Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder…”– Thoreau
Are you happy? If you answered “yes,” you’re rare. Most people view “happiness” as an elusive state they haven’t attained, and they mistakenly think happiness comes from getting or taking from others. They think if they just get that raise, or if they meet the “right” person, or any number of things they think that if they obtain will bring them that feeling they dream of. In this society of consumers, many think having more things will give them that feeling they so crave. They even, sadly, view fellow human beings as objects to be obtained, thus relationships in society are often merely based on bodies seeking other bodies void of any deep committed love. They value the valueless.
But happiness is a state that occurs naturally, on its own, stemming from the choices you are making. I am very happy, with each day finding me contented and at peace. Inner happiness pervades each day’s experiences, keeps me centered, and keeps all in perspective despite appearances/circumstances. This seems to be my natural state, my temperament/personality, and one those who have known me for years still comment upon.There are so many blessings in life, and happiness stems from gratefully and wondrously experiencing all life has to offer. I believe happiness results from those who choose to love, endeavoring to understand and live love toward all. From hence comes a wonderful delight in every day!
There have been difficult times in my life, times of struggle or sorrow, but on the whole I find that happiness defines me well. I look back now and can truly say that even in the midst of pain, a deep contentment yet lay within which was the reason I could return, after the grieving or persevering through a difficult situation, to my usual state of happiness. I returned to the things most important in my life, of faith, and of personally fulfilling activities. Only when I’ve ever permitted my priorities to get out of order, when I’ve compromised or neglected things I deep down valued, when I made decisions which didn’t come from in my heart – when I allowed my mind to govern (rather than using my mind to simply implement that which is in my heart–the mind is a powerful tool capable of much good or much harm, much hope or much worry, much achievement/progress or many mistakes) have I felt disheartened, discouraged or experienced the pain of regret. For the most part my whole life through, as Thoreau said, it’s never been in search of happiness that I felt it, but when I occupied myself wholeheartedly in each day, each moment, without thinking about it… occupied myself in those things that were of value.
I delight in life!
Happiness. Since this is a broad topic, I plan to write blog entries on different aspects of happiness as I feel so inclined…with separate blogs on happiness as it relates to work, activities, charity, beliefs, emotions, and relationships.
With my personality predominantly one of happiness, throughout my life, my friends have often come to me for advice about their lives: from career choices to frequent questions about their relationships be it between friends, family, or spouses. Thus, I thought I’d begin to share in my blog a few of my personal beliefs and the practice of which I credit with the happiness I’ve experienced for many years, and a happiness which I feel is somehow at its greatest at this point in my life, and is based on my belief in love.
Experiencing contentment first is the key to sharing happiness with another.
First, I’ll begin by stating that happiness will not suddenly be in your life by the presence of another human being in your life- so stop looking to “find” someone to complete you or make you happy. Yes, having another individual with whom you can share your life, a lifetime partner, your spouse, must be one of the greatest joys we can be blessed with. But before you can joyfully share with another individual, you must be complete yourself. The happiness you seek comes from choices you make, not from the choice another may make to be in your life. I’ve seen so many who have this completely backwards: they really think if only they meet the “right” man or woman they think they’ll be truly happy. I believe the opposite is true: Before you are even capable of having a healthy, fulfilling relationship with another, you had better be a complete person yourself – fulfilled by the choices you’ve made to develop yourself intellectually, emotionally, physically and spiritually. Only then do you become an individual capable of joining with another already fulfilled individual – share the joy together – to enhance each other’s lives in loving one another. Only then do you have something to give the one you love. Only then can you both learn and teach one another – which is a most beautiful aspect of relationship.
