One of the defining preoccupations of our times has been on the pursuit of happiness. It strikes me as odd that we believe happiness is something we need to chase after. Why would a natural state of being flee from us? Its that old chestnut again, ‘ if you love something set it free’. This idea of pursuit sheds light on the implicit idea that happiness is something we want to lock up for keeps.
The art of noticing is the art of allowing. Things will reveal their true nature if set free. We humans miss out on understanding because we pin things down with assumptions. We set about pursuing happiness with no consideration on whether that is even necessary. We have this odd habit of thinking that if we like something it needs to stick around forever, but have you noticed what happens with things that are around forever? They become invisible. This process happens with objects, with ideas, with relationships. Unless we actively set ourselves to care in each new moment about an object, an idea, a person, it will fade from our consciousness. I’ve noticed that if I sit quietly, in a state of curiousity, in a state of Listening, often, (but not always) happiness will dawn. I understand now that when it does arise, if I rush to pin it down, ‘ol happiness will evaporate. The interesting thing is that I’ve noticed that this state of curiousity, this state of Listening in itself is actually enough.
We are all pretty tensed up in a state of trauma about loss. Our identities are formed in part by our narratives on gain and loss. We think if only we make ourselves loveable enough, love will never leave us. We think if we can make ourselves beautiful enough, beauty will remain, that if we are powerful enough, we will never be disempowered. But what if we are the space in which all experience arises? If space has no inherent qualities, can it also be all the qualities that arise in and as it?
What happens in a pursuit? All focus is on the fugitive. The focus of the fugitive however is always freedom. So who should win? How does the fugitive win freedom? When it is no longer being pursued.
In Buddhism the teaching is that suffering will cease with the cessation of desire. We immediately (and ironically) desire the end of desire. We pursue its cessation. Desire continues to arise, what is interesting is what happens when we cease to pursue what we desire. Turns out we can receive what we desire when desire naturally ceases. This is freedom.
Suffering shares a certain quality with happiness, in that its nature is to arise and fall away.
So again we come back to Trust. Trust is the understanding that all qualities will continually arise and fade in the space that we are. Trust understands that desire naturally arises and falls away. That suffering arises and falls away. Its also natural to feel a bit pouty at this point. We’ve all been educated to love freedom and yet pursue everything. The root of capitalism is the freedom to burn out the candle in the pursuit of fire.
I’ve come to understand myself as a kind of guest house. The purpose of a guest house is to receive guests. Some guests are happiness, they are music and storytelling and laughter, yet often these guests leave behind a mess and a sense of emptiness in the silence of their departure. Some guests are sorrow, they just need a place to rest their weary bones, and the privacy to weep. Some guests just blow through and no one notices. A good guest house simply refreshes and prepares the rooms and receives and cares for the guests. The nature of guests is to arrive and to leave, and to understand that they will be cared for during their stay. The guest house is fulfilled in its purpose.