Are You Willing to Risk Being Happy?
Winter is at last losing its grip on Wisconsin, the spring rains bring
the almost forgotten sound of warning sirens hailing the promise of tornadoes.
We attempt to find a balance between panicked scrambles to basement encampments
and blasé storm-watcher adventures on the deck. Backyard skating
rinks are becoming enormous water features, as the frozen earth refuses
to absorb the sun's spring offering. Grass smiles a big thank-you, turning
from brown to green between breakfast and dinner. One of my Teachers says,
"Life is change, growth is optional." At this time of year I
think perhaps it should be, "Growth is inevitable." Nothing
can stop the desire of a snowdrop to feel the kiss of the sun.
There's something comforting about the way our inner lives reflect the
turning seasons. Obvious, but still comforting. When frozen thoughts or
patterns begin to defrost, the flow of melting emotions may start as a
trickle, but as the stream gains momentum, a little melting can lead to
a sudden gush as foundational beliefs shift and adjust. Occasionally an
emotional tsunami or a spiritual tornado can occur. We can never completely
predict the damage these powerful purifications will cause or imagine
the depth of the gifts they eventually call into being. We should be careful
not to assume that having consciousness about the turning of the wheel
gives us guaranteed control over the process, any more than a meteorologist's
understanding of tornadoes gives her control over the process of the weather.
However, developing an early warning system can save lives and reduce
We can develop an early warning system by taking time to find and name
the aspects of our inner and outer lives which reveal themselves to us
as painfully frozen. All frozen and unavailable aspects of ourselves will
cause suffering, but they are not all traumatic or negative behaviors.
Many are frozen assets, talents or gifts we have suppressed or denied.
These often hold the key to our happiness and ability to live our purpose.
Although recovering asset- or shadow-aspects can cause flooding, discomfort
and unpredictable results, it is important to be able to discern between
the two. This means part of the early warning system is to develop an
understanding of exactly what does or will make us happy, accompanied
by developing a willingness to be happy.
We can never predict with certainty which bulbs will live through winter.
As we emerge from an internal winter, this early warning system can ease
the transition. Pay attention and deal with more than the next indicated
Don't be tempted to turn this into an emotional glacial spelunking
expedition. We think we can reduce future pain in our lives by immersing
ourselves in the unconscious and groping around in the dark. This is not
a one-walk dog, the wheel keeps turning every year. I guarantee there
will always be opportunities to keep growing, and spring will come again.
We must be gentle with ourselves while we look for what is standing in
the way of our happiness.
Even though most action taken by humans is unconsciously motivated by
the pursuit of happiness, most of us have no conscious idea of how to
achieve this goal. It is one of life's ironies. How often do we include
happiness in our spell work? Do we give ourselves permission to be happy?
Many of us have glaciers full of messages about our right to happiness
mixed with messages about selfishness, impossibility, "reality checks"
These are erroneous messages given by people who fear our happiness because
they believe, on some level, that happiness is finite and that if someone
else finds happiness, there will be less for them. The instinct to protect
the sources of happiness is a facet of the 'fight or flight' response:
"If you take away my happiness I will die." Those who fear the
happiness of others tend to believe their definition of happiness is the
only way to achieve happiness, a mistake resulting from the glamour of
uniformity. This misconception is particularly entrenched in the parent/child
relationship and intimate adult relationships: We are uncomfortable if
people we care about explore different possibilities for their own happiness.
fear is the shadow of the desire for happiness. It dominates when we believe
external conditions determine our happiness. In many ways, all political
systems and governments are built upon this one stimulus. "Life,
Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness" is set forth by the Declaration
of Independence and is meant to be one of the foundations of the American
way of life. These days happiness is confused with safety (meaning stability)
and freedom from harm. This misconception feeds the tyranny of those with
power by allowing them to establish oppressive systems in the name of
controlling the uncontrollable. All dominant groups, men's institutional
power over women, and the power of one race over another share the myth
of repressing the life-force of a group to protect another group from
the unpredictability of life. The truth is we are never safe; people different
from us are not the cause of this. If safety is a requirement for happiness,
then so must be the suspension of disbelief. If happiness is contingent
on safety, we must deny the reality of life on earth, which is never safe
and ultimately uncontrollable.
