Happiness and the Spiritual Journey: Part 7 of 9

by William R. Yoder on December 22, 2010

Recognizing the descent that has already happened

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Recognizing the suffering that is already present …

(Click here to read this series from the beginning.)  What I have tried to do in The Happy Mind is to offer some ideas and some practices that can help us to begin remembering whenever we are alerted to the fact that we have forgotten. I don’t think that anyone needs to know how to bring more suffering into his or her life. We already find ourselves in the midst of some kind of suffering.

Is what opens us to the possibility of liberation

That’s why the Buddha’s first truth was “Life is suffering”—life as we are currently understanding it and experiencing it is an on-going wheel of suffering. You have to understand that before you are motivated to look more deeply. You can’t be oblivious to the suffering already present in your life. You can’t merely pretend it isn’t there. You have to recognize it and own it and take responsibility for it.

Then, for the first time, you have the possibility of liberation from suffering—the possibility to discover the inconceivable and unimaginable bliss of living your truth. But your choices and your intention play a valuable role in your realization of that sacred possibility. So the real focus of my book is how we can make wise choices that can help us realize that possibility in our own lives.

You can ascend only after you have descended

In one sense, my book is heavily focused on the ascent of the journey—the ascent back to the awareness of the love and light that are our truth. It talks about the descent (although I don’t use that term), and the necessity of owning and experiencing you own suffering, but without adding blame or guilt to the experience. It talks about moving into complete acceptance, and expanding your mind to the pure awareness of One Mind. It talks about forgiveness and gratitude and extending unconditional love. It talks about disengaging from our stories of time and victimhood.

But those ideas and practices can “lift” us only after we have fully acknowledged how far “down” we already are. We can only begin to remember when we have fully realized and acknowledged that we have forgotten. It is not a true and authentic “ascent” until we have first realized that we have already descended—that our starting point is the bottom of a descent that had already happened before we even began thinking about a “spiritual journey” at all.

The “descent” of the journey is simply a recognition of a descent that already happened

In this sense, the “descent” of the hero’s or heroine’s journey is just the recognition of a descent that already happened.  A descent that had been forgotten and hidden away in the subconscious in the form of a shadow side, in the form of unconscious guilt and fear. The descent is a descent into the depths of the illusion that we are already living, and have been living as long as we can consciously remember.  And this descent is undertaken so that we can “ascend” to the truth that we never really left.

But is all of this true?  Or is it simply a story we are telling ourselves?  To be continued ….

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