At 41, and single, I am happy in my life despite not being married. The love and joyful sharing of an intimate relationship (which, for me, would be experienced in the commitment of marriage because I believe that such beautiful intimacy between a man and woman is a sacrament, a blessing each gives to the other, the two becoming one representative of the joining of their hearts and minds which occurs first) comes after deep friendship and a reflective decision of two complete, whole, happy individuals choosing to join their lives together, to strengthen each other, to joyfully share, and for the female to make her man and his happiness her priority. For me, the intimacy (emotional, intellectual, and physical) of such a beautiful relationship would stem from a deeply spiritual awareness of what such a relationship means. Personally, I see that such beauty I can apprehend, and the spiritual basis for it, would only be experienced in a commitment for life. I see that anything less compromises things that are just too important to me.
In such a beautiful committed relationship, there’s equal respect for one another of course, but I have to say, as a female, I do believe there’s a natural order to the male/female relationship in which the man is the head of the female, and it’s a feeling inside of just wanting to be a part of helping that man do all he wishes to do in life, to literally be his helpmate. I really believe a woman’s happiness (at least I can speak for myself, this female’s happiness) in relation to her man, is in submitting herself to his needs/wants/dreams, it’s experiencing a deep joy in seeing him happy from his career, his daily activities, and in pursuit of that which he wants to achieve and accomplish in life. It’s following your man where he goes, helping him do what he does. This doesn’t mean you put your own activities aside, on the contrary, you develop yourself as always to be all you can be personally, only once you say yes to your man, giving yourself to him (heart, mind and body) becomes your priority. It is a holy union. That’s the way I feel deep within, and I know if ever I am blessed with a man for whom I developed such respect and commitment, such love, I would experience a joy, a mysterious beautiful joy I can apprehend even now.
It’s a choice of will to love another with a true love that is not based upon whims, infatuation, or good feelings when all is going well. By one’s will, one truly loves by a devoted commitment to the other’s well being, its an enduring regard, and nothing would be more important. This shared happiness between two people is a most beautiful blessing requiring strength and maturity (often not found in us when we are younger). The beauty of such a healthy and whole relationship is that each is a mutual gift to the other. In sharing your happiness, as well as in sharing life’s sorrows, joy is experienced.
I emphasize, I believe to experience this requires a contentment first found alone, then you have much to give another as you experience life together.You must be a whole person, happy already, and then you’ll have much happiness to share with another. Happiness must be there first before you can share it with another – it’s the sharing of happiness that brings that brings joy.
In relationships happiness is experienced in becoming an inspiration to another by the choices you’ve made and by being inspired by the other’s choices as well, by encouraging and comforting the other, by truly loving another unconditionally – this is true for all relationships. I will write more on happiness within relationships (including relationships with family & friends) because all types of relationships in your life benefit when you become the individual you are meant to be by following your heart.
But, I reiterate, I do not believe looking for another person (or the “finding” thereof) brings the happiness you so desperately seek. I think such a beautiful loving committed relationship is a result, a blessed one at that, but a result of first realizing who you are to the fullest. If that result occurs, it will only after you’ve found a state of happiness, or contentment, in your own life. You need not try to “make” it happen; you need not try to “look” for such an individual to share your life with; you need only live your life to the fullest basing it on love in all you do.
Choosing to love.
“The secret of happiness is freedom, and the secret of freedom, courage. -” Thucydides
Choosing to love in a world that believes love is impossible (on the contrary, the world believes in fear and all its dark negative emotions of anger, greed, envy, etc.) takes courage, especially if you choose to enter into that world to work for a positive change (such as in political activism). To choose to express love, in your thoughts-deeds-work-interactions-is to challenge all the egos around you. It means expressing and working for the truth and not compromising your values and beliefs. I also believe those who choose to love experience the greatest joy in life, and they also suffer sorrow and pain in a greater intensity since they are sensitive to true emotion. Others simply exists, take the easy route of conformity regardless of the compromises, have some glee or pleasures but never reach the experiences of contentment, personal fulfillment, or the ability to truly share happiness with one another.
