UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young
If we are not happy with our lives, we tend to attribute our current state to bad luck, other people or to simply not having been blessed as much as others. We might feel bitter, disappointed, angry or depressed and it is easy to keep our focus on what is missing rather than on what is present.
If happiness were a result of what we have, others who are lacking what our ego perceives we lack should be unhappy too. But clearly this is not the case. Those in Third World countries who live in comparative poverty often have indomitable spirits. They love, laugh, dance and are thankful for the smallest things.
If happiness were a result of financial abundance, all millionaires would be happy and those with lesser means would be unhappy. Yet one of the happiest couples I have met had two small children and could barely make ends meet. When they described their upcoming vacation – where all they could afford was to take their little tent to a nearby lake for a few days – they were so happy and excited about their upcoming adventure.
If happiness were a result of good health, how would we explain the courageous way in which some people with terminal illnesses spread love and joy to all those around them.
We could go on and on with examples, but it seems clear it is not the current state of our lives that determines how we feel, but rather it is our perspective that makes all the difference. This means we have a choice about how we feel in any situation.
The ego part of our being does not realize this. Ego has a mind of its own and reacts automatically, based on past experience or beliefs we hold. When ego is in control, we cannot even imagine feeling any different about what is happening in our lives. If we think someone has hurt us, it’s pretty black and white as far as ego is concerned. It is not interested in looking at the situation from any other perspective.
The problem with this is that ego keeps us stuck. Ego is like a puppet on a string controlled by all things in the external world. Up/down/happy/sad/agitated/calm: it all depends on what happens out there. Since ego does nothing to change its perspective, things just seem to keep piling up, reinforcing all the old limiting beliefs. We can begin to stagnate and life seems like a series of endless struggles.
The truth is life is full of challenges. Things will not always go well; sometimes they may go very badly. However, we can control our emotional climate in the same way we control the temperature in our homes with a thermostat. We can set our internal ‘thermostat’ by deciding to be a problem solver, action taker and a mindful, peaceful, wise being. Of course we must transcend the judgments, reactions and the “Chicken Little” tendencies of ego.
Admittedly, this is the big challenge for those who choose conscious growth and evolution. It is a process requiring mindful attention to our inner world, self-honesty and a commitment to make the most of our time in this Earth school. It is also rewarding, even as we take those first tentative baby steps.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visitwww.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.