If you want to know what it means to be happy, look at a flower, a bird, a child; they are perfect images of the kingdom. For they live from moment to moment in the eternal now with no past and no future. So they are spared the guilt and the anxiety that so torment human beings and they are full of the sheer joy of living, taking delight not so much in persons or things as in life itself.
As long as your happiness is caused or sustained by something or someone outside of you, you are still in the land of the dead. The day you are happy for no reason whatsoever, the day you find yourself taking delight in everything and in nothing, you will know that you have found the land of unending joy called the kingdom.
To find the kingdom is the easiest thing in the world but also the most difficult. Easy because it is all around you and within you, and all you have to do is reach out and take possession of it. Difficult because if you wish to possess the kingdom you may possess nothing else. That is, you must drop all inward leaning on any person or thing, withdrawing from them forever the power to thrill you, or excite you, or to give you a feeling of security or well-being.
For this you first need to see with unflinching clarity this simple and shattering truth: Contrary to what your culture and religion have taught you, nothing, but absolutely nothing can make you happy. The moment you see that, you will stop moving from one job to another, one friend to another, one place, one spiritual technique, one guru to another. None of these things can give you a single minute of happiness. They can only offer you a temporary thrill, a pleasure that initially grows in intensity, then turns into pain if you lose them and into boredom if you keep them.
Think of the numberless persons and things that so excited you in the past. What happened? In every single instance they ended up by causing you suffering, or boredom, did they not ? It is absolutely essential that you see this because till you do, there is no question of your ever finding the kingdom of joy. Mostly people are not prepared to see till they have suffered repeated disillusionment and sorrow. And even then only one in a million has the desire to see. They just keep going at it pathetically knocking at the door of other creatures, begging bowl in hand, craving affection and approval and guidance and power and honor and success. For they obstinately refuse to understand that happiness is not in these things.
If you search within your heart you will find something there that will make it possible for you to understand: a spark of disenchantment and discontent, which if fanned into flame will become a raging forest fire that will burn up the whole of the illusory world you are living in, thereby unveiling to your wondering eyes the kingdom that you have always lived in unsuspectingly.
Have you ever felt disgusted with life, sick at heart of constantly running away from fears and anxieties, weary of your begging rounds, exhausted from being dragged about helplessly by your attachments and addictions? Have you ever felt the utter meaninglessness of working for a degree, then finding a job, then settling down to a life of boredom; or, if you are an achiever, settling down to a life of emotional turmoil caused by the things that you are chasing after?
If you have, and is there a single human being who hasn’t, the divine flame of discontent has arisen within your heart. Now is the time to feed it before it gets stamped out by the routine chores of life. Now is the Holy Season when you simply must find the time to get away and look at your life, allowing the flame to grow and grow as you look, refusing to let anything distract you from this task. Now is the time to see that absolutely nothing outside of you can bring you lasting joy.
But the moment you do that you will notice that a fear arises in your heart. That fear that if you allow the discontent to be, it will turn into a raging passion that will grip you and cause you to revolt against everything that your culture and your religion hold dear; against a whole way of thinking and feeling and perceiving the world that they have brainwashed you into accepting. This devouring flame will cause you not just to rock the boat but to burn the boat to ashes. Suddenly you will find yourself living in an altogether different world, infinitely removed from the world of the people around you, for everything that others hold dear, everything they are crying their hearts out for, honor, power, acceptance, approval, security, wealth, is seen for the stinking garbage that it is. It disgusts and nauseates. And everything others are forever running away from holds no terrors for you anymore.
You have become serene and fearless and free, for you have stepped out of your illusory world and into the kingdom.
Do not confound this divine discontent with the hopelessness and despair that sometimes drive people to madness and to suicide. That is not the mystical drive to life but the neurotic drive to self-destruction. Do not confound it with the whining of people who are forever complaining about everything. These people are not mystics but bores merely agitating for improvement of prison conditions whereas what they need to do is burst out of prison into freedom.
Most people when they feel the stirring of this discontent within their hearts either run away from it and drug themselves with the fevered pursuit of work and social life and friendship; or they channelize the discontent into social work, literature, music, the so-called creative pursuits that make them settle for reform, when what is needed is revolt. These people even though they are full of activity are not really alive at all: They are dead, content to live in the land of the dead.
The test that your discontent is divine is the fact that it has no trace of sadness or bitterness to it at all. On the contrary even though it often arouses fear within your heart, it is always accompanied by joy, the joy of the kingdom. And here is a parable of that kingdom: It is like a treasure lying buried in a field. The man who found it buried it again, and for sheer joy went and sold everything he had and bought that field. If you haven’t found the treasure as yet, don’t waste your time searching for it. It can be found but it may not be searched for. You don’t have the slightest notion what the treasure is. All you are familiar with is the drugged happiness of your present existence. So what would you search for? And where? No, search rather in your heart for the spark of discontent and tend the flame till it becomes a conflagration and your world is burned down to a heap of rubble.
Young or old, most of us are discontented merely because we want something-more knowledge, a better job, a finer car, a bigger salary. Our discontent is based upon our desire for “the more.” It is only because we want something more that most of us are discontented.
But I am not talking about that kind of discontent. It is the desire for “the more” that prevents clear thinking, whereas if we are discontented, not because we want something, but without knowing what we want; if we are dissatisfied with our jobs, with making money, with seeking position and power, with tradition, with what we have and with what we might have; if we are dissatisfied, not with anything in particular but with everything, then I think we shall find that our discontent brings clarity.
When we don’t accept or follow, but question, investigate, penetrate, there is an insight out of which comes creativity, joy. Mostly the discontent that you feel comes from not having enough of something-you are dissatisfied because you think you do not have enough money or power or success or fame or virtue or love, or holiness. This is not the discontent that leads to the joy of the kingdom. Its source is greed and ambition and its fruit is restlessness and frustration.
The day you are discontented not because you want more of something but without knowing what it is you want; when you are sick at heart of everything that you have been pursuing so far and you are sick of the pursuit itself, then your heart will attain a great clarity, an insight that will cause you mysteriously to delight in everything and in nothing.
– Anthony de Mello – The Way to Love –