Happiness Day 29

Find your inspiration.

I can’t believe it’s been 29 days of focusing on happiness!

I’ll save the recap for tomorrow’s post because today I’m inspired to write about inspiration.

Inspiration is life, my friends.

It comes from the Latin for “breathe into” or “blow upon” like when we blow on the embers of a fire and it springs to life.

But you can’t miss the allusion to Genesis where God created humanity by breathing His spirit into the clay form of the first man.

We are divine spirit in a physical body, and when we feel inspired it’s like we’re receiving a fresh influx of that life-giving breath.

Forget about problems! What inspires you?

Today some contrast helped me to remember an old fear I’ve been keeping alive.

It’s the old fear of not understanding instructions, not knowing what I’m supposed to be doing, and so failing and falling behind and losing hope.

I took those experiences to heart at a young age and resigned myself to having to work things out on my own, in my own way.

I resigned myself to never really understanding, and never succeeding in the “proper” way.

I’m so glad this memory came up, and I’m really appreciating all the work I’ve done to feel better this past month.

Because it only took me an hour or so to allow the answer to come.

All those experiences of “failure” and “not understanding” were about other people’s tasks. School projects, friends’ games, parents’ chores: they were all about being a follower.

Never did I fail at something I was inspired to do! Never have I failed to understand something I actually care about.

Choose your focus

For years I’ve blamed myself for failing at all these “important” things. And yet the real problem all along is that I had no interest in these things in the first place. They were never important to me.

And if you live your life focusing on things that don’t inspire you, of course you won’t succeed. Of course you won’t feel good. Because deep down you don’t even care!

I didn’t care, but I thought I had to care, and so I kept pushing myself and feeling worse and hating it more and blaming myself.

Tell a new story

Well now I know, and I understand perfectly what I need to do. I need to tell a new story that omits all the useless crap I never cared about, and focus instead on what actually inspires me!

I want to look out at life and see a landscape populated by sources of inspiration only.

I want to wake up eagerly wondering what inspired activities I’m going to do today.

And I want to be very deliberately conscious of how good I am at everything I do.

Because I’m no longer going to waste my time on things that don’t inspire me.

I’m going to devote myself to things that feel good, fill me with life, and make that divine spark within me grow bright.

Taking what is offered.

Lately I’ve been reading about “acceptance” as a spiritual practice.

To accept means to take what is offered.

Acceptance as a spiritual practice is about taking life as something offered, especially the parts of life we usually reject, deny, ignore, or struggle against.

The Old Testament begins with the story of the origins of human suffering.

In this story, human beings once existed in a world that was entirely good.

Eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil opened the first humans’ eyes to good and evil, ruptured their relationship with God and brought about suffering and death.

The orthodox interpretation is simple: human life and happiness lies in union with God. Yet the first humans ate from the tree against God’s explicit command. Regardless of the precise significance of the tree itself, the act of disobedience was enough to break the relationship with God and introduce suffering and death into human experience.

Obedience comes from the Latin obedire which literally means to listen, or to hear. It is fitting in this context that humanity fell from the paradise of communion with God because they ceased to listen to God and instead sought to be “like God” in their own right, through knowledge of good and evil.

Nor does the story say that they were wrong. They did become “like God”, and their eyes were opened to good and evil.

In our own experience, knowledge of good and evil doesn’t refer to an objective, theoretical understanding, but to an immediate, practical and subjective sense of what is good and bad for us. We see the world in terms of our own personal profit and loss.

One interpretation of the death and resurrection of Christ is as the ultimate sign of how we can return to paradise – through a reversal of the fall.

The crucifixion that formed the central motif of Christianity for millennia denotes an act of faithful acceptance of suffering and death in direct opposition to the knowledge of good and evil that otherwise rules our lives.

In anticipation of his death, Christ’s words encapsulate the answer to the fall:

Going a little farther, He fell facedown and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Christ’s crucifixion and death is presented as the ultimate atonement on behalf of all humanity. Atone is a contraction of “at one”, its literal meaning is the same as union or communion.

The union of God and humanity was broken by the human pursuit of knowledge of good and evil. The path to re-union is indicated by Christ’s acceptance of God’s will for him. As the quotation above demonstrates, the answer to the fall is to accept God’s will in spite of our sorrow and suffering. Knowledge of good and evil is thus not extinguished or abandoned. It is still there, just as the tree of knowledge stood in the garden both before the fall and after. But putting the will of God ahead of the knowledge of good and evil means we no longer eat the fruit of that tree.

The way of the cross is the return to paradise, as Genesis tells us:

“at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.”

The way to paradise is guarded by a flaming sword, just as the way to eternal life is found through death on a cross. The way to the tree of life looks like death. In losing our life, we save it. We can’t return to the garden without passing through the fire.

What does all of this have to do with acceptance?

Acceptance means to willingly take what is offered, and if we apply it to the sufferings and struggles in life it implies not only that we willingly take them, but that we regard them as something offered.

Eden is not a literal garden; the paradise consists in union with God. This union cannot be attained if we adhere to our own subjective sense of what is good and bad for us. Acceptance of the life we are given does not mean pretending that everything is good. It means that we align our will with something greater than our own sense of good and evil, profit and loss.

That is the choice before us. If we adhere to our sense of good and evil we will continue to pursue a self-interest dictated by fear and desire, struggling against the reality before us. If we accept reality in spite of our fears and desires, then we are accepting the life that is offered us right now by God.

Maybe your first thought is “well God can keep that reality, I don’t want it”. But that’s pretty much the point here. Acceptance is a different state from our usual play of good and evil.

If you think it would be pretty bad to accept parts of your reality, then you’re operating from the knowledge of good and evil. If you think you can try accepting this bad reality just to see if it changes into a good reality, then you’re still operating from the knowledge of good and evil.

That’s why accepting reality is so hard. It’s hard because it transcends our usual measures of good and evil. It takes us to a place we almost never visit, a place where we are no longer ruled and burdened by obsessive self-interest.

But let me tell you again that it is hard. Really, really hard.