I'm really not a curmudgeon, I'm just not a huge fan of happiness. Please don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-happiness either. I just don't believe that, in spite of what our forefathers proclaimed, life is about its pursuit. Those who chase it, end up mostly being unhappy. Happiness is okay, it's just overrated in my book.
And here's the irony: I spend a lot of time being happy. But it's not because I'm trying to be happy. It's because I'm busy being present and in the moment. And in the moment, without effort, happiness lives, like the air you breathe. It's right there, on the very next breath.
As the Buddha taught, it's the attachment to happiness that gets us in trouble. Seems to me like pursuing it is the equivalent of being attached. Yet some people make a living out of teaching others how to be happy. No offense, but making a project out of pursuing happiness doesn't sound like much fun to me, it sounds like work.
I think happiness happens when we're not "trying" so hard, when we're not totally obsessed with "being happy" but rather living in the natural flow of our soul's agenda. Happiness is a by-product of being aligned with one's spirit, living with an open heart, and expressing one's authentic passion.
Do all that and you'll be happy. Maybe. Or not. Because happiness is elusive, like a butterfly that lights on your shoulder. It's there for a moment and then gone. Try to capture it and you'll damage its wings, rendering it incapable of flying. Rather than trying to guard and hoard it, happiness, like the butterfly, is to be appreciated and celebrated during its visit and allowed to move on when it's time to move on.
We only cling to the idea of happiness because we fear we might not have it again. In our clinging, we miss the very moment of its ripeness, the mystery of its colors, its fragrance, its delicacy, the very thing itself. We clip its wings and crush it with our fear almost guaranteeing that we'll lose it: a self-fulfilling prophecy.
There are many approaches that teach how to increase one's chances for attaining happiness and that's all well and good. I highly endorse meditation, a powerful practice with enormous benefits to body, mind and spirit. I meditate, not to achieve happiness, but to enter into the silence and stillness, which is a welcome respite from the outer "noise" of living. I meditate to quiet and calm my monkey mind, to come into a close connection with the divine, to release stress, and to get right with me. All of which makes me enormously joyful.
Now let's talk joy for a moment. This, I can get on board with. One doesn't pursue joy. Joy is a deeper state than happiness, not dependent upon external circumstances for its ability to be experienced and felt. Joy is what you feel when you've told your deepest truths, even if those truths make you feel sadness in the telling. Joy is present in loss as well as in fullness. Joy is knowing that you have not compromised your self, that you've lived up to your own standards of honesty and integrity. Joy is knowing that you've made somebody else's life a bit easier, that you've loved well, that you've looked your fear in the face and had the courage to do what you needed to do anyway.
I think most people seek happiness, but really want to feel joy. Joy is a more permanent-like state. The Dalai Lama is joyful. Even in exile, even with his people suffering under the tyranny of China, his energy is light, playful, even mischievous. He doesn't take anything personally; he does not carry burdens. His heart is clear -- he is at peace.
Joy is a state born out of being at peace with yourself. Want to be joyful? Settle old scores and don't be attached to how it comes out. Let the other guy win. Finish your unfinished business. Don't leave any dangling participles behind. Clean up your act.
Joy incorporates both the agony and the ecstasy of existence. It requires that you make a vow to yourself, to live your life for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, til death do you part.
I'll take joy any day over happiness, even knowing that in so doing, I open myself to the pain of living a full-out, no-holds-barred kind of life. But I'm not attached!
What do you think? Would you rather be happy or joyful? Who is your favorite role model for joy?
And above all, don't worry: be joyful and en-joy many blessings on the path.