The Secret of Happiness.

There is a Russian folktale about a magnificent horse who lived deep in the endless forest. It was wild and free. It was said that it could never be caught or tamed.

The prince of the land was secretly put out that the wonderful creature was not his to possess. He had every other material thing his heart desired. Why not this? And so he dragged his long face around the castle all day, muttering and complaining that this one treasure eluded him.

It seemed to him that his misery was the wild horse’s fault because he would not be caught and tamed. Just the thought that it was out there somewhere being all wild and free filled him with frustration and bitterness. He gritted his teeth and hardened his heart, resolving to capture the beast or die trying.

So he saddled one of the stable nags and rode out into the forest to begin his search. He searched and searched. His fine clothes got torn in the undergrowth. Thorns scratched his arms and face. He lost his crown. He lost his way..

Days became weeks and the weeks became years. His beard grew long and his hair became matted. Still he rode on, forcing the poor stable nag deeper and deeper into the endless forest.

One day, as he urged the  stable nag on, he caught a fleeting glimpse of his quarry. He charged forward and gave chase but no matter how fast he rode or how hard he kicked the poor stable nag, the wonderous creature of the forest stayed just out of reach. In fact, the faster he rode the more the wild horse seemed to gain the lead.

He rode all day. Then he rode all night. Then he got very, very tired. He hurt all over. His bum was numb and his bones all ached. He was finding it hard just to think straight. All his muttering to himself began to mutter back. As he chuntered about how unfair life was being, the muttering pointed out that life wasn’t supposed to be fair.

When he complained about how unprincely it was to be shaken about like a bag of bones, the muttering reminded him of the simple delights of a feather bed. When his hunger clawed at his belly the muttering reminded him how delicious a piece of bread could be. When he moaned about the wickedness of the wild horse, the muttering drew his attention to the terrible state of the stable nag.

And the muttering had a wicked chuckle in it.

It began to pull his leg. It drew his attention to the fact that his servants were all happier than him despite his mountains of stuff. His muttering asked what difference one more thing mounted up on his great pile of things might make to his life. It dug him in the ribs and told him he was a tyrant.

The prince looked down at the poor sweaty stable nag gasping and clawing for breath. He suddenly felt ashamed and stopped, slid out of the saddle and heedless of his own pains, unbuckled it and let it fall to the floor. The stable nag was raw and bleeding. He felt a sudden wave of sorrow and shame. He realised how true and faithful the stable nag had been all this time, how little he had appreciated her efforts, what company she had been, how he had depended on her.

He stood still for a moment and looked up at the sky. He took in the green of the great and endless forest as if for the very first time and allowed himself to marvel at it all. Softly he led the stable nag to a quiet pool and let her drink while he rested. He began to reflect upon how fortunate he was, how wonderful it was just to be alive. He thought about how even the bad things in life drew people together and helped them find what they were made of.

And then he heard the soft footfall of unshod hooves behind him, warm breath suffused the back of his neck and the soft mane of the wild horse fell against his face.

Several years ago a book, ‘the Secret’, sold millions of copies. It got rave reveiws and was endlessly quoted but was little understood. Its message got distorted into the notion that if we imagine what we want in life hard enough, made out that it was already ours, then it would somehow magically appear. Its message was lost and after a brief fireworks show, it sank without trace.

We are so imbued with the idea that our happiness is somewhere over the rainbow that even profound teaching to the contrary is simply hitched to the wagon of  pursuing ‘the dream’. Our western culture is so ridden through with the idea that happiness is just around the corner so long as you work hard enough for it that we cannot see how impoverishing such a belief system can be and how we flog ourselves to death in its name. The ‘pursuit of happiness’ is even written into the American constitution as an inalienable right, forgetting that we alienate ourselves from happiness itself as soon as we look for it in somewhere other than where we are right now.

Happiness cannot be gained or worked for. We can’t make it happen. Wishing doesn’t make it so. The essence of ‘the secret’ is so contrary to our ideas about how life should be that we can’t see what’s right in front of us.

Life’s abundance is rooted in gratitude.

Try this… take five minutes to sit quietly and run through all the things you are grateful for. Notice how your heart is lifted in the process…. and then keep tabs on how your day pans out. Like attracts like. Its one of the few rules the Universe is ordered by.

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Psychotherapist/writer/artist/ author of, 'Going Mad to Stay Sane', a psychology of self-destructiveness, about to come into its third edition. Soon to be printed for the first time, 'Abundant Delicious.. the Secret and the Mystery', described by activist Satish Kumar as, ' A Tao of the Soul'. This book documents the archetypal country through which the process of individuation occurs and looks at the trials and tribulations we might expect on the way. In the meantime..... Narcissisim is the issue of our age. This blog looks at how it operates, how it can damage and how we may still fruit despite it.

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