In many spiritual practices, the aim is to remain steady. Steady emotions, steady thoughts, steady actions lead to inner calm. Inner calm allows us to connect with (our inner) divinity, and also to see the muck that surrounds us more clearly since sand settles to the bottom in calm waters.
I am not so much inclined to having temperate emotions. Perhaps it's my Latin background, but I feel, and I feel a lot. I don’t usually mind this. I enjoy feeling as deeply as I do because it means that most of the time, I am awash in love for my children, delighted as I enjoy my dark chocolate and cups of tea, deeply concentrated when doing my work, thrilled when spending time with dear friends or after getting a good night’s sleep. But I also like to be consistently happy, and for that I need to feel serene. For this reason, I pay heed to the practices that call for harmony. For me, this means constantly checking in with myself and looking out for stones along the way that could trip me on my goal of peaceful joyfulness.
And well, “what goes up, must go down.”
If you feel a sudden surge of joy at the possibility of a new job, remember, you may come crashing down if you don’t get it. If you are elated by a new romantic crush, remember, you may feel deflated when the relationship settles into normalcy or if it flops. If you are thrilled by the prospect of a trip, remember, you may be disappointed when you experience the routine travel woes.
Does this mean you shouldn’t feel excitement? Absolutely not! Feel away! But be mindful of your feelings and ask yourself why you are feeling so happy. Not only will this give you insight into yourself and your life (are you trying to escape something with this change? Are you looking for someone to help you enjoy life?), but it will help you keep your footing when the inevitable down comes along.
And I am not being pessimistic here. The inevitable down can simply be the loss of steam that takes place after anything exciting. After all, no one has the energy to sustain a constant high, no matter how great the reason. And that’s okay as that petering out of bubbling energy will allow you to return to a place of serenity, and serenity is key for consistent happiness.
Also, very often our excitement is due to the unknown and the illusions we place on it. Marriage and parenthood are two excellent examples. We go into both filled with huge feelings and filled with hope. In Mexico, the saying goes: “Marriage is like a watermelon; there is no way to know how it will be until you crack it open.” In my experience, this saying is wise. There are many things about my marriage that do not surprise me, but I could never have predicted what we have become because of the way life has shaped us and the efforts we have made to work as a unit. When it comes to parenthood, there is no way to know what it really is like. The highs are deeper than one can possibly imagine; the struggles challenging in their own unique way.
About a month ago, I was faced with a possible opportunity that thrilled me. As it seemed it would become a reality, I was consumed by excitement and happiness. I caught myself. What is it about this opportunity that makes me so happy? I asked myself. Over the course of a day, I came up with a number of answers. It would help me prove something to myself; it would get me closer to realizing a goal; it would make me feel more secure in my circumstances. Okay, I thought to myself.
A few days later, I found out the opportunity would not come to fruition. I was sad for a moment, then I went back to my reasons for wanting the opportunity. It felt like taking a deep breath of fresh air. I was able to see that the opportunity was just a means to an end, but what I really wanted was the end. Very much like desperately wanting to disconnect and hoping a trip would help me do that. I was not so much mourning the loss of the trip (heck, I don’t even have time for a trip right now!!), but the hope that I could check out and relax. That simple insight shifted my feelings. It was what I needed to break the fall.
What goes up, must go down. Don’t forget this. At first glance, it seems like a pessimistic cautionary note, but it’s actually the way to see the glass as half full--and keep it on an even shelf where the water won’t spill!