A story that I impose upon the events of life goes like this. I was raised Catholic in a loving and strict household. When I went off to college I wanted to be President because I thought it would enable me to help the greatest number of people. When I headed off I also knew deep within, that college would test the ideas that I had been brought up with. I wondered what I would be like when I had to think for myself. My sophomore year of college I took a course that exploded my mind. I had always been something of a feminist. In high school when we read “Lord of the Flies”, a story about little boys stranded on an island and the breakdown in civility that occurs, I remember being the only one to suggest that it would have been different if it had been all little girls on the island. My feminism is different now, but the class that exploded my mind, Political Thinking About Women, made me examine so many of my beliefs about how society was organized and how frequently the feminine was lost or devalued. Much of what I was exposed to conflicted with my Catholic upbringing yet it resonated deeply. I could see that it made sense and that this perspective was driven by love, compassion and a desire for justice and equality. I struggled to reconcile my Catholicism and my burgeoning feminism . I also met someone who would much later become my life partner. At the end of my sophomore year however, we parted as friends as she went into the world to pursue her own dreams of helping people. When she left, I was incredibly bereft and searching. She was perhaps the first person that I truly loved. My junior year I met another woman and I reinvented myself in the image of what I projected she wanted. In the end I lost touch with reality. I became mentally ill and had to be hospitalized. My friends found me one morning wandering campus mumbling to myself about marriage, Christ and the Resurrection. Since then I have had a number of other episodes in which I have lost touch with reality, even one as few as three years ago, though I have managed to avoid an episode for as long as 14 years. The psychiatrists have classified me as bi-polar.
So why do I relay this story? Why do I circumsribe the events of life with a narrative and labels that appear to give a cohesive understanding or picture? Well in this case, I do it because I want to suggest the opposite; that no one is fact their story. I write it but I am not identified with it. I do not see limitations to the completeness of who I am based on what has happened in life. They are just events that pass through a space that is much deeper, richer and untouchable. It may seem like once I am classified, once I am labeled, one can understand me, but is that true? In truth there is such depth to everything that in the realm of form we can only know very little about something. In the realm of stillness however, we can "know" the wholeness of something to its core. I write it to suggest that those who have struggled with depression or bi polar disease or any other mental illness or any other malady for that matter can know peace contentment and presence. The key lies in not being attached to the story and in remembering who you are at the deepest level.
It is easy to become attached to the particular label of mental or other illness that a doctor proscribes. And the reality is that we may be limited in what we are able to do by what the doctor says. We may have to operate under certain parameters such as being on medication or confinement to a wheelchair. Let those limitations awaken you, let them teach you wholeness by truly being with that limitation and seeing if in fact that very real limitation binds who you are at the deepest level. It is not what we do or do not do that makes us complete, or whole. Ultimately our actions do not even have the ability to make us content or happy. Happiness comes from the inside. You have heard it before, but what does it really mean. It means that peace, happiness and contentment are available to us in any moment, even the "difficult" ones, even in our worldly limitations. It is simply up to us to clear the layers between our open heart and the world which we are. Happiness, contenment, peace and joy come from remembering in every cell, our limitless "self" and embracing the moment we are in.
Experiment - Sit quietly for 5 minutes. At the end of the five minutes mentally list or even write down all the things that would make you happy if you had them. Now spend a few minutes going through what has actually made you happy in your life and list those things. Are they similar or different? Does it take much to make you happy? Look deeply, why do you think you were "happy" during some of the things you named? Try to get to the bottom of why? Was it really something the thing gave you or was it more about a simple connection and attention. Is that connection and attention only available when that something is around or is it something you could bring to whatever is before you? How does the space you were in relate to your happiness? Who are you without those things that would make you happy? What would happen if you embraced whatever is coming up for you in this moment with compassion? Do not worry. There are no wrong answers. This was just an exercise, hopefully playful, at looking at the conditions for happiness.
Stories are wonderful perspectives on truth. They are entertaining, lovely, riveting, wondrous, and at times helpful, and informative. They are like looking through one face in a diamond crystal. Some part of reality is shown but not all of it. To look through another facet of the diamond, another story, is to see another element of truth. Ultimately however, truth, which is who we all are, cannot ever be captured by a story. So liberate yourself from your story by remembering in each moment the full glory of your being.