Val is a life-long practically oriented student of effective emotional and attitudinal responses to the many challenges of life.
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, or worn. It is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace & gratitude.
-- Denis Waitley
Happiness = Spirituality; Unhappiness = Ego
After a considerable amount of reading on the topics of happiness and spirituality from motivational and mental health sources, I can't help but notice a major misconception prevailing when it's about attaining either of them.
Namely, it seems that they are focused on "removing unhappiness", while also attaching spirituality exclusively to religiousness -- neither of these positions sitting right in my mind.
Talking more from personal experience than from the literature of that genre, happiness is so much more than "absence of unhappiness". As a matter of fact, if we succeeded at removing everything that causes us to be unhappy, we wouldn't automatically end up with happiness.
The reason for that being that unhappiness, with its psycho-physiology is the domain of ego, or our arsenal of survival strategies, whereas happiness is a matter of an awakened spirituality. So, by bribing our ego into somehow leaving us alone -- usually by excitements of excessive shopping, sex, amassing possessions, drugs, partying, gambling, and other forms of emotional stimulation -- we won't do anything for either our spirituality or happiness.
At this point it would be worth mentioning that spirituality is not to be mistaken for religiousness -- the two concepts that are frequently presented as synonymous with each other.
The basic difference being that religiousness is getting the inspiration from the outside sources -- a deity, a holy book, a preacher, and a system of suggestive rituals, whereas spirituality comes from within, from intuition and heart, coupled with a conscious intent to explore new and better forms of psycho-physical functioning.
Spirituality seeks that divine essence in ourselves while insisting on finding our place in the creative scheme of everything in universe -- and religiousness is putting us on the second place after a god, ascribing to us attributes of sinfulness and imperfection in their variety of facets.
Furthermore, unlike religiousness, spirituality does not deal in any way with dualities of "good and bad", divine and evil, pure and sinful, and ultimately doesn't make a distinction between universal intelligence and our own -- while seeing us as an embodiment of it, as potential avatars a sort of. As such, it is intuitionally guiding us toward what is positive and life promoting, while ignoring what is less than that.
Only as a warrior can one withstand the path of knowledge. A warrior cannot complain or regret anything. His life is endless challenge, and challenges cannot possibly be good or bad. Challenges are simply challenges.
-- Carlos Castaneda
Warriors of Soul
Spirituality is hard to define in its core for this very reason that it is basically an experience, not a system of beliefs that would be easy to verbalize -- like it is the case with religiousness.
No wonder that love, happiness, and peace of mind, as they are generated by spiritual awareness, cannot be defined -- other than by a wrong method of seeing them as an absence of their opposite values.
For another important distinction, with spirituality we change, we flow, we grow towards the best version of ourselves; so what was yesteryear's model of our processing reality -- inner and outer -- may be replaced by a new one this year, whereas religion insists on some fixed, unchangeable tenets.
Spiritual folks are sometimes called "warriors" -- not because they are in a conflict with anything or anyone, but on the contrary, because they are disabling into silence their vulnerable ego which feeds on conflicts.
Indeed, ego as a mental function literally is a dynamism of conflicts, while constantly worrying about survival, physical and psychological. Namely, being "intelligent animals", we feel threatened not only physically, but also as personalities, as we keep bumping into those who disagree, criticize, mock, belittle, insult, challenge, and provoke.
It's the domain of ego to deal with unfavorable and threatening elements of life in the herd, so it's in a constant conflict with either real or imaginary threats, many just popping out of our memory bank and having nothing to do with reality.
This is why I am contending here that all unhappiness is stemming from ego, and by merely bribing that ego into a silence we don't instantly become happy, without nourishing our spirituality which consists of love, tolerance, and a free flow of life in us.
A bad day for your ego is a good day for your soul.
-- Jillian Michaels
A Test of Faith
In a recent little experiment with religious individuals I stirred up an emotional debate about unshakable nature of religious faith by asking some uncomfortable questions. As it turned out, I got yet another proof how religiousness stems from a need of ego, not from spirituality.
It's amazing how many of those who present themselves as deeply engaged in their faith jumped the gun by defending it, apparently oblivious to the fact that by defending it they were acting out of ego and contrary to their faith.
Namely, when we are at peace with ourselves and with our world, it doesn't matter one bit what other people choose to believe-or-not, because faith is not an item of competition. There is nothing to "convince" others about our faith, nothing to defend there.
Regardless of how big a step it might take from that act of defending to an outbreak of a religious war -- the underlying ego's motive is always right there and obvious. As I said before, ego is all about conflicts, about threats, those real and those imagined ones. In this case it's someone's faith being "threatened", and ego readily jumps to its defense.
Faith, just like intellectual tastes, is our deliberate mental construct, not a disputable topic over something concrete and objective. So, if we chose to believe something, it doesn't matter one bit what someone else chose for themselves to believe in. Why bother defending it? Unless, of course, it's an item of our ego, with faith being one of survival strategies.
Indeed, when we use religious beliefs to lessen our unhappiness, we are not being spiritual, because spiritual folks have no need to defend anything -- while never feeling threatened.
With happiness, we are like riding on a crest of a tsunamis of life, beyond the game of all the opposites.
I believe that everyone else of my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.
-- Margaret Atwood
Adulthood Could Give Us an Emotional Advantage Over Childhood
Quite paradoxically, it should be so much easier to be happy in adulthood than it was in childhood. But we grow up nostalgically reminiscing about that happy innocence, not realizing that back there we had so many suppressive elements going against our happiness.
For one thing, we kept being corrected, criticized, and oftentimes confused over what the adults of our life expected from us. We were so dependent on them in so many ways, that one might even wonder where we found all that inspiration to laugh, play, make believe, and see reasons for happiness where objectively none existed.
Now, as adults, we are -- well, in a sense -- our own bosses, inasmuch as no one keeps telling us how to behave, what is right and what isn't. Besides, anything of a prohibitive nature is already well assimilated in our emotional nature, so we don't fuss anymore about "why we have to drive on a right side of the road, and not as we would please" -- which could be an issue for a toddler.
But then, there is one distinct difference which many are overlooking. Namely, as kids we were in an impetus of growing, exploring, changing -- propelled by an inner drive that we couldn't stop.
And doesn't it remind of being spiritual? By having become adults, we got our ego fully operative, with all negative crap absorbed from society, now acting our collective consciousness, not our own, and turning into a sort of biological robots, merely replaying our programs, our roles -- professional, marital, parental, religious, political, whatever.
Like a suitcase of a world traveler we picked up labels from every new involvement in life -- making us forget who we really are. Spiritual soul got hijacked by an ego ever fighting for survival, not free to expand, to evolve, to explore new forms of experiencing.
Happiness became an artificial result of all emotional crutches, some chemical, some sensual, others tied to competitive games of succeeding in a world that only recognizes our value by our bank account.
But look at our true advantages over childhood. From this position, no matter how seemingly unfavorable it may be, as measured by parameters of adulthood, we could actually choose any step in any direction, without anybody standing in our way.
We could be happy by becoming spiritual, by allowing our true self to emerge from the neglected depths and continue growing. For, happiness is only on the other side of ego's unnecessary parading around with obstacles, most of them imaginary.
We don't look for happiness, fight for happiness, dream about happiness -- we spot it in our available emotional repertoire -- and then just multiply the feeling. Instead of fighting with ego, we learn to love it -- and once that it loses a fighting partner, it disappears.
There is that wise saying: "When you let ego be -- it lets you be."
A cute little video depicting spiritual happiness
© 2020 Val Karas