I’m probably one of the last people to advise anyone on happiness because I’ve not mastered it myself. The best person to teach us how to be happy is someone who has already figured it out. That makes sense doesn’t it? So I consulted my personal library.
Of course the phone rings and it’s my friend Rev. Carol from the little spiritualist church I attend. Ask and you shall receive, right? I told her what I was writing about and she spouted off one of the spiritualists principles. “…we make our own happiness or unhappiness as we obey or disobey Nature’s physical and spiritual laws.” Interesting. As I thought about that, I remembered the spiritual laws my teacher wrote about in her book. That lead me to reflecting on a discussion about karma and why some people are born happy and others have to work at it. I’m of the second group.
The next book I pulled from my shelf I consider an old friend, Legacy of the Heart by Wayne Muller. I reread the chapter that has a permanent bookmark. It was on expectations, non-attachment, fear of surprises, and of course happiness, joy, and gratitude. I wished I could just quote the whole chapter here, but that would rob you of the wisdom of the entire book. If compelled, please get yourself a copy.
What I can say about this chapter is that it makes perfect sense, especially to those of us who find themselves struggling with being happy without having to sneak up on it with lots of, “If this then that” statements. Have you ever found yourself negotiating with yourself to choose to be happy? Like the spiritual principle, have you ever had the “ah ha” moment that you can create happiness or destroy happiness by your own attachment to outcomes because you could not release your expectations of what should or should not have happened? According to Wayne, we do that out of fear. We have experienced just enough drama or suffering to create mistrust of the surprises that come with being happy or joyful. Instead of surprises bringing something delightful, they had brought something we have to figure out how to cope with.
The cure for that is the practice of non-attachment or letting go of expectations. This takes self-reflection, discipline, and the willingness to love yourself. Wayne Muller describes it perfectly. I paraphrase, “Some of our expectations come from deep in the heart and are quite reasonable. A child wishes for a happy family and expects to be treated with affection. Regardless of how simple and reasonable it may seem to wish for love, there will be a moment when that wish becomes an expectation, a feeling that we should be loved, or that somehow we earned that love and feel we have a right to get it. The instant we assume that love will come, we are preparing for the moment in the future when we will be disappointed by someone. They will love too little, too late, too hard, to soft and we measure this to what we expected.”
When we release our expectations of others to provide us with the amount of love we desire or need, we will greatly reduce the level of disappointment we feel compelled to protect ourselves from. We don’t need to build those walls or numb our feelings.
The way out of this trap can be through the practice of gratitude. This is not a new concept, but like physical exercise, it needs our participation for it to show us the results we desire. When we are purposefully searching out things to be grateful for and are truly grateful, we are igniting our innate ability to be joyful. Being joyful is a spiritual practice, and will lead us to happiness like no other practice we’ve ever experienced. Also, it is authentic, spontaneous, and sustainable. Many of us have created this odd addiction to happiness by trying to recreate a moment when we felt happy. We may use adrenaline inducing activities, like sex or skydiving. Neither of these things are bad, but it’s our motivation for doing them that can turn them from wishes to a delivery system for fulfilling expectations. A forced experience of happiness can lead us straight back to unhappiness when the experience falls short, aka, disappointment. It’s not sustainable because we are steeped in the past and we are controlling the event. This is otherwise known as our friend, expectation.
In truth, each experience of happiness and joy is new and unique. It is spontaneous and full of surprises. It can be quiet and peaceful or it can be loud and exhilarating. Joy is a way of being, not a construct of our emotional or mental processes. It’s heartfelt and open to the flow of love, and we are completely responsible for our own happiness because we can create it. This happens when we are grateful, forgiving, compassionate and loving.
Now, let’s get to the part where we use a little candle magic to get this party started. In the evening before bed, create a sacred space to meditate in and spark up an Emotional Balance Blessed Herbal Candle while meditating on all of your expectations in life. As one comes to mind, speak it, and let your words be consumed by the flame. When you are done, extinguish the candle and imagine the smoke is your dissipating expectations and attachments to outcomes. Now, ask to be filled with the light of compassion. Ask specifically that it go to all the places where you held your recently liberated expectations. Take a bath or shower, then tuck yourself into bed for a good night’s sleep. Upon waking, reflect on what you dreamt. As you go through your day, notice all the things you are grateful for. Speak them out loud. Smile when you speak of them and notice how you feel. Did you make your heart smile? If so, you are getting it! That is how gratitude creates the feeling of joy and happiness. Keep it up and repeat this practice often. When you have a bad day, make yourself do the gratitude practice. It will show you how to be joyful even during difficult times.
In addition to being the co-owner of Coventry Creations, Patty Shaw is the author of Healers Almanac and co-authored DIY Akashic Wisdom with Jacki Smith. Patty is a Minister with UCM (Universal Church of the Masters) and earned her Reiki Master degree in 1999. She is also a spiritual counselor and works with the Akashic Records during healing sessions. You can make an appointment with Patty through the Candle Wick Shoppe, 248-547-2987. Learn more about Patty atwww.HealingWithPattyShaw.com.