By Nic Higham

“Beneath the stories about who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going is a deep receptivity which is both creative and accepting—it is the fundamental nondual source and also the unconditional embrace of your stories. It’s what I call Deep Knowing: an all-encompassing awareness that holds every experience.”

Shraddha is a Sanskrit term whose nearest English equivalent is “faith,” although this isn’t a brilliant translation. “Conviction” is another loose translation. Shraddha means “that which is placed in the heart.” When we take an honest look into our hearts, we find many unquestioned beliefs we’ve been holding onto for a long time. We can ask: “In what way do my fears and desires divert me from tranquility?” These structural beliefs form an unconscious map of reality which dictates our perception of ourselves and the world. As the Bhagavad Gita says, “A person is what his shraddha is”. Whatever we hold with affection and conviction becomes highly influential in our lives; it stimulates our action and shapes our behavior, leading us toward our idea of fulfillment.

We’ve crowded our hearts with limited beliefs that will never capture the wholeness of life, because inherent within every belief is desire and fear, but life is free of both. Our perspective is often narrowed and distorted by desires and fears, most of which we’ve inadvertently absorbed from our culture. Desire and fear are the two main narratives that make up our suffering. Unknowingly, we get lost in this push-pull tug-of-war, or more precisely, we lose ourselves in it, and we can’t find lasting peace and fulfillment. But through mindful inquiry, our beliefs are held lightly and are allowed to unfold and dissolve, and so our shraddha changes.

Releasing the unreal uncovers peace

Radiant peace dawns by first being mindful of the difference between the real and the unreal, followed by gradually letting go of the unreal. Without this radical discernment and expansion of focus, the mind will continue to be seduced and hypnotized by what it imagines. But with discernment and focus, it surrenders naturally and becomes still as agitation and disturbance fade away.

Not putting faith in the turbulent, aversive formulations our minds construct, we can be mindful of our immediate, direct awareness of “what is” beyond belief. This is faith in its most authentic expression. It’s a radical confidence in an existential holding that embraces and releases experience, making known a still space of undisturbed peace. Therefore, tranquility is what’s left when the impermanent appearances of life inevitably fade.

Restless, inadvertent seeking is the antithesis of joy. Natural, clear seeing—or presence in awareness—on the other hand, is the motionless way of contentment. Contentment is the continuous circular “road” of balance and stability on which the body-mind is held and travels. There is no destination except the journey itself, and realizing this brings great joy.

Is constant happiness possible?

This inner peace or deep tranquility is still but intensely alive. It’s the silent depths of the ocean, and while the surface waves, always unpredictable, might continue to fluctuate, they leave the water below them unmoved. For this reason, I do not mean to imply that the anxious “waving” of daily life completely stops. I’m not describing never-ending happiness— there’s no such thing. Happiness, like pleasure, is caused and has an opposite; it’s conditional. I’m talking about the possibility of reconnecting or rediscovering, a depth of uncaused peace and joy below the craving mind. The main thing to see for yourself is that your aliveness (the feeling “I am”) is the same whether it’s in an apparently restless form (“I am something/someone”) or abiding in equanimity (“I”).

Give each part of yourself a voice

In meditation, take a slow deep breath. Slowly scan your body and see if you can find at least one restful part and allow that restfulness to gradually permeate your entire being. Be aware of your whole body as best you can, gradually checking into each part and sensing how easeful or restful these parts are. You might feel aliveness as energetic pressure, pulsing, heaviness, or light- ness. Ask the restful parts: “What do you desire?” and “What do you fear?” Don’t try to analyze, interpret, embellish, or reject any answers that come. Just let them be, holding them and releasing them as they dissolve. Sit with them for a while. Now scan your body again for any restless parts. Ask the restless parts: “What do you desire?” and “What do you fear?” Again, sit with any answers for a while. Is there any wisdom these areas hold for the restful areas? Finally, choose a restful area and invite it to spread its easefulness throughout your whole body. You might also ask a restful area to silently teach or offer the restless parts something for their greater good. Notice how alive, even neutral, both the restless and restful parts are, despite any stories attached to them.

Aliveness is your most loyal companion no matter what appearance it takes. You can reconnect with aliveness by sensitively noticing your own presence, both in rest and in action. Even your “waves” can serve as allies when given space to move and speak. When you dive, you beckon an expanded awareness which reveals truth: the wisdom and knowing prior to knowledge, “the peace of God, which passes all understanding.” Yes, when truth dawns, you’ll know yourself as not a mere body-mind, nor its animating aliveness, but that which some have called nonduality. Having seen this clearly and directly, a calmness emerges, and infuses and saturates with love the “waves” of daily life. Because finally, it’s obvious that there’s no distinction between the waves and the entire ocean.

Please don’t try to bypass your humanity. Recognize that you are that which creates and embraces your bittersweet humanness without condition.

From ‘Living the Life That You Are: Finding Wholeness When You Feel Lost, Isolated, and Afraid’ by Nic Higham