My recent Chicago visit came to be because of the fortieth anniversary celebration of Amazingrace, the coffeehouse and collective that started my freshman year at Northwestern. The coffeehouse was where I first heard Redwood Landing, a long time favorite band and they played a final gig for the celebration. That night at the concert, sitting next to a dear friend from those days and surrounded by many more friends and familiar faces, the band playing better than ever, I thought, “Wow, I feel so incredibly happy. When was the last time I felt this happy?” It seemed like it had been decades.
The interesting thing, I realized, is that it isn’t that I’ve been unhappy or that there haven’t been many very happy moments. But after years of emotional release, meditation, and spiritual practice, I spend a lot of time in a very calm place and it feels good. I often say that I think one of the greatest gifts this journey has given me is greater equanimity.
Forty years ago I was far more volatile, swinging from very high highs to very low lows and relishing the drama of it all. I was also unbelievably tense and anxious all the time. I’m not sure how much of the happiness that night, while surrounded by memories of those days, was a reflection of the giddiness I felt at the time; I’m sure there was some small effect, but really the great music and company just felt wonderful.
It makes me realize that when I finish this phase of getting my head released – which will be pretty much the finish of the health problems – it’s time to get out into the world a little more and feel that kind of happy more often. But the main lesson I get from this is that relaxed calm for me is worth more than lots of happy highs. The calm means I don’t live in that angst any more. The relaxation means I don’t feel that constant tension as if the world is closing in on me any more. That for me now pretty much equates with happy.
- Remembering old me (bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com)