I think about happiness a lot. I think about it around this time of the year quite a bit, as happiness and the holidays are so closely wedded. I meditate on the nature of happiness, and how we go about seeking it.
Happiness can come from finding meaning: in the work we do, in the friendships we create, and in the intimacy we deepen with our partners. It comes when the roads of the imaginary and reality merge.
Happiness can come from being present: to ourselves, to our thoughts and to our emotions. Being present and undoing the destructive emotions and thoughts that lead to destructive behaviors can lead to happiness. Quieting the self-destructive voice inside our heads, and learning to deal with the pains of life as they arise – and not continually pushing them aside – will lead to being happy.
Happiness comes from the little joys in life, not from always trying to get somewhere or grasping at trying to accumulate more stuff. We’ve tried that as a society, and it’s gotten us into an epidemic of mental health suffering. And medications don’t always help make us happier.
Happiness is about “knowing thyself”; it’s about developing a compassionate eye back at oneself, and learning to accept oneself as one is. It’s about ceasing to compare ourselves to others for a change, and even to stop comparing ourselves to ourselves. Compassion comes when the voice of comparison quiets down.
There are a lot of distractions to happiness, especially during the holiday season. We’ve seen where our surge to happiness has brought us: into the worst economic crisis in 70 years. We buy more, and crave more, and buy more, and never manage to fill ourselves up with more, now matter how big our appetite grows. We seek solace in self-help wisdom, and cultural gurus, yet things don’t always seem to get better.
Happiness is being away of our mortality, yet not succumbing to the fear of it. It’s being aware that our days are numbered, which encourages us to enjoy our relationships, be mindful and enjoy the fleeting nature of things: good music, colors, delicious food and the mystery of nature.
Happiness is there for the taking. It’s those self-imposed obstructions that, with presence and awareness, can free us from the suffering and neurosis that keeps us stuck.