Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is Happiness Hard or Easy?

Here's a question--is happiness hard or easy?

From one perspective, happiness can be about doing things. Even if you don't buy into the idea of happiness as a list, it still seems like most approaches to happiness involve doing things--managing your time or energy better or learning to say no, for example. There's at least one website (and book) devoted to the project of happiness.

From another perspective, happiness is a state of being, and we never leave it. It's our natural state. We're all happy right now, full of the joy of a child. Of course, for all but the most enlightened sage, the seeing of this comes and goes. But it's always available to us.

Seeing this happiness seems to challenge some of the assumptions that we make about life. That our jobs or spouses or possessions can create and sustain happiness. That the doer, the left hemisphere of our brains, will be satisfied at some point, when in fact all it does is create lists and push happiness into a future that never comes.

Seeing through these assumptions can take place in an instant. Right now, we can see that everything we need is already here. At the same time, our habits, our stories, and our conditioning are incredibly strong, and it's easy to get thrown back into thinking something is missing.

For most people, some amount of contemplative work is necessary for this insight to stabilize. For slow learners (people like me, for example), it can take years of struggle to finally see what was here all along. Seemingly, we're right back where we started--that happiness takes work, even if it might be a different kind of work than we originally thought.

So which is it? Is happiness easy or hard? And if it's hard, what's getting in the way?


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