Some say that happiness is a choice. I believe that it is grace. Perhaps it is a million choices over a million lifetimes, but I don't even agree with that. I don't think happiness can be earned. It is something beyond what could ever be deserved or undeserved. When it comes, the ego says, "I did this." But that is not true. When it comes, if you have known pain to the depths that nothing could rescue you from, the only response is gratitude. In that relief is a sense of awe that most will never know. Seeing happiness as grace is a deep and humble bow.
There are certain elements of my experience that have taught me that I am not in control. These "great teachers" ask me to surrender the idea that someone who is spiritual has mastery over the self. Even more importantly–it cleans out the thought that someone who does not have mastery is not spiritual. Even in the mind, a spiritual materialism can come in. Leading us to claim as our success or failure things that are so much more beautiful when seen as grace.
For me, one of these great teachers is depression. I am fortunate enough to have access to tools for healing and repair that are as about as powerful as they could get. And even still, from time to time, I must bow down. While fighting as hard as I can, I also take its teachings. In my work with others, this teacher trains me for a depth of compassion, pulling me back from the demand for there always to be a simple answer. Pulling me back from the compulsion to say, "well, if you would only to [this]." It asks of me a continuous engagement of miraculous possibility and reverence in the face of all we do not know. As for my personal spiritual practice, this teacher gives the deepest one. It asks me to answer again and again, "which is greater, your devotion or your pain?"
So far, I am grateful to say, my devotion has always been stronger. And each time the teacher comes, the devotion must widen again. The beauty of devotion is learned. There is a sense in which we are one with God AND there is the sense where, in our experience of separation, the beauty of devotion comes in.
The question is, "are you willing to walk in the dark?" How much proof do you demand? Of course you are willing to dance in the light, but what about Winter? What about when there are no guarantees? Are you willing to continue when you can't even see the next step? Are you willing to be a part of this, even if you may never get to know what this is? Are you willing to love yourself, god, life... even through the pain? (um, not there yet! But are you willing to try?). In the age of the belief in the universal vending machine, are you willing to serve god, even if it seems god does not serve you?
Don't get me wrong. I would welcome the day that this teacher and my time together is over. Again and again, I am open to grace and it does come. And, when it does, I feel it with the awe of knowing that it is beyond my own doing. On a practical note, (since people tend to worry when there is an honest sharing, just because it is so rare), I will tell you that I am so much better than I could be. I used to be physically sick all the time, and more and more, I have made it through that. As for depression, I far surpass what my genetics and life experience would predict, though not nearly approaching what I know is possible. But, if that day does come that this teacher and I part ways, I will happily live more and more in that grace, but will never forget the things that so many are fortunate enough not to see. I will never forget what a tremendous act of courage it is to simply live another day. I will know with utter certainty that no one "wants" to be in pain and of course would choose otherwise if they could. I will take nothing for granted, and constantly step down off of any high horse I accidentally find myself on. And I will do my best to remember that any moment of goodness is grace that could never be earned.