Being Happy Now
A lot is said in this world about happiness. I think it is safe to say, that all of us in our own way want to be happy. We certainly find all kinds of interesting and even screwed up ways to try to hunt it down, and often find happiness elusive. If you feel that chasing happiness in your own life is like running on a hamster wheel that never quite gets you there, then a) you are probably right, and b) this post is for you. So read on...
In my own life, I have chased happiness in all sorts of ways that left me in some pretty dark places. Lonely, regretful, and afraid I don't think fall into anyone's concept of what happiness is. So, what is happiness, and where can one find it?
Let's start with the notion that each of us has, at least at some point, experienced happiness. Sometimes this just happens at seemingly unexpected times, and at others, the experience comes quite intentionally. Where people get derailed is buying into the notion that happiness is "out there" and must be achieved in some way. This could not be further from the truth. In fact, it is this very idea that is blocking your experience of happiness right here and now.
Indulge me just a bit more...
The experience of happiness is just that, an experience. One can only experience anything in the moment of its happening, which is always the present moment, the only time in which we can ever actually experience anything. If the present moment is the only time in which we are ever really living, then happiness can ever only be experience at the presently occurring time. Therefore, happiness is not only always possible, it is always present. I would dare say, the true experience of happiness is a lining up of our perceptions with our reality and the truth of who we are. It is a way of relating to reality more than it is reflective of reality itself.
In 2012, I read a piece that changed my whole idea about happiness. Bronnie Ware, a palliative care nurse asked dying patients what they would do differently in life if they had it to do again. Not surprisingly, some consistent themes arose. She published them in a piece called "The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying." Though they are not in any particular order, #5 really struck me as sad, but poignant, and frankly, utterly hopeful: "I wish I had allowed myself to be happier." Notice the wording.
So, how does happiness show up? Think about the times when you have been happiest in your life. Think about the moments that you wouldn't trade for anything. Think about happiness that no one could steal or taint. What was happening and what was your state of mind?
Happiness is experienced in moments, not where it is sought and achieved, but where our presence allows happiness to arise as the dominant experience in our awareness. When we view our lives and circumstances in a way that leaves us wanting some other experience, or that is constantly comparing our life or possessions to those of another, then true happiness is blocked from our awareness. The ego always wants something else to be happening. By learning this secret and paying attention to how this shows up in your own life, you can start to see how the very ego that wants so desperately to be happy can never actually be happy. That's because it is never happy just to be where it is, unless in some very temporary place of unsustainable bliss. You will notice that that gets sullied pretty fast as well, as the ego will want to hang on to bliss and be really upset when the blissful moment is over.
Learning to see life and the people and situations in it as they are rather than as we want or expect them to be is a huge step toward realizing what I refer to as "authentic happiness." This is happiness "just because." Happiness without condition. Happiness for no reason. Happiness simply for the sake of being happy. One can be happy in the face of tremendous difficulty by cultivating the appropriate perspective, which usually simply requires a broader perspective than most of us typically allow. By seeing things with a wider and clearer lens, we realize that all situations, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, physical sensations, etc are impermanent, and will in time (often a very short period of time) yield to some other experience. Having the wisdom to be open to what is arising, and to let go when the time is right to do that, is critical to experiencing the happiness that is, in fact, at the very core of each of our being.
So ask yourself this simple question: "Am I allowing myself to be happy?"
Happiness is less about chasing, creating conditions, and achieving. It is about allowing. It is surrendering to the moment as it is, cultivating a wise point of view, and taking skillful action when the time is right. The harder we hang on to that which we think will make us happy, the less likely we are to actually experience authentic happiness.
So lighten your grip, step off of the proverbial treadmill, pay attention to your life as it is, act and speak in ways that cause you and others the least amount of harm, and simply open yourself to the possibility that happiness could arrive in any moment, because the truth is, it can never be anywhere else.
Thanks for listening. That is all for now.