This post is about where the societal mould comes from and my spiritual journey toward breaking the mould and defining my own happiness.
First, let’s look at the mould.
What is the mould? Where does it come from and how do you become a victim of it?
Let’s rewind to high school. I was the typical high school girl, managing school work, social circles, a part-time job, home life and boys.
Now, it’s funny that I can say “the typical teenage girl,” and an image of what I mean immediately comes to mind. It is well established biologically and psychologically that we are all unique individuals. From birth, we have all experienced vastly different worlds. Between families there are cultural, socioeconomic, regional, family structural, historical and an array of other factors that contribute in changing our world experience. Even within the same family, the worlds we experience differ based on age, number of siblings, gender, and time among other factors.
So how did stereotypes become so ingrained in your consciousness that they not only define your perspectives but also your self image?
Before I begin pointing fingers, I’ll say that every individual propagates some set of social norms. Beyond ourselves, and the usual culprits of media, religion, society, social circles and teachers, there are subtle influences.
Think about the life of a child that lives in a seaside villa versus the life of a child that lives in the inner city. Grand arched architecture, open homes, wide, litter-free sidewalks, sunny beaches versus small, crowded homes, dark alleyways, potholes, narrow, litter-strewn streets, crumbling buildings. All of these things play a role in shaping the mould.
Next, you learn from watching. What you see, you do. When you see someone behaving in a certain way, you learn to behave in that way in that particular situation. When something makes you feel unsafe, you associate that stressor to the sensations you feel inside and label yourself as having a fear of heights, a fear of snakes, a fear of water or whatever it may be.
Then, media reaffirms your evaluations. You go out and watch all the same movies that everyone else is watching, you watch all the same TV shows. Those programs are based on someone’s perception of certain social circumstances, for example high school. Viewers will relate and begin to label things. Yes, this is the mean girls crowd, that is the shady drinkers crowd, over there is the nerdy crowd. I am in so-and-so crowd and should behave in such-and-such way. These are expensive things that only cool kids have, those are unfavourable things that only losers care about.
After years and years of this learning and re-affirmation cycle you indeed begin to exude all the qualities that make up a certain stereotype. You have effectively become that typical teenager and you unconsciously do your part in making sure that the next generation grows up to fill your shoes exactly.
So how do you go about breaking the mould that took generations of fine-tuning?
More importantly, why should you break the mould?
Growing up, I remember being bored and unhappy. I didn’t like that I had to go to school and do the same thing every single day, but that discontent faded into the background as I was pulled into the social highs and lows of school life.
Let’s look back at that teenage girl.
I watched people on television, movies and my peers find enjoyment in things such as physical beauty, drinking, partying, excelling at studies, etc. These things occupied my mind from sunrise to sunset, but the enjoyment I received from fulfilling my desires was limited. As soon as I got a taste of that dopamine, it was over!
So what did I do? Like any other sane person, I jumped back on the wheel and began running again. Surely next time, I’d be happy. If not that time, then the next. Or the next. Or surely the one after that.
Above all, the movies had said all these pleasures lead to love, which is the ultimate pleasure.
Finally, I found the one. I had the perfect relationship and at last, I was happy. Then the honeymoon waned and all of a sudden, I wasn’t. But that’s not what the movies had told me. The movies (and all popular media) had told me that yes after the honeymoon, there was bound to be some rocks in the dark, but the moon would wax once again. And then I’d live happily ever after.
So I fought for my happiness. I fought to recreate those blissful moments I’d experienced. That’s all I wanted: that peace and happiness. Was that too much to ask for?
Things snowballed and I didn’t notice that there was no more pleasure in my pursuit. All that was left was pain. It was painful to be with that person and it was painful to be without that person.
For me, this was where the disconnect happened. Were the movies wrong? Were all of my ideas about life wrong?
The mould tells you that happiness is elsewhere.
Looking a certain way will make you happy. Food will make you happy. Music will make you happy. Travel will make you happy. Social media likes and comments will make you happy. Drugs and alcohol will make you happy. Money will make you happy. Having sex will make you happy. A beautiful partner and a beautiful family will make you happy. Beautiful things will make you happy. Family and friends will make you happy. Status will make you happy.
The list is never-ending.
Through the years, I learned that none of these things brought me one bit of lasting happiness.
In fact, all of my patterns and preconceived notions brought me nothing but misery.
Away from the mould
For me, it was that initial heartbreak that cracked and began breaking the mould I was in. From that moment onward, everything I did chipped and peeled away the thick mould I was in until I could see clearly.
It took years of experiences and highs and lows. In my dark moments of despair and hopelessness, I never understood why I was suffering. Initially, I was happier not knowing that the world was not the way that I imagined it to be. (Call me an idealist.)
Today when I look back, I can see that every moment of it was necessary. Every miserable moment, every fleeting moment of joy, every moment when I thought there was no point to it all guided me. It brought me to yoga, the vehicle that continues to carry me forward today.
Yoga is seeing clearly. It is seeing the mould for what it is and seeing the absolute necessity of breaking the mould.
Yoga is understanding that true happiness comes from within.
Yoga is accepting that nothing except you can make you happy.
There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path.Gautama Buddha