The Pursuit of Happiness
People spend their entire lives “searching” for happiness. We swing from tree to tree like monkeys looking frantically for something that isn’t tangibly visible. The fruits of our labor exasperate us and as we get frustrated, we ask ourselves “why can’t I be happy?”. The pursuit of happiness is so universal; it is the destination for meditation and enlightenment, the key to life. It is the plight of Buddhists, Catholics, and Aetheisists alike. It is written into the U.S. constitution, perhaps the least universal supporting statement of universality, yet still a powerful example. No one is exempt from this search. You cannot tell me that a single soul on this planet does not crave to be happy. To be blissful. To feel euphoria in its truest form.
Many years can pass and one may not “find” happiness. What kills the possibility of success is the language in which we describe our own pursuit. We speak of it as a key, hidden away somewhere in our belongings that we’ve long forgot… a small rock in a pile of shells, the needle in the haystack, the sock that leaves its partner behind. Years ago I began to wonder why I could not find happiness, it was as elusive as the mosquito buzzing in my ears at night. Looking for something doesn’t always equate with discovery. I found the more I concentrated on the search, the less I felt.
What changes the pursuit is recognizing that it is not something that can be “found”. Happiness is not an object. It can not be held in your hands or passed to those of another. It is an inward feeling state. It is never the destination, it is the journey. Happiness is not a location that you can arrive at, it is a constant traveling circus of highs and lows, an inward state of consciousness. The more I took responsibility for my own feelings, the less I yearned for happiness… it simply arrived.
External circumstance vs. Internal feeling state
When you let go of trying to find happiness and strip down your search to being in the present, you will find it. I know this because I have recently “discovered” my happiness. It is not something I have created out of external circumstance. It is an inward feeling state that I recognize, and cultivate. Letting go of what has been and what could be has helped me realize that the only thing that truly matters is the current moment. Your feelings about the past will not change it. Feeling regret, remorse, dread, anxiety, depression, or worry… none of these feelings create anything, they do not change anything that has happened. It is important to recognize these emotions, but consider them as clouds floating through. Clouds are not permanent and will rain on you from time to time, but they are forever transient, allowing for sunshine. You cannot hold on to clouds; they are ever-changing, day to day, hour to hour. Regard negativity in the same sense. Do not try to hang on, recognize its presence and let it pass.
The happiest do not live the most enchanted lives. Being lucky, fortunate or gifted does not grant you happiness. It is a constant conundrum, if I have ____ I will be happy. If only I can ___ then I will be happy. The problem with those thoughts is that your external circumstance does not necessarily create your internal feeling state. Your internal feeling state is something you own, possess, and take control over. Your external circumstance however, is not in your control. You do not control the weather, the day, your socio-economic status, your family’s debt, your government. When we let go of what we cannot control and focus on what we can, that’s where the magic happens.
Language is power
The present moment is paramount. Your past and your future have no investment in your present feeling state. Leave behind what does not serve you. Could, should and would.. all of these words are toxic. Anytime I catch myself thinking about what I should do, I recognize the feeling associated with the sentence.. it almost always brings tones of negativity. By changing the focus of what I should do, to what I have/need/must do, I have changed my perspective on my needs and wants in life. For a good look into what shoulding all over yourself can lead to, check out these guys for a clearer look into using language to rediscover your self.
The way we use language can ultimately change the way we feel. Think about the last time you said something similar to “I should/could/would ____”… is that sentence associated with something you WANT/NEED/LOVE, but your SHOULD/COULD/WOULD got in the way? Are they even related? Oftentimes I allow myself to believe that what I should do is what I need. It is far too easy. Why do we prevent ourselves from recognizing what we truly want and desire, by putting restrictions on our own selves? This language manipulation inhabits every one of us. Be honest with yourself. Truly and brutally honest. If you can separate the true responsibilities and needs of life, and those you think you should need, you have started the process. It is not easy, nor is it fun, but I promise that the outcome will far exceed your wildest dreams of happiness.
The pursuit of happiness is not actually a pursuit, my friends… it is a creation, it is malleable, it is constantly changing.. but it is ours for the taking. It’s there. It’s accessible.
Simple, but not easy.
Stop searching, start feeling.
Where does bliss reside?
The answer is inside.