Somewhere during the course of yesterday, which was full of frustrated efforts to program the blog, and last night, which was complete with bizarre dreams of old school friends and having to copy out Old English from a textbook, I realised that I am not as happy as I thought I was.
The way I see it is that this realisation is good, because it means greater honesty, and less trying to create something that is unreal.
One of my defining personality characteristics is that I am happy. I smile a lot, am cheerful, and enjoy making other people happy. How much effort do I waste trying to ensure this happiness never dries-up?
It’s like veneer. We use veneer to cover-up cheap wood and make it look better. We don’t want people to see what’s underneath. We think the wood inside is not worth looking at and so try to keep it hidden. Happiness is the veneer of spiritual fakes.
Spiritual practices like prayer, meditation or worship work to polish the veneer. What we really need is to crack it off first, peel it away, and let the real wood inside breathe for a while. It will not look healthy, because it has been trapped inside a tight jacket of external constraints for so long. It will probably look pale and weak because it has never known the enlivening power of the air it needed to breathe.
While you are polishing your veneer, you just get more and more shiny, and the only way to get at what is real is to stop lying and stop your spiritual trying. Quit this kind of religion today.
After we have become honest with who we really are, unimpressive, moody, the oil of a quiet spiritual practice will slowly stain the wood of our real inner selves. As the real wood feeds on the oil and fresh air, it grows strong.
How do we make this happen? I would be the first to put my hands up and admit to being completely incapable of such a thing. Grace is needed.
But one thing is clear: the deeper I go in the journey to undivided living, the more I can rest in my own unhappiness–the more I am comfortable without my veneer.