What is it that makes us either happy or unhappy? That all depends on who you ask but there are two general answers. One is epitomized in our modern material-saturated society which says we need the right house, clothes, foods, drugs, entertainment, lover, friends, profession, etc., that is, things external to ourselves. On the other hand we inherently know that what goes on inside ourselves is just as if not more important. We need to be at peace, free of those pesky internal conflicts that are the main source of all our unhappiness.
Fine, so if that’s true how do we get there? There are any number of ways as proposed by various philosophies and faiths over the ages. As you might guess, I am partial to the simplest, most effective and most practical ways, the criteria of the Taoists.
In a recent workshop I had the chance to review a simple meditation practice some 25 years after learning it the first time and was reminded of its immense value, so I will here pass it on to you.
First you pick any salient conflict you have and state it in terms of opposites. The clearer you define the issue the better. Some of the more common ones are:
I know/don’t know what I want here,
I feel fine/terrible,
I’m safe/in danger,
I want/don’t want intoxicants,
I love/hate my spouse,
I want to live/die,
and so on ad nauseum.
(I’ve deliberately used “I” but you could easily use he/she/they if it helped you to understand another person’s perspective.)
Psychology calls these neuroses and they comprise the vast majority of what we call mental illness. The Chinese might call them ghosts or simply yin/yang conflicts.
Once you’ve defined the issue as This vs. That, focus your attention on feeling what This means in your physical body, but just half of your body, left or right. What are your physical experiences when you think of This half of the problem? Then do the same thing with That in the other half of your body. Take your time to distinguish the differences clearly, on a kinesthetic, felt level.
Now stand up and shift your weight left and right feeling, experiencing each half of the problem alternately. Keep tottering back and forth until something shifts. What kind of something? Well that’s what we can’t tell you because it’s going to be unique to you and the problem.
It might suffice to say you will have a new awareness. You might feel like you’ve risen to a more panoramic view. You might realize that the whole conflict was ridiculously funny. You might embrace the opposites equally. There might be a melding. It all might disappear. You might feel a great weight has been lifted. You might even get happy. But whatever, when there is a shift you will know it.
You will know it on a subconscious level because that is where the resolution actually occurs. Really it’s better that way because our ever analytical minds tend to distract us from the real change which is organic, compelling, mysterious. Analysis? Fine and good. It does help, to a point. Reality? That’s more ineffable.
Philosophically speaking, all yin/yangs are inherently false because they are incomplete pictures of reality. I believe it was Nietzsche who elucidated this principle to Westerners. All definitions, judgements, assessments, theories, explanations, etc. are only partially true, so for your own sake don’t get hung up on any on them. Use them where they’re useful but be prepared to discard them.
It almost goes without saying, though we do forget, but the last step is to go about your life with a new perspective. And when it stops working, do it again, perhaps with a more finely tuned set of opposites.
Could it actually be all that simple? Yes it could. I find this particular practice works very quickly, more than any other. I find it very easy and it always surprises me, which makes me happy.