There is a reoccurring theme in what I've been reading these past few days. It's no mystery why since I have been consciously drawn to literature about healing. It's the one piece amidst the chaos in our world that feels good to me right now.
Our personal path in life keeps coming up, and it just as well be, as I personally have been wondering about my own path and purpose.
In Taoism, the "right" path is not what we have been conventionally taught in this society: it's not a beeline towards success. That linear path that we have been taught to follow in order to achieve happiness is actually the cause of much of our unhappiness. This is not to say that all of those who have followed a beeline path to success are unhappy. It's not our business to point fingers and determine for others if they are happy or not. However, we should acknowledge that gains achieved from conventional ideas of success may be conflating with true happiness.
Happiness, according to Tao, is found in the journey of the right path. The right path is amorphous and only takes shape as we walk on it. It's a path that is formed through our interactions with others, the environment and with ourselves. The right path is formed by listening to our heart and being aware of those around us. It's formed by being attuned to the world around us and being able to work with what we have. Harvard Professor, Michael Puett explains that the right path is about our ability to respond to the world, to respond to the calls and to be in touch with that. It's about understanding the dynamic between our actions and its radical impact on others.
By contrast, the wrong path is focusing solely on a fixed goal and only aiming for personal success without regard for the those around us, including the animals and plants that sustain us.
But how do we embrace the right path and give way to its creation when we have obligations to do well financially and afford a certain standard of living to allow us to eat well, live well, and be well? How do we build our right path if the wrong path is what is permissible in this society, allowing us access to things and resources that give us comfort....and happiness?
The shortest answer is to simply reevaluate and redefine. The standards we want to live up to, are they truly necessary? Are the things we want to own or do in order to feel good or accomplished, are they necessary? Do they resonate with our core being? Answers to these questions can only be answered authentically if they are to reveal truths that can guide us to live more holistically and mindfully.
However, there is a behavior in yoga philosophy called Samskara, a yoga philosophy that explains deep psychological messages that repeat themselves and affect how we perform or react. These messages or beliefs are created in response to a striking childhood event--either good or bad. The belief we develop enters into the subconscious realm. It's the bad ones we need to be aware of, as the most often present in the form of "I am not good enough". It is the perpetual "I am not good enough" thought that gets in our way and makes us feel inadequate. External influences like social pressure can certainly affect our internal ideas of ourselves but, internally, we also produce our own horrible ideas about ourselves that affect our psyche and our daily routines--these usually stem from childhood responses we've developed to an unfortunate event. Author of "Addicted to Love", Jan Geurtz points out that the feeling "I'm not good enough" leads us to personal convictions such as "I have to be successful", or "I can't make mistakes", or "I need to have xyz so that I don't look poor", which make us compulsive perfectionists that feed off of other people's recognition.
These behavioral patterns run so deep that they affect how we see reality and set expectations for our life, and often lead us down the wrong path, as opposed to creating the right one.
In my next blog post, I will share some strategies that help realign our thinking so that we can start creating a right path.
Photo Credit: Happinez Magazine