Happiness is an indicator of personal and spiritual growth. You know that you are developing personally and spiritually when you experience greater and longer-lasting states of happiness.
A few posts ago, I wrote about happiness and contentment in which I featured Billy Connolly’s response to the question of happiness. In that post, I said that, for me, happiness reflects a bandwidth of experiences including the experience of contentment. I also said that for many people, happiness seems to refer to fleeting, high-energy episodes of ‘feeling good’ (not a view that I personally hold).
Now in another post, this one featuring Bill Gates, I referred to some conclusions drawn by Harvard psychologist, Daniel Gilbert, about happiness. I think that his observation that people cannot accurately report on their state of happiness nor accurately predict it deserves further thought.
In my mind, the ambivalence around happiness and contentment and our awareness (or otherwise) of our state of happiness is something that might be usefully explored using a spiritual lens. I believe it gives us a more comprehensive and critical view by which we might explore our experiences.
When I reflect on my own life, I realize that the sense of child-like wonderment that I had as a child was eventually overtaken by my need to fit in with the rest of my family and society, find my ‘niche’, as it were, and be adequately functional. This is the period when I was preoccupied with ‘psychological efficacy‘ – wanting to be successful, liked and loved.
I don’t think I ever fully lost the spiritual/child-like lens, it just didn’t get a lot of use. But it didn’t lie down quietly either! Over the years, it would gnaw at me, demanding my attention which I was mostly unwilling and often felt unable to give. Perhaps part of the reason might have been that I did not recognize what it was and how it might be important.
It was in the midst of my ‘psychologically efficacious‘ phase when crisis struck and it seemed there was only one avenue left that I had not adequately explored and that was the spiritual path. It wasn’t as if I had left it completely but it meant that I was going to have to really start paying attention. And this is where spiritual development comes into its own.
(These days, I find many of my clients are similarly orientated and ‘gnawed at ‘ when they first come to see me – some problem masking (or reflecting, depending on your perspective) an underlying, hard-to-define but recently noticed ‘restlessness’.)
The spiritual lens encompasses all views, all states. It is the ultimate, non-judging, objective observer. Wearing this lens, you are in the state of sheer awareness, free from, but alert to, the vicissitudes of psychological experiences. It is the state of happiness or bliss. It is a happiness that is unconditional, contingent upon nothing – nothing is demanded of you, you do not have to ‘deserve‘ anything or prove your ‘worthiness‘. Indeed, these concepts are rendered meaningless and ineffectual.
Spiritual development or awakening as opposed to personal development is less concerned with ‘being effective/efficacious’ (which is other-referenced) and more with reaching into and experiencing oneself fully and freely. As it happens, life’s design is such that as you awake to yourself, you awake to all!
Spiritual development keeps you more interested in your own states, psychological and other, as a self-regulating being rather than as an agent for the fulfillment of the needs, expectation and desires of others. It is less concerned with understanding (which is an effort of the intellect) and more concerned with ‘being’ fully present. This latter is an effortless harmonic of mind, body and spirit and in this effortless harmonic is found the experience of happiness or bliss.
Lucy Lopez – Hire Me!