The Choice of Awakening

Many people around the world are making the choice to awaken, beginning an inner journey which, though less easy to measure than a road or rail trip, and with a destination more difficult to define, is nevertheless just as real. For most of us it begins with a heartfelt yearning for greater purpose and contentment, the recognition that ‘there has to be more to life than this’.

Whether our recognition builds up over time, or is thrust upon us by the crisis of a job loss, relationship break-up, serious illness or other personal drama, the important thing is what we do next. Do we attribute our unhappiness to our heartless former employer, our deceitful ex-partner, the fickleness of fate? Or do we recognise that we have some say in the way we feel? Do we believe that external circumstances force us to experience certain emotions we’d much rather avoid? Or are we not the inevitable victims of circumstance?

In short, can we choose the way we feel?

As a society our answer to this question is ambivalent. So much of our behaviour is based on the assumption that happiness is to be found in things which are external to ourselves—in particular, material comforts and relationships with other people. We spend a lot of our lives working to achieve or sustain a certain standard of living, a set of relationships, and sometimes the acquisition of influence or status—all the things which society seems to promote as the basis of a happy and fulfilled life. When these don’t deliver the required levels of happiness, we see no paradox in turning to mood enhancers, be they alcoholic, prescription or some other variety, which we know will do nothing for our external circumstances, but which we hope will make us feel a whole lot better about them.

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