Despite the declared separation of church and state, the political system
of the United States is based upon the Christian cosmology, which is not
concerned with happiness in this world. Politicians and leaders will claim
morally superior motivations, throw around words like "freedom,"
"democracy," and "protection," but these only serve
to create a smokescreen for the truth. Hidden beneath this rhetoric is
the desire for happiness, or the fear of unhappiness which is the
motivation for their policies. Successful politicians understand the power
of making promises which tap into this desire among the general population.
|"My point is that
women live the lie from birth on, and then one day they realize that
it's too late for them, they're too old to write a book or solve a
difficult problem in math, they'll never learn to sing or play the
piano, they showed such promise early on. So they run to the priest,
their voices take on a hysterical edge, like the one mine has right
now, and the priest tells them they have lived righteously and their
reward will be in heaven, and he could certainly use someone in the
kitchen for the potluck on Sunday night."
Haven Kimmel, Something Rising
The desire for happiness in this life is discouraged by the three dominant
religions in the West. Suffering in this life is fundamental to redemptive
or apocalyptic doctrines. To justify the omnipotence and purity of a God
above, not-Gods here on earth must be imperfect and in need of saving.
If we have the ability to be authentically happy in this life, why would
we need the promise of heaven after life?
Can you imagine authentic happiness being more important than your role
as a good mother or daughter? Can you imagine being happy as a normal
state of being? Can you imagine resting in happiness as the default emotional
condition? The place you always return to, not fixed, but a permanent
place of resolution? Can you imagine a world where your happiness can
only enhance my happiness and vice versa? A world that understands happiness
is not a limited production resource? There is always ebb and flow, but
the well will never run dry. Unlike oil, happiness is always self-regenerating
happiness breeds happiness.
If you are enjoying life, everyone will enjoy you. I am talking now of
genuine happiness, happiness coming from the heart, not the "I'm
fine" happiness required of good girls and wives. It is a reality
of the universe and magic that we are the recipients of what we send to
others. We experience first in our own bodies what we send to others.
The body sends the message, the personality is the messenger. This rule
holds true for all situations, from happiness to enmity.
The world would be a sweeter place if we could let go of the need to
control perceived sources of happiness: security, wealth, land, et
cetera. If we could focus on the abundance of true happiness, we could
not help but develop true reverence for the world around us. One person
could not experience wellbeing while others were living under the tyranny
of daily hunger and homelessness. Men could not justify the oppression
of women. Tribal warfare and racial dominance would seem ridiculous. Social
justice groups would celebrate "appreciation" of difference,
rather than launching campaigns to teach basic tolerance.
True happiness requires the ability to live in direct contact with the
One and simultaneously accept the infinite loneliness of living one's
true path. You are the only one who can recognize or define what happiness
is for you. Risking happiness is as difficult and dangerous as risking
any other form of authentic self. In the world today, for a woman to live
as the Goddess she was born to be is an act of revolution.
A word that means "love," "friendliness," or "lovingkindness."
So, how do we use this awareness in our magic and our daily practice?
I have found an adaptation of the Buddhist metta practice very helpful
with this. This practice fits easily into this revolutionary spellwork.
It is a practice designed to enhance our capacity to wish for the welfare
of all beings. For women, it is about tapping into the power of the Great
Mother, which is blocked when we are being self-effacing or self-denying.
It includes all manifestations of the Goddess, the light and the shadow.
I use my adaptation of the metta practice to build upon the early warning
system. I make of it a ritual for the change of seasons and find it particularly
appropriate for the transition from winter to spring.
May I have happiness
and the causes of happiness.
May I be peaceful and happy of heart.
May I be healthy and strong of body.
May I live with joy and ease in this world.
May I be free from suffering
and the causes of suffering.
May I be free from inner and outer harm.
May I be free from poverty
and the causes of poverty.
May I be protected and safe.
May I care for myself with joy and ease.
