Advent notes: the Gift of Unhappiness

Compare these feelings.

Think of the feeling that arises in you when you are praised or applauded in some way; when someone approves of you, when you are declared a success.

Now compare that with the feeling you get when you see a sunset; when you share laughter with or witness an act of kindness or bravery.

The feelings are not the same. The first is a worldly feeling, arising from your neediness; arising from suddenly inflated imaginings of yourself.

The second is a soul feeling, in which you are drawn out of yourself and into a different, larger space.

They are different sorts of happiness with different effects.

There is nourishment in the soul feelings, our true self strengthened; but worldly feeling will take more than it gives. Brief pleasure is paid for in subsequent despair, when the effect wears off.

Unhappiness is caused by false images in our head; so we’ll not blame anyone else.

In yourself, you have everything you need for happiness now. But instead, you focus on what you do not have, on what is absent, the head does this – and this is mad.

Some people try and change their world, thinking it will make them happy – new house/partner/car/TV/job/self-help book.

Or they try and change other people’s worlds, to help themselves feel worthwhile and valuable.

But these things make no one happy, because it is the thinking in our heads that makes us unhappy; and unless this changes, no changes in our world will make much difference.

There is no nourishment in worldy feelings, driven by the need for attention, approval, fame, power or success.

So it is a good day when we stop craving them. For what will it profit anyone if they gain the whole world but kiss goodbye to themselves?

In this sense, like a ringing alarm, unhappiness is a gift. It’s a sign that something isn’t working, which is helpful to know.

And the good news is: the yellow brick road does actually exist. But it doesn’t lead to some place outside of you… but to some place inside of you.

So follow the yellow brick road as it unfolds, for there’s inward treasure along the way; and enjoy the life given, rather than the one denied.

Enjoy the sky and the trees; the horizon and the storm. Enjoy the flower in the wall and the up-and-down human adventure.

For here there is nothing to achieve, nothing to prove and nothing to fear…just surprising truth to behold.

(With thanks to Tony de Mello)

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