In yogic and Vedic tradition, there are three tiers of happiness that are taught, called the three Gunas. Basically, two are illusions and one is believed to be the right path.
The lower, base kind of happiness is not happy at all. It is mostly based on pleasure and darkness which leads to further debasement and loss of self. It begins as innocent, harmless fun and betrays and turns on you in the end, ensnaring you, for example, in addictions, alcoholism, pornography, prostitution, etc.
Then there is the level of happiness where it seems like it is what you want and everyone else says it is also, but it is outside yourself so it turns out to be deceptive and poisonous in the end. This would be the unending and unsatisfactory search for money, prestige, power and outward beauty. Another avenue where the fantasy reveals the foolishness of falling for this sort of ambitious and selfish pursuit, imprisoning its victim with falsehoods and emptiness.
Then there is the real happiness that is disguised as poison and you want to avoid it at all costs and it is painful but it turns out to be the true, sweet nectar of the gods by fulfilling and rewarding you with veritable bliss and lasting happiness. These are the storms of life that turn out to be blessings. These are the down turns, heartaches or efforts in life that turn out to be instrumental to your growth and depth of understanding, bringing joy, gratitude and freedom to your existence, from the inside.
I thought of the three gunas, and especially authentic happiness, when I received some pictures from back east this week. Please allow me the wide and large latitude of metaphor.
Here is the beginnings of the storm: You fear it, you prepare for it but you don’t know what it will look like, you know it will be grim, but how scary and for how long will it last? Will it be as bad as everyone says it will be? Then, you are in the middle of the storm: It is dark and lonely and you have never been or seen this before, it is unpredictable and you are navigating new territory, the feelings are unbearable and you may think you will never make it out alive.Finally, it is over: You assess the damage, you look around you and see what you can salvage. You process the destruction, you pick up the pieces, you re-evaluate again and you process some more. You may talk or write about it incessantly in order to release it as well as to gain the proper perspective.
Thank you to V in NYC for the pictures and inspiration.