Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Afraid to Be Happy

Right now I feel like I'm afraid to be happy. If, as the Dalai Lama says, the purpose of life is to be happy, then if I find happiness, why would I ever do anything again?

I've constructed this idea of a life in which I'm trying to get to happiness by assembling the right ingredients.  If only I can get the right spouse, the right job, a house in the right neighborhood, the right kids and pets, the right schools and cars and other stuff, and of course enough money to take care of everything and everyone, then, and maybe only then, I think, happiness can be mine. And I spend most of my waking hours doing things that I think will help me assemble this life. Once I put the finishing touches on that life, I think, I'll be happy. More importantly, I sometimes think I can't be be happy until I have that life, or I'm at least comfortable that I'm on the path to it. Any happiness felt right now risks my not getting that greater happiness that will come once I have done the things I should.

My actual life (not the one that I'm plotting out moment by moment in my head) is very different. In my actual experience, the moments of happiness I have are almost completely unrelated to the happy life that I am trying to construct. These moments spontaneously appear. A sunset. A smile. A touch. A forgotten song. Happiness seems to sneak in when I least expect it. When I'm not looking for it. When I'm not trying to be anywhere but right here.

In these moments I see that happiness is actually my natural state. And when I really understand my happiness isn't dependent on anything outside of me, I notice I have a lot more options. If only for a moment, I see the only obstacle is in my mind--my restrictive concept of what a happy life should look like. And I see that my left brain--the list maker--hasn't been very good at creating happiness.

But my left brain, my inner control freak, is terrified of giving up. It resists with every ounce of its being the idea that it's not in control and never was. That happiness doesn't follow a blueprint and it doesn't happen in the future. That the universe seems to be doing just fine without my left brain's opinions and plans.

When I'm present, here in my body, the left brain is mercifully silent. And my happiness is self-evident. I see that I can do anything without risking this happiness. I can go for the biggest thing imaginable, or the smallest, because I know I'll be happy no matter what--resting in this eternal present moment, our natural state, where nothing is needed and nothing is missing.

That kind of happiness is worth pursuing. And yet it only seems available when I stop chasing it.



  1. Reading this blog makes me happy...finding real happiness is so much better than the fake kind.

  2. Happiness is an interesting concept. It seems more like a fleeting emotion that, like you said well, just happens in unexpected moments, triggered by unpredictable little things. These days, I'm more interested in what I guess I call contentment or satisfaction -- a deeper sense of well-being that I know is always there despite the ups and downs of daily life. I'm trying to learn how to build an awareness and practices in my life that keep me feeling satisfied and content with all the blessings I have, not always looking for what's missing or not working.

    I love the blog, thanks for letting me share. Karen B

  3. Thanks for your comments, both of you.

    Karen, I agree--there's different kinds of happiness. Take a look at my entry from March 9--I talk about a few different definitions and settle on contentment as the one that is most available and least fleeting. And I think you hit the nail on the head--how can we see that we already have everything we need? That we already have everything?