Thus, I briefly share some of the key points which I credit with the experience of happiness:
1. Be yourself! This means loving yourself (before you’ll ever be truly able to love another, you must learn to love yourself). Give yourself the freedom to be who you are, and if you haven’t done that in years, make it your highest priority to discover and develop who you really are. Forget what anyone else in the world is going to think of you. Live your life being true to yourself. You have it backwards if you think constantly pleasing others is the way to be happy. On the contrary, ask yourself what you want to do – where you want to live – what you choose to believe – and who you want to be part of your life sharing it with you. Then simply do it. You are never going to experience happiness till you give yourself the freedom from all other people’s expectations (well intentioned or not) and choose for yourself. If that choosing includes sharing your life with another, then their happiness becomes one with your own if you truly love them.
2. Experience life! Many I’ve known comment on how energetic I am, asking where does all the energy come from? I believe it’s self-generating – the more energy I extend the more capable I am of having the energy to do the things I enjoy. This is not peculiar to me. It’s a known fact. The less you do, the less you’ll be able to do. Likewise, the more you do, the more capable you are of doing even more. Ask yourself what activities were once part of your life but have fallen to the side now…ask yourself what activity you’ve always wanted to do but never felt you had time to get into…ask yourself what activity you see others experiencing that you just feel drawn to try. Life should be an adventure. Live it!
Think of all the wonderful activities in life: singing, swimming, hiking, sailing, biking, camping, dancing, tennis, horseback riding, reading, astronomy, art, painting, writing, gardening, cooking, music, chess, crafting, learning new languages, exercising, traveling, visiting museums or attending concerts and plays, volunteering, watching films…the list is endless. Surely, there are things you used to do, always wanted to do, or things you just don’t do often enough because you let other things (actually less important) become a higher priority than what you really wish to do. And don’t neglect communication and time spent with friends, it’s rare in life to have good friendships, don’t let your routine take over – make time to communicate with those you value, just as you make time for yourself. Even one’s work becomes a source of fulfillment when it allows you to make a positive difference in this world and in the lives of others. Don’t relegate activities you want to do to your “spare time,” make the things you want to do part of your life now. I’ve always known this, but in the past several weeks I am again rejuvenated…learning new things which are enjoyable…and doing more of all the activities I love to do.
3. Remain in the present moment! Whatever it brings, experience it. Don’t try to escape this experience. Make each day one in which you took some time for yourself. Appreciate this moment and appreciate those in it. Cherish friendships and family that are in your life. Never look toward another for what you can get, but in all friendships look only for what you can give, what you can joyfully share in this moment. Don’t waste time (or worse yet even destroy friendships) by engaging in expectations or focusing on some supposed imagined “future.” Fully appreciate everyone you say you love or care for by living in this present moment. Same goes for those who obsess about the past. Who you were then and what you did has no bearing at all in this moment – unless you let it burden you. Likewise, give all those in your life the same non-condemnation: who they were then and what they did has no bearing on this moment. Choosing again and correcting mistakes begins in the heart – once that change occurs, behavior follows. Truth is: the past does not exist; the future does not exist. So, experience this moment: who you are now, who those in your life are now, and the experience of this day. As Thomas Merton said, focus on: “Here. Now. This.” Doing so allows you to be in this moment, learning its lessons, and fully appreciating all those around you. To fully live is to embrace the moment.
Happiness isn’t something you try to get. You can’t buy it, earn it, or take it. Nobody in the world can give it to you. You can’t wish it into being. You can only choose to truly live your life, to its fullest, and sweetly reap the natural consequence (happiness) of doing so. The only thing preventing you is fear, but I believe, as it says in 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear…”
Love is the answer. Never doubt it, and never compromise who you are and what you believe, for some supposed gain. Don’t give up on your faith, your beliefs, your happiness. Don’t sell yourself short. Have courage. Choose again. Be true to who you are and happiness “will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”
I shall write in future blog entries greater detail regarding happiness as experienced in one’s work, activities, worship, and in relationships.