By Kim Forrester, Spiritual Commentator
But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads? ~ Albert Camus
Happy New Year. Happy Birthday. Happy Holidays. Happy Travels. Happy Anniversary. As a word, happiness is an integral part of our daily language. As a concept, it has spawned a multi-billion dollar industry and has kept therapists, researchers and statisticians employed for over 100 years.
But for all the attention given to it by modern joy-hunters and motivational money-spinners, true happiness remains largely unattainable and entirely misunderstood by the wider population. So, what is happiness and, more importantly, how do we capture this elusive emotion? In answer to those questions, it is perhaps best to start by reiterating what deep, lasting, sustainable happiness is NOT.
Happiness IS NOT elation…
Lasting happiness – the kind that people seek – does not involve the intense dopamine rush of euphoria, or the adrenaline-filled high of triumph… These emotions are temporary; the natural by-product of powerful natural (or unnatural) chemicals in your bloodstream and it is fruitless to search for that kind of constant “high”. Your body simply cannot sustain it.
Happiness IS NOT an end-goal…
Many people seem to be under the impression that once they find happiness, they will lock it away inside their heart and live forevermore in a constant state of bliss; never again to be burdened by pain, doubt or fear. But the truth is that happiness is not something you seek, nor obtain. It is a natural state of being and it is available to you in every moment of your life. There are times when it is all that you feel, and there are times when it disappears under a blanket of anger, pain or sorrow. After all, you are only human.
Happiness IS NOT the answer to all of your troubles…
Happy people lose their temper. Happy people lose their jobs. Happy people crash their cars, run out of money, break up with lovers and miss out on opportunities. Happiness is not a magic cure-all that is going to stop crappy things happening to you. But it will sure help you gain a better sense of humour. Happiness is not “out there”.
NOTHING in this world is going to bring you happiness. You do not need to obtain anything, achieve anything, complete anything or be with anyone to find lasting happiness. Stop looking. Once we have removed these misconceptions, we come closer to the true nature of happiness. We realise that is not some elusive goal or wondrous epiphany; it is a sense of quiet contentment; of unyielding faith; of knowing that, regardless of how things may appear, all is well in the world.
And now for what happiness is…
Happiness IS your natural state of being
It is the feeling that, in the absence of all other emotions, will rise effortlessly into your psyche and wash over you like a bubbling fountain of wellbeing. That is why many who “seek” happiness will never find it. You see, the very act of searching for something highlights the fact that it is lacking in your life, (you don’t look for something that is already in your possession). Therefore, seeking happiness only serves to magnify the things that bring you discontent; it brings your attention to the very emotions that are stopping you from feeling happy! As the ancient Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi, once said, “Happiness is the absence of the striving for happiness.”
(It is important, of course, to take responsibility for your life and to realise that your choices can lead to greater freedom and positivity, or more doom and gloom. Better choices = fewer emotions standing between you and your natural happiness!)
So, if you’re unhappy and seeking happiness will only lead you further into dismay, how on earth do you find that sense of quiet contentment? The answer lies in changing the quest. Instead of searching for happiness (“What do I need to make me happy?”) you simply learn how to discover it, (“What is preventing me from feeling my natural state of happiness?”).
A Simple Exercise for Happiness
Here is a simple exercise that, with practice, will help you discover the natural well of happiness that glows inside you:
- Rest quietly and comfortably, and focus on the area around your heart. Notice the sensations; is the area tight, sore, tense or relaxed and comfortable?
- When you are relaxed, silently ask yourself, “What is preventing me from feeling my natural happiness?” then slowly, and without control, allow yourself to feel your current emotional state.
- As the emotion rises into your awareness, acknowledge it and then silently say to it “You are not needed in this moment. In this moment, all is well” and gently let the emotion go. Repeat as often as required, gently unwrapping the layers of emotion in your body.
During this process, try to keep your focus in the moment and the realisation that there is nothing to be worried about, here and now. Be kind to yourself, and try not to force anything – becoming anxious or uptight will only draw you further from your natural happiness. In time, you may become aware of a tiny warmth – like a glow – emanating from your heart area.
Don’t rush, but gently continue to acknowledge and release any emotions that are blocking this natural contentment. As you relax into this warmth, it may grow into an intense joy. Gratitude. Love. This is your heart centre – and this is the natural happiness that flows within you.
In our results-driven society, seeking happiness has become just another undertaking; another domain we can conquer. But the truth is that our lives will never be happier if we continue to regard happiness as the ultimate goal; a reward for moulding our life to suit our desires.
The truth is that happiness is one breath away, and it only comes when you stop searching; when you let go; when you decide that you will surrender to the moment and just be grateful. It is there for you every time you remove all expectation, and simply choose to be in harmony with the life you are here to lead.
Soul Sessions salutes Kim Forrester, Spiritual Commentator
When and where will we all meet again?
Tomorrow? Fresh soul (almost) daily online here ~ A Grand Love Story
April 10? In person at Soul Sessions Sydney ~ Sex Love and Domestic Bliss (or lack thereof)
Any time day or night? Soul Sessions Facebook page