My daughter. She’s in fourth grade. The other day I swung by her school mid-day and arrived during recess, where I was greeted with the unabashed joy of kids at play: Running, shouting and screeching laughter.
I recall playing like that as a child, but to do so now would be weird. For I am mature.
We are born, most of us anyway, into a default state of happiness. I see it in my daughter: She is content; most of the time, save an occasional meltdown.
But it’s already happening: I see glimpses of her getting hard. Last week I heard her insecure little ego talking shit about one of her friends. It often takes a video screen to fascinate her. I witness her suffering in her own cycle of fear & wanting.
I suspect the typical “Bliss Life Cycle” looks something like this:
- Stage 1: We are born as our true selves – happy, content and free – where we linger for a few years, until…
- Stage 2: Our minds begin layering armor onto our true selves, which we falsely think will protect us from harm. Soon, there is merely a dim flicker of bliss. Stage 2 generally lasts into our 20s – if we’re lucky; many stay here for life. Naturally, we’ll blame our parents for our pain, until….
- Stage 3: We discover yoga or a similar spiritual practice that allows us to take a look at our own thoughts as causes of suffering. We immerse ourselves in study, where we begin, layer by layer, peeling away a lifetime of accumulated armor. We might begin to see glimpses of bliss returning. If we do the work, if we practice, we might circle back to….
- Stage 4: Our True Selves… see Stage 1.
I would imagine my experience with happiness might resonate with many: As a small child, I recall being happy. As a teen, I was sometimes happy, but was generally – as high schoolers are – angst ridden. My twenties? Fugghetaboutit. Miserable. I wouldn’t go back there for money. Even if Brad Pitt himself were waiting for me there, I wouldn’t go back. Even if he were naked.
Sometime in my thirties, I had the realization that if I took my last breath the next day, I would have a hard time saying: “Now that was a life worth living.”
That thought was sobering. I was existing as so many of us do – living unconsciously, trudging forward day after day, numbly looking for happiness anywhere but within myself. It was if I was the “before” character in a Claritin commercial, living in a fog.
Back then I knew I felt better after yoga, but I couldn’t quite quantify why yet. So I kept rolling out my mat. And I started to wake up. I immersed myself in svadyaya (self study) – I enrolled in teacher training, studied yogic texts, committed to a yearly retreat; all things that began to uncover my true self – and a decade later, I generally feel pretty good. Sometimes, even blissfully happy. On the flip side, there are times I feel fairly empty… especially when I let my practice wane.
Stage 3 is hard. You might spend months– or more – hitting the personal growth snooze button. You might take one step forward, and three giant steps back.
What I’ve found that much the progress I’ve made around growth often comes on the heels of a massive dose of pain. I believe the universe doesn’t care about my personal comfort. But I do believe that it cares very much about our soul’s progression – and if progress and growth has to happen through pain and suffering, the universe is happy to deliver a good ass-whooping. Perhaps that ass-whomp will arrive in the form of a divorce… or your yoga studio catching fire.
Here’s one thing I know FOR SURE: From deep within my wisdom body, I can say without a doubt that the answer to breaking free from my own suffering lies somewhere on the yoga mat. You can feel it, no? After a good practice, all is OK. And the more you show up – the stronger that inner wisdom becomes.
Finding contentment is truly a practice. I show up on the mat. And I offer my practice up to the Divine. And I never know what’s going to happen – when I least expect it, I emerge from practice learning something life changing. Or, because God has a sense of humor, when I cling to my expectation of a grand perspective shift, what I get is…. Simply a good sweat.
I try not to presume to tell people how their lives should go– but I can tell you that many people, including myself, have found significant personal growth in our teacher training offerings, which are really just Spiritual Retreats. What better way to get even more personal with your practice? Then, if you feel motivated to spread the goodness of yoga, you have the tools to do so. This allows you to do what you are already doing — radiating out the benefits of the practice – but with confidence, clarity, and compassion.
Being happy & content is your birthright. You are equipped with everything you need to be able to say: “Now THAT was a life worth living.”
To find our more about our Teacher training program with Heather Falkin, click here. Save $200 by submitting your application by 10/15.
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