Four Practices of Happiness: When a Loved One Makes Painful Choices

I was providing group supervision when a therapist stated that one of her friends had committed suicide over the weekend. Over the previous four weeks I had been following along with Ruby Gangadharan and Amina Mahkdoom as they went over Four Practices of True Happiness on Amina’s Adventures facebook page. The four practices were friendliness, compassion, delight, and non-attachment. All of the four practices had a way of interweaving. Can you listen to another without having to contribute your own story i.e. fix things, persuade, cajole, advise and let go of any need to compare yourself to them or their experience. To simply let their story unfold in front of you. Can you assist others without needing to be right or elevate yourself or be faced with a feeling that their suffering has inconvenienced you or is less than and to offer that support without doing so to make ourselves feel better or to be recognized and validated? Is it possible to simply experience the joy of another person’s good fortune, excitement, or joy and to tap into that in order to celebrate their delight with them without having to “take possession” of it in any way. To be inspired without envy, to laugh with instead of be annoyed when someone is in the throes of delight that we have no direct part of? To simply recognize that we are one with them and have that be enough? Can we practice neutrality when someone takes an action that spurs us to dislike or even antagonism? Can we not only hold a sense of neutrality, i.e. allow ourselves to simply be as they are without having the “difference” between them and us be a reason for upset, but can we recognize that the frustration or anger or upset that this person is “causing us” is in fact the lesson in front of us? Can we see that their expression of the world is something we ourselves may be trying to disown or perhaps simply something for us to accept without having to make the other person bad or wrong? Could we go one step further and to fully accept the person. We do not have to agree with the behavior they are engaging in – however could we separate out the behavior from the person and provide unconditional acceptance for them as a fellow being with an expression of gratitude for them enabling us to evolve and expand our own consciousness and to close patterns within ourselves that otherwise would simply further contribute to a negative escalation? And in doing so perhaps even engage in a full transformation?
These were the practices we had been discussing over the previous weeks. The focus and practice of each of these four areas in turn over the previous weeks – friendliness, compassion, delight, and non-attachment were things – were very present when the disclosure was made. As such there were things I knew – I did not need to make the person in front of me feel better – I simply needed to be present and hear what she was expressing. I did not need to take her pain on inside of me – for it was her pain and her journey – better that I walk beside her. I did not need to have a “right” answer to validate or affirm my importance. She chose to disclose in the group – I simply needed to normalize for the group, permission for her to share what was needed so that if there were any lingering judgements in the room, they could be dispelled and everyone could affirm the importance of her disclosure knowing that the space there would also be present should, in the future, they too desire a space to express their story. I asked a few questions of simple inquiry. She shared what she wanted, shed a few tears and then we moved forward. The exchange took about ten minutes. At the end of it I affirmed who she was as a human being and asked if there was more she wanted or needed. She indicated that no, it was simply that because we had created mission statements the week before, she had a moment of feeling that she had failed her mission statement with someone close to her. The conversation shifted naturally as we talked about the importance of recognizing our own limitations – and that when someone is depressed the hardest thing for them to do is often to reach out. And yet, for their friends, it is not that they would not reach back – but that each of us is busy creating our journey. We will reach back to help another if we know it is needed – but ultimately we each have our own journey. We can choose to accept the choice of another – even a choice to end their physical journey and accept their choice, or we can perseverate on what we can no longer change. We have a choice to accept ourselves in that as well, or to focus on our limitations. The four practices interweave and dance with one another. They show us the importance of both offering support and love without the subtle price of being right or undertones of jealousy, and they also provide us with a way to step through the hardest moments of life – when another person we love dearly has made a choice that ends in their suffering or even death while we feel helpless. In these moments we can still engage in happiness. We can respect the unfolding of their story and its meaning with Friendliness whether they are alive or dead and trust that they are making the best choice for them. We can hold our hearts open in compassion and whether it is their heart or spirit offer up our prayers and blessing and even our actions should it be possible and should they want our assistance recognizing the strength both they and we ourselves gain in that moment of freely given support and open ended love. We can delight in their smallest victories as they move forward on their path and we can delight in the meaning of their life if they have passed on – celebrating all that they touched and provided no matter how they may have stumbled. For even their stumbles of headlong falls were simply opportunities for us to treasure them all the more. And finally we can step back to neutrality and accept that their journey, no matter what their current result is, even if that is death. We can be grateful that we walked alongside a reflection of ourselves and we can love their being without judgement. We can reflect on all the lessons of their life and bring those places unfinished in us to completion as we accept all that the person in front of us is or was. Namaste. I bow to God within you. Love. Joshua
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