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  • Brian Tom O'Connor

Enlightenment vs. Happiness

Awareness Games grew out of a spiritual search, which in turn grew out of my psychological search for happiness and an end to depression, anxiety, and emotional suffering. But I hope and believe that the games will be useful to people with no interest in spirituality. I developed them based on observation of my direct experience.

It was not always this way, but now my relationship to the idea of enlightenment or awakening is simply one of intense curiosity. What do all those folks mean when they say they’ve seen that the separate self does not exist? What do they mean when they say “I am not the body?” What do they mean when they say the world is an illusion? I would love to find out for myself in direct experience. But am I going to make myself unhappy because I haven’t discovered this yet? No way. The main reason I started looking for enlightenment was because I wanted to be happy! And now I’m going to make myself unhappy because some future event called “enlightenment” or “awakening” hasn’t yet occurred? Absolutely not! Especially when happiness is available right now, right here, and is always available twenty-four-seven, no matter what.

Happiness is available right now in the mirror-like spaciousness of pure awareness, which is what everything that’s appearing is appearing in. Like a mirror, It’s choiceless; it doesn’t decide to include the table and not the chair. It’s unconditional love. It’s the empty background of all appearance. It’s joy and acceptance and happiness itself. Pure awareness is your true self, and it never lets you down. It is open to all experience, good and bad, painful and pleasurable, turbulent and peaceful, anxious and calm, objectionable and praiseworthy… in fact, even happy or sad. Awareness is happy even when you’re sad. How’s that for a paradox?

So there doesn’t have to be an event in the future, a crash of cymbals and rattle of drums, for us to discover joy and peace and love and happiness. It’s here now. Now. Here. This.

“But,” you protest, “I don’t want what’s here now to be the way it is! I don’t want this to be happening! I don’t want to be the way I am. I don’t want other people to act the way they do!” Even those feelings are appearing in pure awareness completely without resistance. In awareness, resistance is not resisted. The screen is not affected by the movie playing on it.

So don’t wait for enlightenment. Be the screen, be the background, ease out the clutching against the way things are, play Awareness Games, and uncover the infinite well of joy behind all experience, good, bad, or ugly.

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