In the absence of positive emotion, I abide in the best feeling I can—typically apathy or anger—while trusting it will open into boredom, mild satisfaction, optimism, and so on and so forth.
Or I could choose to stay negative—wallow in depression and unworthiness and all-consuming rage—and burn myself out, eventually coming right back to apathy. That’s a long, painful road. I prefer the shortcut.
I can exercise superficial discipline, where I force myself to do something, bemoaning and hating it the entire time (I’ve operated this way for most of my life), but there’s a higher discipline that serves me better, one where I consistently seek the easiest-feeling pathway of thought (with negative emotions, this feels like relief. With positive emotions, it’s simply a matter of abiding in the positivity).
This higher discipline can be applied at any time, under any condition. It amplifies my efforts by infusing my outlook with acceptance and focus, allowing me to spot opportunity with my expanded perception. When it’s all said and done, it turns my “discipline” into play.
As the years pass, I’ve come to realize the “price” I must pay is abiding in acceptance—ceasing to obsess over conditions and machinations and allowing myself to viscerally appreciate whatever’s in front of me.
That’s why I was doing all that work in the first place. Now that I’ve figured out I can get there without the work, I think of it less as a “price” and more as a right.
I like to move in the direction of my dreams, even if it doesn’t seem to lead to any treasure. I’ve found unexpected rewards along the way. And on multiple occasions, I’ve been given more than I asked for.
Sure, I’ve had to compromise at times—make sure I could pay the rent or deal with obligations—but I suspect that if I pursue my dreams with a clear mind and an open heart, even if it’s just for five minutes a day (which is a situation I’ve found myself in), I’ll tap into a wealth of unforeseen support.
Obviously, it’s good to weigh risk when moving toward betterment. But I’ve seen that become deceptively toxic—I’ve seen people use risk as a justification to stagnate, to never breathe life into their much-deserved dreams.
If our emotions are dependent on measurement and contrast, we will continually come up short, and either exist in perpetual dissatisfaction at best, or unhappiness at worst. But we have the ability to see it differently—as an opportunity to weave our stories and pursue our dreams.
At that point, it becomes a blessed game, instead of a joyless series of arbitrary tests.
Then I realized that I could be happy in “miserable” conditions (as well as vice versa—I could be miserable in “happy” conditions). My happiness wasn’t dependent on sacrificing or justifying my way into a predetermined “heaven” or “enlightenment.”
Happiness, in my opinion, springs from an internal focus on relaxation and allowance, rather than earning and strife. Outwardly, I may or may not have to exert physical effort, but that is independent of my happiness.