Happiness (part 1)
The Search for Happiness
The one thing that we are all seeking in life is happiness. We might say that we are seeking fame, fortune, success, sex, excitement, adventure or spirituality, but all of these things are just strategies to find lasting happiness. None of these things actually make us happy; it is the value we put on them that makes us feel happy or not. If, for example, we put a high value on relaxation, a weekend at a luxury spa will make us feel happy, but if we put a high value on excitement a spa weekend will feel very boring. If “things” were genuinely a source of true happiness the effect would be universal (i.e. everyone would enjoy the spa weekend). But it doesn’t work that way – happiness from “things” is not objective, it is subjective; it is based upon the value that we assign to them.
Life is a constant search for happiness but we rarely find anything that lasts. We are all looking for the same thing but we are going about it in different ways. We are all looking for happiness in different places, but all the different places share one thing in common – they are outside of ourselves. When we look outside of ourselves for happiness, our level of happiness will go up and down like a roller-coaster in response to external events. We can never achieve lasting happiness while we continue to look outside of ourselves because we can’t control what Life sends our way.
Throughout our evolutionary journey we have tried just about every strategy imaginable and searched almost everywhere in our quest for true happiness. We have had some great experiences and learnt a lot along the way, but we have never found what we are searching for. Eventually, we grow tired of searching and turn our attention to the one place we haven’t looked so far – inside ourselves.
True happiness is not something that can be sought and acquired; it is our soul’s natural state of being and we can only connect with it by going within. We cannot connect with our inner happiness while we are busy looking for happiness externally. We cannot connect with our inner happiness while we are trying to do, achieve, feel, heal, fix or change anything. We can only connect with our inner happiness when we drop all that doing and just “be” (abide in the inherent joy of our true nature). We discover a deeper, longer lasting and more fulfilling kind of happiness when we stop trying to make ourselves and our lives different, because authentic happiness is not dependant on external conditions or feeling good emotionally.
We will not find authentic happiness by making it our goal (“destination happiness”); we will find it by appreciating the journey (our present moment experience of life). Life is a journey, not a destination. So we need to slow down and enjoy the ride rather than madly rushing to get “there” (wherever we mistakenly believe happiness can be found). True happiness can only be found right here (within us) and right now (in the present moment).
Even if our present moment circumstances are not particularly pleasant we can still connect with our inner happiness, but only if we don’t allow ourselves to get carried away (from here and now) by external circumstances. Authentic happiness is all about being present; it is not necessarily about being emotionally or externally happy. Authentic happiness is experienced when we embrace everything that life sends our way. We can never attain lasting happiness if we are always screening life – clinging to the “good” and rejecting the “bad”.
Our lives will not transform just because we read something inspiring or have a peak experience. Such things may change our thoughts and beliefs about life, but a new life cannot manifest until we address the deep-seated conditioning of our ego structures. A new life may begin in the mind with a new outlook on life, but until it filters down through our heart and into our body nothing much will change. A new life requires a new way of being – being in our body and feeling life fully (good and bad). It requires us to feel our reactions to life in our bodies in the present moment, without any judgement or agenda. Instead of trying to eradicate our flaws we must embrace them, because developing an intimate relationship with every aspect of our being is our only hope of reintegrating our being and awakening to wholeness.
I Am Entitled To Be Happy
We all generally believe that we should be happy, we believe that we are entitled to be happy, and we believe that something must be wrong if we are not happy. If we feel sad we do things to stop ourselves from feeling the sadness, and if a friend feels sad we will try to cheer them up. The ego does everything it can to try to control life in the hope that we can always feel good and avoid feeling bad. If the ego’s strategies fail it will blame the sadness on some external cause and wallow in victimhood. The ego can feel justified in believing it has been wronged (even if this increases our suffering), because any amount of suffering is better than being judged a failure (by our self or others). For the ego, failure is not an option because it invalidates the ego’s reason for being.
While we remain identified with the ego it is inevitable that we will sometimes feel a victim of life’s circumstances. This is a false view of life because we are actually agents of Life – we are agents through which Life flows. This involves embracing (not resisting) everything that Life sends our way; be it “good”, “bad” or indifferent. We must learn to take responsibility for everything that Life sends us because it is what our soul needs for its development.
I would be happy if…
There is no doubt that many subjective experiences in life do make us feel happy, temporarily. The ego extrapolates this view into a (false) belief that if one good thing in my life makes me a little happy, then lots of good things in my life will make me very happy. This eventually develops into a belief that if I can make everything in my life “just perfect” then I will be very happy forever. The only flaw with this ego strategy is that it cannot control everything in life! It can’t even control its own thoughts, so what hope does it have at controlling the whole world and everyone in it?
Holding onto the false belief that “I would be happy if…” gives the ego hope. Hope that one day all of its striving and struggling will eventually pay off, but it never will. The ego has followed this strategy for countless lifetimes and dropping it would mean that the ego is a failure for wasting countless millennia on a futile strategy. So the ego holds onto the hope that things will be better in the future, rather than actually living the life that we have right here and now.
After the ego has tried all the material and sensual paths to happiness, it will eventually try the spiritual path. Not because the ego is spiritual, but because all the other paths have failed and spirituality or religion are all that remain. So the ego wastes many more lifetimes searching for happiness and fulfilment from some external God or saviour (there are plenty to choose from). During this period, the ego holds onto the (false) belief that “if I pray hard enough or meditate long enough, then I will be happy”. This ego strategy is just as futile as all the others because once again the ego is looking in the wrong place. It is not until we look within, to the very core of our being, that we will discover the true source of authentic happiness.