May I know prosperity
and financial abundance.
May I be generous of heart and action.
May I know reverence and grace.
May I know peace.
May it be so.
May it be so.
Seasonal Lovingkindness Practice
1. Start at the new moon. Do this ritual in the evening, outside or inside,
whichever circumstances and weather allow.
2. Do whatever you do to purify and set a sacred space for yourself. Remember,
you are going to do this for a month, so simple is good.
3. I like to light a candle for the light of truth and some incense to
carry the spell. Again, do what feels right for you.
4. Breathe in for four beats, saying silently, "Toward the Goddess."
Breathe out for four beats, saying, "Toward the Goddess." Repeat
this seven times.
5. While you breathe, bring to consciousness the Great Mother, the joy
of creation, the power of the life force She invokes. This may come as
an image or you may feel Her in your body. Don't worry if neither of these
things happens; some of us just "know" when Her energy is present.
It may help to think about a time you were awed by the depth of your feeling
as a parent with a child, or with a pet, or as a gardener, or watching
the moonrise in the desert for the first time.
6. Using the power of the unconditional love you have invoked, speak the
spell (in the box at the right) with forceful tenderness.
7. Repeat steps 4-6 four more times, replacing "I" with:
a) The name of a benefactor - someone who has helped you
b) The name of dear friend or loved one
c) The name of aneutral person
d) The name of a difficult person or someone who has caused you harm.
8. Do this ritual each night through the full moon. If it is too intimidating
to do the whole prayer every night, you can break it down do a
verse a night or even a line a night. The important thing is to do the
whole ritual at the Full Moon and end with:
May all mother sentient beings boundless as
the sky have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all aspects of the Goddess have peace and be the cause of peace.
May Her happiness and peace live through me.
Bound in truth by the power of three
For highest good in align with She,
May it be so and may She be happy
Notes: It's important to be specific with this, naming individual
people rather than generic groups like "all men" or "all
women". The goal is to achieve equal potency of power and love for
all five named persons. This is an adaptation from the original sutra
and other bits that work for me. Feel free to add to it or drop anything
that you do not experience as true.
Goddess women have spent a lot of time and energy focusing on the injustice
and unvoiced tragedy of the world in which we live. It is crucial we do
not lose site of the power of naming and honoring women's grief. It has
been vital for women around the world to demand social change and to continue
to do so in all areas of injustice. At
the same time, I am calling Goddess women to step forward from their anger
into reverence and happiness. I challenge us to focus on creation not
destruction, for there comes a point where violent revolution (physical
or spiritual) ends up hurting the weakest in a society, while those with
power buy their way out of discomfort.
It is time for us to imagine the possibility for change in the world,
a change that comes from lovingkindness rather than destruction. Can you
imagine the impact if, with every new moon, Goddess circles and solitary
witches called forth reverence and happiness in their lives and the lives
of those around them? This would be magic in alignment with the creative
forces of spring rather than a forced process of winter's defrost. This
could allow the iceberg to defrost but perhaps reduce the risk of tsunami
or other tragedy. Then we might have time to discern the frozen assets
from the shadow aspects and build a world capable of sustaining and supporting
the happiness of all. If we are willing to risk happiness, perhaps we
can start imagining a world where the personal, the political, and the
planetary seasons remember to dance in harmony and celebrate peace.
- There are many great practices
and therapeutic tools which encourage and allow digging for suspected
problems. Under the right circumstances, and with support, they can
offer great deep healing. However, this type of work requires more
than simple awareness of self in the cycle of the seasons and is beyond
the scope of the piece. These are some links that could give you more
insight in to these possibilities
n. One who explores caves chiefly as a hobby; a caver. [From obsolete
spelunk, cave, from Middle English, from Old French spelunque, from
Latin splunca, from Greek splunx.]
- You can find this idea
of happiness as the motivational force in human behavior in the teachings
of the Buddha and other eastern teachers. It can challenge some people
and offers great opportunity for meditation and reflection.
- Kimmel, Haven. Something
Rising: Light and Swift. Free Press (January 6, 2004)