The Problem – The Ultimate Problem
The problem, the ultimate problem for us humans is lack of happiness. It manifests in various forms; suicide, war, rape, depression, greed, lust, dishonesty and so on. Quite apart from seeing the unhappiness as manifested in society, there are very few people who enjoy total contentment and peace. Even for a person who has “it all” in human terms they are still left with the problem of facing their personal death, sickness and the lack of control over having any tragedy befall them.
Really, what I have just listed are the symptoms of the problem. The problem is one of misidentification, we do not know who or what we really are. We are confused about what is our true nature. If you are anything like I was when still seeking, this statement is likely to seem baffling and outrageous. In fact, it may even seem offensive.
But, there it is.
Unhappiness, discontent, anxiety, fear, come from thinking that we are a separate, small, isolated, perishable individuals and consequently we are always trying to impress others and fit-in and improve ourselves, in an attempt to shield ourselves from the insecurity of the situation.
The spiritual path, as I write about it, is a path of undoing the misidentifications. We can’t easily simply switch our identification from this vulnerable state to what we would like because the identifications are hidden from our normal view and deeply entrenched in our psyches. They are hidden in the assumptions of how we live our lives.
For instance, the desire to accumulate wealth is driven by the assumption that we will not have enough so we try to shore up resources for the rainy day in the future, a future that may never come.
We cannot easily drop this assumption. First off, we have to be able to see it in action and then see how it is affecting the various aspects of our life. We may find that in our drive to accumulate wealth we are not spending time with our family or not going on holidays or not having time to enjoy the things we enjoy. It is only in first uncovering the assumption and then observing how it is affecting our life that we will be able to challenge and change it.
Can you identify any of your assumptions, the driving force behind how you spend your time?
Is it really sensible to spend your time chasing anything at the expense of present happiness?
Many is the person who found themselves on their death bed regretting that they had spent their lives chasing something that they could not take with them.
I know that immediately some of you will counteract this statement with the question, “are you suggesting that I do not work at all or become a hedonist?” No, that is not what I am saying!
I am saying that until you look at how you are spending your time and what assumptions are driving that lifestyle, you may be chasing rainbows. What a pity to find this out at the end of your life rather than earlier on when you can do something about it!
This act of looking to see what assumptions are underpinning your daily activities is often referred to as self-inquiry. It is not any abstract thing. All you need is yourself and a willingness to assess your own life as it actually is, to do this.
Very often, it is only when things have gone wrong that we are willing to ask ourselves, “where did I go wrong?”
But, you don’t have to wait for things to go radically wrong to start this process in yourself.
One thing that stops people from doing this is that we have all learned low expectations. We can’t imagine that a human being could be totally free of insecurity and unhappiness. We set our sights at doing as well as can be expected and often pin our hopes of something better in the after life – if there is one. As often as not, it is a case of tolerating what we cannot control.
We have learned to live with low grade anxiety and to distract ourselves from it by various entertainments, and this is when things are good.
In the process of uncovering our assumptions, and making the necessary changes that challenge these faulty assumptions we are undergoing a process of identity change. We are moving from our false, small, vulnerable identification towards a more secure and wholesome identity. Our true nature is not small and vulnerable and prone to death but it is only in questioning our learned assumptions that we are likely to be graced with a full revelation of what we truly are.
Whether or not we are graced with the final revelation, the quality of our daily lives is bound to improve in the direction of greater freedom and happiness.
One way I first came across this idea of misidentification as being the problem was in the statement;
There’s a tenant living in your home and that tenant is a domineering one – or words to that effect.
The tenant is what we often refer to as “the ego” and “home” is what you truly are.