Nearly all humankind is more or less unhappy, because nearly all do not know the true Self. Real happiness abides in Self-knowledge alone. All else is fleeting. To know one’s Self is to be blissful always.
~ Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi, the sage of Arunachala
APPROACHING ARUNACHALA – TIRUVANNAMALAI, SOUTH INDIA
I originally started the Happiness Project as a quest for true happiness and the holy grail of eternal bliss in 2003 in New York (way before the happiness craze and any New York Times bestsellers on the Subject). I ended up in India a year later with nothing but my video camera and a few personal possessions, as I adventured in search of the illustrious goal until spring 2005.
Here’s a fun clip from the video in India:
I think you can get a sense of the energy there…
Upon my return from India the world fell apart beneath my feet, compounded by the loss of my sister, Ananda Colombo, in a car accident in 2006. I spent a couple years scrambling to keep it all together, and eventually realized that it was far better to actually be in a state of grace than try to explain what a state of grace looked and felt like.
That’s when it all started to finally come together, leading to where you are now.
More of the incredible footage and interviews I captured from those earlier days of my journey will all eventually be revealed — much of it here — in due time. The original website (www.thehappinessproject.com) has been redirected to this site here at Fierce Wisdom.
From the Archives: I published this piece in October 2008, on my second trip to India. I think it captures the essence of the whole issue, and is surprisingly relevant to what I’m investigating now —
What does it mean to truly be a master of yourself?
That’s the question I’ve asked myself over and over since I met the tantric yogi master, Swami Amrit, who asked me the same question four years ago on my last visit to India. I think this last week I may have come up with the answer…
I’m writing from an internet shop in Pondicherry, India, drenched in cold sweat. The heat is syrupy and thick in the air, stifling any progress with the energetic pull of quicksand. The power is out again, it drops out intermittently day and night and everyone waits…we’re running on backup power now – any minute without warning the battery charge is finished and all systems are down. This is the tenuous nature of life here – the relentlessly stifling flow of time that forces me to reconsider the worthiness of just about every dream and goal I’ve ever considered undertaking.
I’ve been in India for a month and a half now – it’s taken me this long to just get to the point where I can begin to process this whole experience in a way that can reasonably be put into words. Here I begin to make an attempt at the endeavor:
One thing I’ve learned from the experience so far is the relentless surrender to the flow of life. I mean relentless, because it’s nearly impossible to get anything done without surrendering to the pace of life here, and accepting the fact that what people say is not usually what they do.
Now, people will always run on their own speed, but here the speed is ridiculously leisured, while frenetically illogical. Nothing is as it appears yet everything is perfectly in place. So I’ve taken to illogical outbursts of shooting pictures, in an attempt to understand and capture this strange paradox of frozen movement – the relentless passage of time within a seeming vacuum of frozen space.
This is good, since my video camera recently started to inexplicably shoot everything in shades of green. So now anything I shoot in daylight looks like an old faded color photograph from the 1960’s. I tried to contact the local Sony repair shop today, but the number’s out of service. Not a good sign…
Meanwhile, I’m in surrender, and I guess it’s just as well because there’s not much else better to do when you’re stuck in India with a lifetime worth of emotional baggage and a short attention span.
“We know that the train carries all loads, so after getting on it why should we carry our small luggage on our head to our discomfort, instead of putting it down in the train and feeling at ease?” – Ramana Maharshi, ‘Who Am I?’
There are at least 6.7 billion paths to true happiness – as many possible secrets to happiness as there are people. Each person has their own life path to follow, and their own personal secret to bliss to find.
If you want to stay happy no matter what happens, let go of as much emotional and mental nonsense as possible and drop into the flow of life – release yourself into the stream of life that underlies all existence, and lose yourself in that wonderful magnificent flow. There is no common place of enlightenment – no absolute plateau of nirvana that the great masters have all achieved – it’s a sweet and personal experience, and all trains have their own destination.
How to let go of the baggage, surrender into the flow of life, let that carry you?
Make a choice. Set the intention, decide what you want in life, and commit to that. Let your personal desire and attachment to outcomes dissipate, and allow the great flow of the “Spirit of Life” do it’s work. What is that Spirit? I define it as that silent, powerful and all-pervasive essence that drives and nurtures all of existence, almost imperceptibly. Imperceptible only insofar as we are unable to recognize that we are it.
Does a koi in the pond know that beyond it’s humble home there are thousands of lakes and oceans in which fish are free to swim in almost limitless expanses of water?
“The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers….” Rabindranath Tagore
Most of us go through our lives defining ourselves by various sets of social programs and emotional baggages based on past and present interactions and experiences – physical , emotional, mental phenomena – goals, dreams, desires, and attainments, what we have and what we have not.
My recommendation is let go of as much of that unnecessary baggage as possible. Make life itself be your meditation – commit to a life of freedom and happiness and true self knowledge, a life of searching for and finding that place of happiness and contentment within yourself. Find your own personal happiness through the inner awakening of the knowledge you have latent within yourself – as it is within all beings.
Out of the billions of secrets and paths to happiness, claim your own, and find your own way. There are no paths in the jungle. Ignore the spiritual psycho-babble and enlightenment salespersons, and run from the energy vampires who will always seek to steal your new-found light.
It’s your own personal bliss that matters – your own private, intimate, immutable and indescribable personal joy – that personal power that’s only yours to seek and have – dependent on no one and nothing else.
Only you can truly know what it means to be a master of your self.
All images by Satya in India.
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