Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pursuit of Happiness

Years ago, while sitting in a restaurant enjoying a Christmas dinner, sharing my newest adventures with two of my closest friends; one of them piped up and said "You are trying way too hard to be happy."

I was instantly offended by her comment.  Especially since at that time she was researching how to make cheese from horse milk and wouldn't stop until she had acquired an old church in the area and turned it into a specialty cheese shop!  It was her 'I'll be happy when...' story.

I thought to myself "Who are YOU to be judging MY pursuit of happiness?"

I mean who was she to tell me that reading every self book in the book store, scheduling intimacy with my husband to make sure I was hitting the weekly quota and being so absorbed in the cleanliness of my house that I barely saw life passing me by; was a bad thing?

That moment has since become something I reflect upon if I need an instant smile.

What I didn't know then was that my friend was telling me the truth.  I WAS trying too hard to be happy!  And the real kicker was that everything I was doing wasn't working!  I was more worried than ever, more panicked than ever, more miserable than ever!  I hated my life.

I had all kinds of criteria for what happiness looked like and what you needed to do to acquire it.  And as much as it was my pursuit of happiness it was also a fear of being imperfect.  And so happiness continued to elude me.

What I didn't know then about happiness is that it isn't something you strive for.  It isn't a goal to be achieved.  It's something that is already here, right now, in our lives.  We just need to open our eyes and see it.

Every situation you are in has two sides to it.  The positive side and the negative side.  Every situation is perfectly balanced in both because you have an equal choice to choose one or the other at any given moment.

That's the part I didn't understand.

I thought complaining about how things weren't working was the way to change them!  I thought sacrificing my own needs for someone else's happiness was the way to create more happiness in myself!

Both of those approaches are not true.

What is true is that each of us holds the power in every situation to have that situation enrich our lives (instead of destroy it).

The questions I ask myself when I am staring straight into any situation that has the potential to derail me and send me back into my old ways are "What is good about this situation?" or "How can I bring love into this situation?"

Every single time I allow myself the space to contemplate these questions I always feel less burdened by whatever is happening.  We all have the ability to do this, if we just slow ourselves down enough to ask the questions instead of reacting instantaneously to whatever is happening around us.

Some of our reactions are hardwired into our brains so learning to slow down does take some practice.  But it is well worth it.

So, my pursuit of happiness has changed.  Instead of looking outside of myself for it, I allow myself to look within and to see the automatic happiness that comes with each and every situation no matter how dire or how tragic it may seem on the outside.  This is where true happiness is, it's not a happiness that can be broken or taken away from you.  No part of who you are can ever be taken from you.

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