The most direct way to access true happiness is to bring more consciousness into our lives. In order to do that, we have to be willing to take an honest look at our experience. This can often be a challenging endeavor. It’s been said that self-awareness is usually bad news. But the alternative is going through our lives unconsciously. That route almost guarantees repeating habitual behavior based in greed or aversion that will likely lead to more suffering for others and ourselves. We might think that ignorance is bliss but in the long run, as we are willing to face the truth, we can wake up and create genuine well-being for ourselves.
Something deep within us loves the truth. We are wired up for it. If someone exaggerates or is not completely straight with us we sense that and are wary. When someone is dishonest we call that person a crook – they are crooked, not straight with the truth. How different when we are around someone who is sincere, honest, and authentic. We feel open and at ease; we can relax as we feel we can trust another.
In Buddhist philosophy truthfulness with ourselves and others is the foundation for inner peace. When we are out of integrity our conscience soon lets us know that something is off. Whether or not we’re willing to listen to it is the big question. Do you remember the old Walt Disney movie Pinocchio? Jiminy Cricket’s deep wisdom song was “Let Your Conscious Be Your Guide.” No matter what your age this is true.
We also love to hear the truth. People go to a church, synagogue, temple or mosque or listen to talks on Buddhist philosophy because they love to hear the truth. When we say an inward or outward “Amen” we’re agreeing with what’s being said. It feels good just to be reminded of what we know to be true inside. We go to the movies or read books and long for a just resolution at the end. When I was growing up I loved watching the classic TV series Perry Mason. At the end there would usually be the dramatic courtroom scene. As the cornered criminal would finally shout out, “Alright I did it!” there was always a sigh of relief. Finally, the truth had come out.
Although we long for the truth, it’s important to understand that our truth isn’t always The Truth. In a world of impermanence, our beliefs and opinions change. Do you have the same perspective about things that you had when you were a teenager? Probably not. One of the hardest things to do is to realize how attached we are to our ideas and opinions and realize that someone else may see things differently in a way that makes perfectly good sense to them.
I remember taking my mother to hear a talk by my Spirit Rock colleague, Sylvia Boorstein. In the talk, Sylvia shared a practice that she had been using to remind herself that maybe she should allow in other perspectives. She would say to herself, “I could be wrong.” After the talk I asked my mother what she thought of it. My mom, bless her heart, said, “You know that practice, ‘I could be wrong?’ That never occurred to me before!” We both had a big laugh at that one. I got a lot of mileage out of it in her later years.
So although we are wired up to love the truth, it is an ongoing, living exploration. We have to be willing to let go of our attachment to our opinions when we see things in a new way. And we need to forgive ourselves and others for the ways that the mind convinces us that we know what the truth is. This is a very humbling and yet liberating way of living our lives. To do this we have to be more in love with the truth then with being right. Then life will continue to reveal itself to us.
As we fall in love with truth and have a commitment to let it take us wherever it does, we make life a continual adventure. As we deepen our understanding and let life surprise us we can awaken to the whole curriculum which includes, as the Taoists describe life, the 10,000 joys and the 10,000 sorrows. And if we are willing look for the deepest truth with honesty, curiosity and humility it will take us to the most profound happiness and purity of heart. As the great sage, J. Krishnamurti said, “It is the truth that liberates, not our efforts to be free.”