The Happiness Threshold

I was taking the dishes out of the dishwasher yesterday, and putting them away in our cupboards when I suddenly stopped. Before that moment befell me I had been performing this chore while in my mind I was thinking about what I wanted to do next, which was to go into my office and continue writing my book. Writing my book was fun, while doing dishes was merely a chore that I had to get out of the way. Then liminality happened.

There is the observation of a body using a towel to wipe a cup dry and place it on a shelf, all of this taking place within awareness, and I am the awareness. Simultaneously there is a me within the awareness recognizing this event with a kind of “torn” feeling inside, which I can’t accurately describe. Maybe “dualism” is the appropriate word…

For the purpose of this article, I use the word “liminality” to describe the direct experience of existence in two distinct, but not separate realms. You recognize that you are a non-physical being, unattached to thought, sense and feeling, while at the same time living your life as if you were a limited physical being, confined within the realm of time and space. I call it “walking between two worlds”, and it can be both exciting and challenging, because it brings you face to face with the moment.

An example of this is what happened while I continued to take care of my kitchen chore. After much back and forth between the distractions of my thoughts and the intent to simply be still, my attention was brought into the moment, and there awaited the awesome beauty of ‘being’. This moment has everything I could possibly want. This moment is absolutely perfect. Whether the body is sitting outside, watching a beautiful sunset, spending time with wife and children, lying sick in bed with the flu, or putting away dishes, the moment remains unaltered. In the moment I come to know true happiness.

Throughout my life, I had heard that you can be happy no matter what your personal circumstances. Rich or poor, strong or weak, winning or losing…, nothing can stop you from being happy. In the past when I thought about that statement, I always assumed that happiness was a positive emotion that you could choose to have, no matter what influences were in your life. Now I know that it is neither positive, nor a feeling or emotion, but rather that Happiness is a state of being. I experience this when I stop and acknowledge that I exist now. I am. I look at my surroundings and see everything without expectation. I look at every aspect of my life as it appears in the moment. I don’t look at what should be here, or what should be happening. I don’t think about what I should be doing, or even what I could be doing. The should thoughts are there, floating through the sky of the mind, but I’m not engaged with them. I watch life present itself as it is, and something almost magical happens. I feel free. The burden of shoulds is lifted and I am free of concerns about the future and regrets about the past. And I am I, yet not I.

Initially, at the liminal threshold, the world seems flat, empty, and even a little mundane, and I believe something should enter this perception to make me happy. But that ‘should’ fades into the background, along with all the other mental chatter. Another opinion arises, telling me that this is just an ordinary moment – not a GREAT moment in my life. But I hear my heart reminding me that great and ordinary, better and worse, good and bad etc, are all personal evaluations based on my needs. What I see and experience in this moment is neutral. It is what it is. In that awareness, an experience of playfulness seems to enter. Sometimes I find myself smiling, even chuckling a little bit at the obvious perfection of simply existing. And a pleasant feeling fills me, as I recognize that I am truly happy.

Then I return to my kitchen chore, and reach for a plate while marvelling at this eternal ritual of liminality. Perhaps you have lived through this ritual many times yourself, standing at the threshold where you recognize your humanity while simultaneously being the awareness that is not human, but rather the pure consciousness that contains your human experience. Perhaps this defies conventional wisdom, but in the moment it seems that you can experience heaven on earth — and earth in heaven, while recognizing that you are neither in heaven or on earth, but rather heaven and earth are in You.