Wholeness not Happiness

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.” 

― C.G. Jung

I picked a card from my pack of Pema Chödrön’s ‘Compassion Cards.’ It said, “regard all dharmas as dreams.” This means to regard all the elements that make up our empirical existence as dreams, as transient and non-absolute. I’ll use this to pre-frame this piece.

Going to seminar after seminar when I was 15 years old, I thought I was on the path to happiness, and I was. I’d mastered the art of noticing negative mental patterns and habits and re-directing them to ones that served me and created the experience I was seeking.

As ‘negative’ emotions arose I’d notice them, do an affirmation, incantation or cover them up with excessive joy so that I could experience the happiness I sought.

This felt great for a time. Slowly, slowly though, it started to feel a little shallow. When trying to connect with others at events or gatherings, it felt inauthentic. “Oh yeah I’m great thanks,” “yeah I’m going really well!” Always sharing how it I ‘wanted’ to be feeling but rarely how I was actually feeling deep down. As a result my relationship with others only seemed to grow so far — not to mention my relationship with my Self.

Facebook, Instagram and social media made this incredibly challenging also. Only seeing how ‘happy’ people were, as if happiness was the goal.

In Parker Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness he talks about the practice of a ‘Circle of Trust’ as a way to “create space for the soul to speak.” For those in the circle to come to know the wholeness of who they are, to learn to love the entirety of themselves.

This neglecting and suppression of parts of ourselves that aren’t ‘good’ or don’t lead to happiness leads to something else; for me it is feeling disconnected, incomplete and inauthentic.

I’ve run a workshop on ‘returning to wholeness’ a number of times that walks people through these 4 quadrants.

Low-negative might be a moment of depression or sadness.
Low-positive might be a moment of peace, joy and balance. 
High-negative might be a moment of anger or activist-minded (against!)
High-positive might be a moment of ecstatic joy, celebration or excitement.

We each step into the quadrant on the floor, and let ourselves be witnessed in each quadrant as we express our emotion around a specific event that has had us feel this way. Letting ourselves be seen in these four quadrants give us the experience of learning to be ok with our full selves.

It’s almost a more empowered ‘happiness.’ When you can let yourself be in the total expression of who you really are, and observe from an observer’s perspective you are more empowered to navigate through your feelings with conscious awareness. With a more comfortable relationship to all of the parts of ourselves, we can choose when to let ourselves sit in and be with each.

“Regard all dharmas as dreams”

All of our feelings and emotions are transient and forever transitioning to another as we enter a new ‘now.’ Recognising this and letting ourselves experience the autonomy and liberation in observing this process without needing to manipulate or engineer our expression can be truly liberating.

So my question is: is it happiness we are seeking, or is it wholeness? If wholeness leads to an empowered liberation, is this more expansive and all-encompassing that happiness by itself?

Enjoy the senses,

Get Free Email Updates!

Join 6,000+ fellow-humans who receive Spaces Between - Al's musings on dis-connection and the philosophy, science and art of re-connecting in our lives, leadership and communities.

Emails sent every 2 weeks. Al respects your time and privacy. You're in control and can unsubscribe at any time.