How Kurt Cobain made me a truly happy person (48HU coach Stefan Van Meirhaeghe)

I am Stefan and I am a very happy man. My daily life becomes more and more filled with love and happiness. Lately, it happens that I even cannot sleep at night because of the feeling of sincere joy. The enormous energy that I have is simply overwhelming.

One might think I am overreacting, that I might be manic or drink way too much coffee. Four years ago, I would have never expected that it would be possible to look at life the way I do today. Maybe for enlightened people, but not for me, an ordinary young man.

Nevertheless, I knew one thing for sure: I did not want to continue living my life the same way as I was before. Theoretically, I was doing a good job: I graduated in medicine, had a good job at a biotech company and sold a small start-up.

And besides all of this, I still had the continuous feeling of being unsatisfied. Even though I had not even reached 30, I had the feeling I had seen it all already. I did not get the same satisfaction from the same things as I used to. I felt a certain disappointment about life, of which I had hoped that it would be more exciting and less superficial. Objectively, my life was pretty amazing, but it was simply lacking, it was too average, to continue in the same way for many years.

I blamed routine for the mediocrity in my life and started looking for a solution. ‘It is a bit monotonous, but I am travelling soon’. I would go on a ski trip and enjoy après-skis with my friends. But when we were finally all together on the ski slope, I figured: ‘I am not being really honest with myself here. Everyone seems to be having a great time, but I, honestly, have to pep myself up to convince that I am also having the time of my life in this fantastic environment. We pretend that this is the ultimate fun, when it is just entertainment. This was not genuine happiness, or at least not for me.

And then I received a 20.000EUR bonus. And although I had really been looking forward to it, it did not do much for me when the money actually arrived into my bank account. And this frightened me deeply. I realised I had to make a choice: just continue as per usual or acknowledge that my life was not making me happy and that I was striving towards social ideals and none of my own. I decided to be honest with myself and choose for the second option. I quit my job and decided to pursue a more genuine happiness, something of which I had caught a glimpse in an earlier stage of my life.

I must have been a year or ten when I found a CD of Nirvana at my friend’s house. The name of the band inspired me very much and when I came home, I asked my parents what ‘Nirvana’ meant. The Britannica spoke of some sort of permanent state of bliss and Buddhism. Any way, it was thanks to Kurt Cobain that I bought a little booklet about meditation in a bookstore in Paris at the age of 14. Even though I hardly understood any French, I tried to read that book for months on the train on my way to boarding school. Looking back, it seems like I was preparing myself step by step for one of the most special moments in my entire life, when I left for a Buddhist meditation centre in the Himalayas, only two years later.

The retreat I followed there, shook up my worldview. Whilst I before tried to understand life from an intellectual point of view, I noticed during meditation that you can experience reality from within. I became aware of my own consciousness. I realised that behind my own thoughts, my emotions and my senses lied a greater awareness and that that awareness was who I really am. The realisation that that awareness carried love, joy and bliss within, struck me deeply.

Once back home, I got inspired and plunged into many oriental books. I meditated every day in order to discover my deepest self. But after three months, I felt I had achieved little progress. I started to doubt. ‘Maybe it’s an illusion to know my inner self. I am making things too difficult in my search. What I experienced in the Himalayas was an extraordinary phenomenon, some kind of high feeling, but not reality. Maybe meditation is nothing for me after all.’ So I let it go for a while.

Nevertheless, I kept urging to understand reality, which I call ‘the love for truth’. I was determined to know what it was all about in life, why it is, what it is. Meditation seemed the only reliable way to find out, because it is not restrained by any condition. It does not depend on a person, belief or a pill. It is not prescribed, it is what remains when everything has gone quiet. As if the mind is as plain as a mirror.

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In the years after, there were episodes of a lot of meditating and episodes where there was no meditating whatsoever. I came to know that a lot of people experience this. You start to meditate with a certain expectancy, such as finding inner peace. That expectation feeds your enthusiasm. But after a certain time, you feel that there is no progress anymore, that you have reached a certain limit that cannot be exceeded. The experience is not strong enough to keep you entertained. You lose your will and enthusiasm which results in stopping meditation temporarily or completely.

That perhaps feels like a disappointment or defeat, whilst it actually is a natural growing pain. This kind of crisis is necessary to sharpen your motivation. Because in fact, you do not fully understand what you are doing and why. Your motivation to meditate is still limited. You want to enrich your personality. And when it does not happen fast enough, your personality simply gives up.  

But the beauty of it is that awareness does not give up that easily. It transcends your personal ambitions and understands the real meaning of meditation: perceive reality. Experience that what is beyond your personality, when you leave the story of your past and future behind, your name and your ideas about yourself and stop with putting everything into words.

Three years ago, I decided to put everything aside and return to the Himalayas. During my quest, I have experienced that consciousness – that what you are- is inherent to love, joy and bliss. True bliss is interwoven as an inexhaustible source with your existence, that what you are in reality. That for me, was an awesome discovery, that I wish for everyone.

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The more you focus on your awareness, the more you will experience it. From that moment on, every second becomes more valuable and satisfying and you no longer need to long for what the future brings, when everything falls into place. The root of the experience of daily life becomes love and happiness. You wake up with it and it does not fade, because it is who you are and whom you have always been.

If you find this article inspiring, feel free to share with others so it can inspire or encourage one to reflect on one’s life, one’s happiness and on the question ‘Who am I really?’.

All the best,

Stefan

Carlien Cavens