Currently, Leeah and I are spending about a month on the island of Maui in Hawai’i. For me, the islands of Hawai’i are some of the most magical and beautiful places on this earth that I have ever visited. Whenever I am here, I swear I can feel the waters of the great Pacific, the trade winds, the sky, the clouds and the red dirt of volcanic soils all bringing healing and balance to my body, mind and spirit. I am convinced that anyone who wants or needs healing on any level should visit this place on a regular basis.
Now, you might assume that being in a place as magical, beautiful and powerful as this would literally guarantee that you’d be in a great state of mind and mood all the time. Well, for those who have been here for any extended time or for those who make Hawai’i their home, it is more than evident that a beautiful and enchanting environment does not, by any means, ensure that you will be perpetually happy.
Many of us in search for meaning and truth in our lives are striving to look beyond the superficial layers of ourselves and of life. It is ridiculously easy to be fooled by first appearances or by what appears to be truth, but is, in fact, some kind of superficial or shallow kind of truth. For example, when we fall into an argument with another person, it first appears as if that other person is purposely trying to attack us or undermine our well-being in some way. However, if we simply step back and take a more reflective approach, we can clearly see that there is no malicious or evil intent of any kind. This is exactly why it is so powerful to invest time and energy into cultivating a much more contemplative or reflective state of mind. The “quiet” mind of deep reflection allows us to look, listen and feel much more deeply than would be normally possible, especially when compared to a much more reactive or fear-based state of mind.
When we approach life or ourselves from a place that is much more busy and non-reflective, it certainly appears that our happiness is directly related to external conditions. When someone gives us positive attention, money, attractive gifts or delicious food, our spirits are lifted and it is very easy to assume that these external items or events directly caused our increased happiness. As a result of this particular assumption, we extend ourselves in countless ways to enhance our external environment. We plan, we desire, we strategize and use minds in this way to build up our chances for happiness. However, if you truly look deeper within yourself and the way life actually works, it becomes self-evident that the feelings of contentment and happiness you seek do not come from outside of yourself. It may be true that external conditions and events can trigger feelings of happiness and joy, but you’d be hard-pressed to prove that external conditions are the actual source of your happiness.
The great thing about being in a place as beautiful as Hawai’i is that it is difficult to blame bad moods or unhappiness on the weather. When nearly everyday has a spectacular sunrise and sunset with abundant sunshine and a regular occurrence of rainbows, it becomes very difficult to blame your unhappiness on your surroundings! Clearly, one’s state of being and mind arise from within. In other words, you yourself are the source of your own happiness. That means nothing outside of yourself has the absolute power to make you either happy or unhappy. Be sure to take some time to really contemplate that truth. It seems that no matter how many times we may hear that, most of us still cannot believe this can possibly be true. Thus, most of us continue to strive and seek happiness by desiring and working to create an enhanced material reality around us. Concurrently, most of us also continue to underinvest in our own spiritual or emotional well-being.
So, truly, take time to allow the impact of that truth to sink in: the source of your ultimate happiness and joy lies not in external conditions, but within yourself. If you truly connect with that truth (not just hold it as some nice concept), in what ways would you live your life differently?
Well, for one thing, we all may take greater care in being mindful and aware of all the contents and beliefs that we’re walking around with in our minds. It is said that the quality of life is not determined by what happens to you, but by how you respond to what happens to you. The way that you respond is determined by what you believe in and by how you see the world. If you see the world as a place that is primarily unfriendly, you will react or respond one way. On the other hand, if you believe the world is essentially a friendly place, you will react or respond in a whole different kind of way.
Funny, since I’ve been here in Hawai’i this time, I’ve been a bit moody. I haven’t been exactly depressed or down per se, but a bit uninspired or lethargic. I asked myself, how can I be uninspired in a place as beautiful as this? I also asked, if I cannot be inspired by a place like this, what is wrong with me? Then, as I began to reflect more deeply, it occurred to me that it actually was amazing to be a bit moody in a place like Maui because it showed me how one’s state of mind is not ultimately determined by external conditions. I also noticed the assumption that being moody was something negative, a clear indication that something was wrong with me. Again, when I think more reflectively, I notice that moodiness in and of itself does not absolutely indicate anything. Maybe moodiness indicates some imbalance, but at the same time, perhaps it indicates something positive. On either side, we cannot be sure.
I am seeing more and more that my greatest power as a human being comes from the ability to simply “be” with what I am going through and/or feeling. More often than not, I disempower myself by assuming some particular event, experience or state as being inherently negative or positive. When I can suspend my preconceptions and assumptions about anything, I gain access to a place of power and clarity within me that I oftentimes forget. When I am able to simply be with any situation without any strong or absolute judgment, I am able to see a deeper kind of truth, I am able to see a clearer picture of a unified whole. From that place, very naturally there arises a much greater capacity for compassion, understanding, generosity and kindness. From that place, very naturally there arises a kind of unconditional joy. There is a feeling of greater spaciousness and freedom from this particular place. To dwell in this place is truly a revelation because there is the realization that what I have been looking for all my life was not anywhere outside of myself, but right here in my own heart.