working to understand the suffering you are experiencing in order to reach a place where you no longer feel pain, in relation to whatever it is that the ego has offered you, is the most well-placed and effective use of psychology. This use of psychology can also be seen as a way to reach a place in which you no longer identify with what the ego has offered you to feel bad about. As such, it quiets the ego and allows for a more comfortable experience.
So, in meditating on the pillars of unconditional happiness, we can introduce a sustainable sense of contentment into our life. In fulfilling our basic human needs from a standpoint of non-attachment, we can achieve conditional happiness. With conditional happiness and unconditional happiness in balance, this allows for a more pleasant experience on a day-to-day basis. Because the ego is like Twitter in that is only does what it has been programmed to do but seems to go above and beyond its pay-grade, it is a habitual thing. The more present we are, the more the ego will likely want attention and so as you begin to become more present in your day-to-day life, you’ll notice that it will resort to guerrilla tactics to encourage you to identify with what it is offering up. And, if remembering that it’s all just a story your ego is telling itself is difficult, then use psychology to overcome the identification with that pain and move back into presence. I do recommend working with a psychologist like myself who is aware of all I have shared here otherwise you might find that you will be caused to identify with the story more so than ever before. That said, with these things considered, contentment, happiness and fulfillment is not far off in any moment. And I’ll leave the pleasant surprise of what awaits, when you are able to get present, for you to experience for yourself. Without saying more on that, I’ll just tell you that it really is a gift.
I trust this has served you well.
Keep it real. (At least, relatively)
Live, love and play.