‘Maybe you think you’ll be entitled to more happiness later by forgoing all of it now, but it doesn’t work that way. Happiness takes as much practice as unhappiness does. It’s by living that you live more. By waiting you wait more. Every waiting day makes your life a little less. Every lonely day makes you a little smaller. Every day you put off your life makes you less capable of living it.’
~ Ann Brashares
This was posted on a druidry facebook wall recently. Someone questioned that it had anything to do with being a bard, ovate or druid. I though my answer was pretty much a blog post in itself so here is a tidied up version of it for you.
In my view and experience, self knowledge is a key foundation for any other spiritual development, it is therefore very relevant. Engaging in life is essential to achieve any realistic self knowledge – this passage urges us to do that. A good broad self knowledge also involves knowing how to train yourself to be a constructive positive person
(if you so chose and if you want to be a positive influence on the world around you then you will likely eventually find that you need to heal and become positive and willing to engage and act, as the quote say to Live more).
What is the point in saying, in public rituals “may there be peace/love throughout the world” if we do not give peace and love, if we give lip service and yet inside ourself we feed festering resentments and wounds against bits of that world.
Sure in doing that you shouldn’t hide your negative traits or suppress them, that’s like ignoring a physical wound, it gets infected and gets worse and can end up disabling because of it. However you can reduce your negative traits if you want and are willing to make the effort, and no, it isn’t easy. By understanding their sources we can address the pain and clean out the wound, and heal them. Rather than cling onto our wounds as some kind of damaged birthright, a battle scar we insist on the right to have even though it poisins us, we can chose to continue growing and healing.
One of the ways to do that is by practicing happiness and gratitude for what we have.
In doing we heal our minds and start to make up for any lack of nuturing or any pain and neglect
the past experience of which makes us less than loving, positive and able to engage with the world around us.
(Real measurable physical changes happen in the brain as well as habits changing when we meditate and practice
gratitude and happiness)
If you fully own your own emotions and live them, and go beyond that and understand them, all of them, and heal the wounds, and look after yourself, then you can actually be happy through the saddest of times and great losses even.
I have been happy, during the experience, that i have had the honour of being with a beloved pet as she died, that she went naturally and stayed nuzzled to my hand to the end, that i was able to give her a good life and have the joy of her in mine. I lived the experience completely. I didn’t like that she was dying, I didn’t think watching her die was fun, but it was an honour and a fascinating experience. Sure I spent a good while after she’d gone sobbing my heart out and barely able to stand, I had my insides ripped out emotionally. I felt urges to cry whilst she was dying, but i knew that would distress her and I would do her more good by being calm, so I asked my emotions to please wait, stepped out of the room to gather myself once, but was able to remain calm and loving all through the experience. It was an incredibly dark time, I was very alone, I don’t avoid dark, I understand balance, I’ve seen the twisted dark too.
In my view the suppression of all dark and imposition of all light without understanding the dark leads to acting out, all kinds of problems and a distinct lack of balance. Equally though indulging the damaged dark, encouraging the wolf who is fear and hatred inside us is the other extreme and is equally unhealthy. Allowing expeirences to happen and engaging with them fully, but still making positive choices and being grateful for the things which make us happy and focussing on them when we remember to do so is the health balance. It is the moderate dark and moderate light mixture which it is healthy to engage in, which doesn’t pervert our character into something permenantly damaged by our choices in life.
That bereavement I lived through so vividly was an intense healthy dark, it didn’t come from old festering wounds, it was a fresh one, the kind you take the cut from and then use the happy and properly living to heal it healthily so it doesn’t skew your future disproportionately. i knew I was crying in the time afterwards to release the tension and because I knew I would miss her bright little soul, I almost floated to find someone else who would let me not be alone as I was so out of myself with grief, I still have moments where I miss her now, but it doesn’t really hurt, it’s just the way life is, I accept it because I can’t change it, and because i practice positivity my reaction on remembering her is to be grateful i knew her, touched by her last moments. Not to mention I can get creative and say if I really want to see her I can do a meditation to visit our memories together.
That’s not imposed or suppressed happiness, that’s a natural reaction, no it didn’t always used to happen, I worked hard to get here. I also work hard at doing just what the quote says – living properly, being in the moment, taking what happiness there is and enjoying it. Practicing gratitude for what I do have, and where i would be tempted to regret or resent what i don’t – actually doing something positive about it and being grateful that I have the chance to change it, even if what i do is change my thinking about things i have no way of changing the reality of.
We can chose to live life waiting, in pain, resenting, blaming others, or we can grasp our lives and make them into a force of good in the world in a way which suits our character, to do that we need to know ourselves, to know our true selves we need the damage of our history dealt with and healed. We are far more than a collection of seeping wounds, knowing the self behind the wounds is, I would think, one of the real happinesses in life, and really valuable if you are to do anything well, including being a bard, ovate or druid, or even just being a decent human being.
So in my world in many ways, that quote about living fully and in the moment absolutely is to do with being a bard/ovate/druid. It’s one of the key things about it.
It’s not really all about wafting around in robes, telling stories and singing songs, or mixing herbs and reading omens, or casting special magical spells.
Often the most powerful and deepest magic is the stuff we work on ourselves.