The will to control is a hard habit to break. It finds places to hide away, working in secret. This shouldn’t be surprising, it is magical thinking after all! One place where I’ve found it hiding has been in an inclination to carry a grim cast of mind, a perpetually pessimistic outlook that seeks to punish any expression of joy that might break through.
This sounds rather dramatic. It once was, for me, but at this point it is quite subtle, hardly visible.One might ask,
What harm is there in it?
It shows itself when any spontaneous expression of lightness or joy appears. Thought quickly steps in to find “reasons” why I should not enjoy the moment as it comes. Sometimes this response is quite malevolent. A deeply submerged guilt or regret shoves its way into view to overshadow joy. The way this bully rushes in with such an overwhelming response completely out of proportion to such a modest moment of spontaneous good-feeling is a clue that it is more than just a tick.
One of the consequences of discovering emotional proprioception, that we create our moods they are not commanded by others or by circumstances, is an awareness of these moments and how they come about. Also, an awareness that they can be resolved by following them back to their sources instead of merely reacting to them.
What comes to mind, as a gentle whisper when I suspend my reaction to this process and just sit with it, is that what is going on is a secret bargain: If I remain dissatisfied and unhappy then life will not visit me with pain. If I do it myself, this will protect me from Fate.
As with all of Ego’s little bargains and games it is ridiculous on the face of it! That is why these thoughts persist in the barely conscious periphery of our awareness. They tend to be fleeting and buried, doing their work in stealth and then rushing away to hide behind a swirl of reactive responses as we fall into anger or anxiety, striving or paralysis.
I’m reminded of the Dali Lama. He’s one of the most identifiable individuals alive today. I would guess that to many he is simply that old guy in funny robes who laughs a lot even when surrounded by “important people” all so very serious, busy running the world. I’ve long known that his laughter stems from an abiding respect for the joy at the heart of being. It is one thing to “know” something, another to actually have an insight.
This is where this little insight into my Ego’s little bargain with the Fates comes in. This is how we can turn the tide on these patterns of behavior. Such an insight is not a weapon to enforce a prohibition upon inappropriate thoughts. It simply sees through Ego’s gambit and allows us to be free of its power.
The will to control is slippery! I can’t and won’t say, “Mission Accomplished!” That’s just how it finds its way back in!
But there’s nothing like a smile, one that arises simply from the act of breathing; the smile there waiting for us at each and every exhalation, a pause of satisfaction before another inhalation dives us into a new moment; to dissolve all such machinations. It is simple. It is clean. It requires no striving and it does not imply any sort of end or purpose to return us into our habits of negotiation.
So, at this tail end of the year, I’d like to leave you all with my thanks for your attention, for whatever conviviality we have managed to find here, and leave you with this smile.
It is not contingent on any external causes or conditions. It is a part of the pulse of being alive. It is there for us as long as we take breath. Available right to the last.
This is a promise. One that we can keep for our selves without harm or delusion. Strip away the layers of hurt and the scars of our incoherence and we find that joy is.