Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The pursuit of happiness

My prayer group is beginning to read a book by Thomas Keating called Invitation to Love. Many facets of our preliminary discussion of the book centered on the struggle between the true and the false self. The false self, if you haven’t heard of it, is a version of the Ego, a shallow, selfish and pushy component of each person’s inner makeup. The Ego and the false self try to stop the true self from becoming vulnerable and being hurt.
This brought to my mind something that I’ve been contemplating a lot lately. I have been struggling with the concept of allowing oneself to heal, feel joy, etc. At first glance this may seem silly, and I think that the response of most would be that everyone wants to be happy and would be if they could. However if you take a moment to think, I’m sure it will be easy to recall a recent time when you could have done something for yourself but refused. I have two instances with which I regularly struggle. The first, and more concrete, is exercise. After a long day of sitting at work, I can come home with an achy back, neck, or legs (or all three!). I know that exercise will loosen my muscles to relieve my tension and pain. But many times, I just can’t get myself to change into my workout clothes and pop in my Jillian Michaels video! My second struggle is just as acute, if not as physically based. Although I participate in a centering prayer group, I rarely practice this meditation-like form of prayer at home. Every Wednesday that I attend our meetings, I leave feeling refreshed. Spending so much quiet time focused on nothing, feeling peaceful washes away my anxieties, inhibitions, anger and hurt. And yet, each day when I awake, I find that I make an excuse not to participate in the centering again.
Why is this? I doubt that it is only I who deny themselves the things that will heal and satisfy body and soul. It seems irrational and downright silly to deliberately avoid doing something that we know will make us feel better. And yet we, I, do not. Why are we afraid of the peace that we might attain? I think that this is the answer after all: fear. There is the fear of gaining peace because we know that we might fall from that calm state into hurt or anger again. There is fear of the truth, of the unknown, and of course disappointment, which can be hidden in the former two. I knew a man whose dream for years had been to purchase his own house. But he could not settle on one and was hesitant to even look at any. So close to getting what he wanted, he was afraid to make the wrong choice and find himself disappointed after all this time.
There is fear of healing. I think that this is the most powerful fear. Looking back on the most inexplicably angry, shy, or escapist personalities I have met in my life, I think that this fear has been behind nearly every one. In order to heal, we have to face what hurt us in the first place. In some cases, this may have been very scary or painful. On the other hand, I think that sometimes we put off our healing so long that we fear that the original wound was worse than it actually was. It becomes buried and pushed down, warped and hidden into some corner of our subconscious. It’s been so long since we looked, that we’re terrified what we may find. But we have to muster the courage if we are to heal. When you think about it, there is little wonder why we so often put off what we know is the right thing for ourselves.

He is Everything You Want-Vertical Horizon
Somewhere there's speaking
It's already coming in
Oh and it's rising at the back of your mind
You never could get it
Unless you were fed it
Now you're here and you don't know why

But under skinned knees and the skid marks
Past the places where you used to learn
You howl and listen
Listen and wait for the
Echoes of angels who won't return

 He's everything you want
He's everything you need
He's everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
He says all the right things
At exactly the right time
But he means nothing to you
And you don't know why

You're waiting for someone
To put you together
You're waiting for someone to push you away
There's always another wound to discover
There's always something more you wish he'd say

But you'll just sit tight
And watch it unwind
It's only what you're asking for
And you'll be just fine
With all of your time
It's only what you're waiting for

Out of the island
Into the highway
Past the places where you might have turned
You never did notice
But you still hide away
The anger of angels who won't return
I am everything you want
I am everything you need
I am everything inside of you
That you wish you could be
I say all the right things
At exactly the right time
But I mean nothing to you and I don't know why
And I don't know why
I don't know