Mandy Snook talks about personal growth, and explores the question, 'what is happiness?'
Everything and everyone needs space to grow. A potted plant’s growth is confined by the size and shape of its container - the vessel that confines the plant must be shed, removed, shattered in order to free the roots and allow unrestricted growth. Only then is the real potential of the plant seen and appreciated. Strong stems, glossy leaves, abundant blossoms spring forth. Its intended, genetic shape and size become apparent and glorious, almost unrecognisable. There is no growth without change.
Change is something most of us find hard to accept. It introduces discomfort into our predictable and manageable worlds. We tend to think of change in relation to new jobs, responsibility roles, moving home, developing a new relationship, becoming a parent, starting one’s own business or having a career shift, all of which require an adjustment of perspective and expectations.
Change often adds a dimension of stress, self-doubt and anxiety. We resent its intrusion; hands balled into fists, we fight its attempt to set us free from the ordinary, the mundane. A negative connotation hovers, clouding its true blessings. Yet, the truth is that it shakes us and forces us out of our confinements into a wider space, into new possibilities, adding ‘nutrients’ and the opportunity to show our real selves.
If we have the courage to embrace change, it allows us to experience spiritual and emotional growth. As we learn that the material world, which cushions and cossets us is transient, never enough and illusionary; we are forced to find our true growth in a different dimension. As our worlds crack, collide and painfully disintegrate we are left with more space. Good space. Space that can be filled with divine presence, self-knowledge, humility and awareness. We let go of the greedy ego that is never satisfied - me, me, me! Seeking control, power, prestige, beauty, money - it just never stops and it is exhausting because it’s never enough.
That big, old ego feeds off the worldly things and overwhelms us, fills us to the point of squeezing out happiness. We become competitive and dissatisfied. I had catch-up time with a friend today, who asked a simple question, “What is happiness?” We explored the possibilities of what could bring happiness and agreed that No Thing fills the void. We remain stunted, trapped in our pots like an undersized palm tree if we continue to yearn for material wealth and approval from others.
The realisation that true joy comes from accepting our situations and knowing that everything is as it should be. We can let go of our pasts and our worries about the future, not in defeat but in the knowledge that there is positive change happening within and without. No more clutching, fighting and grappling to bend things to our way of thinking, forcing people and situations to change to fit in with what we believe to be the right way, the only way. We have to let life flow, accepting change as a good thing.
I find myself imagining a traveller embarking on a tedious and challenging journey, with almost impossible heights to scale and treacherous waters to navigate. The goal is set. Our traveller is well-equipped. Huge backpack stocked with every imaginable survival gadget, dried food, warm clothes, sleeping bag, billy can, first-aid pack, sunscreen...she’s hanging on to every last item in case she needs it. The going gets tough and she still clings to everything she is carrying. It becomes impossible to make progress with the weight on her back. What becomes the priority, to keep the belongings or to change the strategy to reach the goal?
The world has recently lost one of the greatest authors of our modern world, Toni Morrison, who died at the age of 88. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 and wrote extensively about the identity of African-Americans in America. Her writing encouraged the breakdown of stereotypical views to make space for truthful, expansive representation of people. She spoke bluntly and in words that we all understand, ‘You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.’ Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon. At what point do we willingly make changes and do what is good for us?
Being stuck in an unhappy situation for any length of time requires change and action. Staying stuck doesn’t teach us anything at all. We all need to be free of discontent, self-pity and complaining. To grow into happiness, we have to be brave, to take action and go peacefully and confidently through those valleys and mountains, accepting what comes our way and experience what life really is - soul growth and enlightenment.