Let your troubles flow
into the night,
Don’t give up the fight,
Be open to signs,
Thoughts to fly,
Heart to matter,
With joy and laughter.
What is the key to happiness? It is something I have pondered over the course of my Buddhist practice in the last 8 years. I grew up around the belief that it meant having the money, the career, the relationship and so forth. The things that society tells us we need in order to be a success and feel good about ourselves. As a female it was even harder with constant images of women that looked ‘perfect’ in the media, yet it is all an illusion and does not exist. There is no such thing as perfection but as human beings we learn to strive for it anyway even if it comes at a cost.
One of the greatest gifts I received was something that seemed like my greatest nightmare at first. When you think you have lost your good health forever and have to face your mortality at a young age it changes your perspective on life. It brings you to a place inside of yourself where you will find out what truly matters to you. Things that used to bother you seem irrelevant and insignificant.
With nothing left to lose, I was forced to look at myself in a big way and I realised that what I needed to change the most was my thoughts and particularly thoughts I had about myself. We are each on a journey and I know that mine was to somehow come back to love because the truth of the matter was for so many years I didn’t love or value myself. I grew up feeling unworthy of love and had a negative body image. It manifested itself in bouts of depression which I kept hidden from everyone.
When Buddhism came into my life, my faith really got me through some of my darkest times and thoughts. I somehow felt ashamed of the thoughts I had about not wanting to be alive anymore. It used to plague me but I soon realised it was not about not wanting to be alive but the fact I didn’t want to suffer anymore. I couldn’t see past a life that was filled with severe daily physical pain.
“Nurture your soul with positive thoughts and internal happiness
will blossom before your eyes.” (Melanie Koulouris)
I recall one of the most beautiful moments of my life during my darkest times and it remains strong in my memory because of the power it had and gave me to carry on despite the resistance and pain. My Buddhist practice involves chanting the mantra Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and when you do so it calls forth your innate potential. You harmonise at the same frequency as the Universe and tap into a place beyond form and beyond the thoughts where you think you are your body or even your mind.
There was a moment one day that I was chanting and felt this well of happiness and joy run through my entire body. It was a powerful moment because on that particular day I was in excruciating physical pain with nausea and fatigue. With all this hurt in my body it didn’t make logical sense to feel happy. On the outside with no health, job, money or relationship it looked hopeless but that life-force was awakened and I realised that my happiness came from within. True happiness comes from being who we are regardless of our circumstances. This is not easy and sometimes I can fall back into old patterns but this is part of being human. With patience, I believe we can always find our way back.
I still need to make that conscious choice to choose happiness and there are days I have to work extra hard at it. It became apparent just even this year as I felt myself falling into what I like to now call the dark night of the soul due to various circumstances in my life. It was somehow harder this time because I knew I had all the tools I needed yet I couldn’t seem to get out of it or at least that’s what it felt like. These periods may not be pleasant but if we can open our hearts to the gift then it creates the shift. Life was revealing more layers to be healed, bringing more wisdom, more love and with it a sense of Being into our very essence. Despite it all, I have such deep gratitude that I am alive and well and with it being able to go into that place inside of myself where I know I am worthy of love and can appreciate the body that I have. It all starts from within.
“We are not defeated by adversity but by the loss of will to strive.
However devastated you may feel, so long as you have the will to fight on,
you can surely triumph.” (Daisaku Ikeda)
Where there’s a will, there is a way.
Lots of love,