Cedric Red Feather once said to me, “Nothing has power over us, except what we give it.” Other people do not hold the reigns of our emotions. They have no power to give or take happiness from us, unless we let them. We have free will. Happiness is what remains when we strip off all negatives. Beneath trauma, insult, hurt, disappointment and humiliation lies our natural state. We were born in bliss. This often-elusive state of being is not derived from externals: it inheres as our internal legacy.

It’s hard to have a tangible perception of happiness when circumstances don’t go our way. We may find ourselves drowning in anxiety or despair. It seems, at times, that the Universe has conspired to rob us of our legacy. On still other occasions, we may even imagine that we do not deserve lasting happiness.

Recently, I felt myself in a tailspin, mood-surfing the spiral of a dark, murky whirlpool of negative thought. I couldn’t seem to stem the tidepool as it spun faster and faster, but eventually I called out to my Higher Self and guides to help bail me out. The answer they returned was that it was up to me to pull myself out. At first, I felt like, “What, are you kidding me? All I deserve is more abandonment?” Then, they invited me to see with their vision. I began viewing myself as merely a skilled actor, performing in a self-perpetuated drama.

There is a scene in the film Eat, Pray, Love wherein a supplicant at an Indian ashram instructs the protagonist, a spiritual neophyte, that our thoughts are the only things we can control. I seized that idea and admitted to myself that, while the force of my emotions seemed real enough, the thoughts that triggered them were under my exclusive direction. Put simply, I was the only barrier to my own happiness. By meditating, praying for higher guidance, and redirecting my thoughts, I raised my vibrational frequency and got out of my own way. Great peace and happiness were instantly restored.

Before the perception of separation, we were one with the Creative Intelligence that runs the Universe, the Great Spirit, God, the Great Mystery. We were unconditional light and love. In the polarized illusory world where we currently reside, happiness is something we have somehow “lost” and seek to “regain.” The truth is, the happy place is already ours: all we need do is recognize it, embrace it, and magnify it.

Loving intentions, loving thoughts, loving acts — these raise our vibrational level, returning us to a frequency that matches the one we brought with us to this human plane. Sometimes a thoughtful response from a friend lifts us from the low side of the road. Oftentimes, redirecting our attention to another’s needs — helping someone else out of a dark place — is just the remedy for our soul’s dark night.

Being in nature is an antidote to despair. There’s nothing like a tall topiary of dark pines to console the disconsolate. A sloping strip of green lawn covered in wildflowers uplifts better than inspirational phrases. We might see waving in otherwise hot, languid air currents a host of yellow daisies, baby’s white breath, orange poppies and lavender periwinkles. Flowers offer unconditional beauty. Flowers are visual correlatives of the state of happiness. They don’t have to think about it; they just lift their faces to the sun, radiating energy and color.

We should not panic when we plunge into deep sadness. Through daily meditation, we can cultivate a quiet mind and a loving, peaceful heart. There are so many distractors from our natural state. We tend to blame negative states on events or other people. Instead, we can recognize that excavating our deepest, darkest emotions reminds us of our fragility. This, in turn, puts us in parity with others who suffer, allowing us to hone our propensity for compassion.

In the Tao Te Ching, Lao Tzu instructs that the master uses everything and wastes nothing. It is the dark nights of the soul that ultimately highlight the beauty and luminosity of an awakened life. The steep downward plunge becomes the exact measure of our healing, regenerative ascent.

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Janet Michele Red Feather
Janet Michele Red Feather, J.D., M.A., is a ceremonial singer who has learned over 60 traditional songs in Mandan and Lakota and sings in nine different languages. Janet was a full-time defense litigator in California for nearly eight years. Her life changed significantly after she traveled to North Dakota in 1993 to fast and pray for a way of life. A regular columnist for The Edge, she has also appeared in Psychic Guidepost, FATE Magazine and Species Link. Her book, Song of the Wind (2014, Galde Press), dealt with her experiences as an empath, and her journey through Mandan spiritual culture. She is currently a full-time, tenured English faculty member at Normandale Community College, having taught Composition and Literature for a span of 20 years.

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