Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inside Out

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness, which is a good thing since I’m blogging on the subject. We all know that happiness is an inside job. Real happiness has nothing to do with external circumstances. We know that on some level, but we forget so quickly. We still run around trying to choreograph (which is a kinder word for control) every aspect of our lives in order to conform to our pictures of what we think will constitute happiness. Our relationships must look a certain way, our careers, our homes, communities, our 2.5 children. We try to get all these ducks in a row so that we can then settle down, relax and be happy. But that never works. It hurls us into that illusive future that never comes; it postpones our good. We find ourselves waiting until it’s just so, or until we’ve earned it. It is an endless chore that leaves us frustrated, tired and multi-tasking to that point where we wish we had never heard that word. When we rely on external circumstances to make us happy and bring us the joy that we seek, we lose one hundred percent of the time. I’m here to encourage you to relax. Stop the incessant drive toward futility and choose to focus on the happiness that already exists within. As best selling author and cofounder of the Omega Institute, Elizabeth Lesser so soothingly puts it, “There is no one to impress, nothing to get, nowhere to rush to, nothing to miss out on. The truth is always there, plain and simple, hiding somewhere near you.”

The truth is that the happiness we seek is already within us. It then becomes a deliberate choice of how we will proceed. I think we often fear that if we go within we will have to forfeit the “stuff” that we want. I have two things to say about that. First of all, “stuff” is highly overrated. Take a look at the brilliant perspective by Annie Leonard who produced The Story of Stuff. Secondly, when we act from the inside out, prompted and directed by our intuition and divine guidance we attract our hearts desire in a way we could have never dreamed. A Course In Miracles puts it so well when it says, “Fear of the Will of God is one of the strangest beliefs the human mind has ever made.” By whatever words you name it – God, The Universe, your Buddha nature, Allah, Christ consciousness, your higher self, love or that quantum force that connects us all – I think we agree that we are all part of a divine essence. It connects us all and it responds to our conscious thoughts. Why would we fear it? Perhaps this strong yearning for happiness is the very impetus we need to go within and discover the truth of who we are. It is only then that we are truly happy.

As a society, we have learned to go for happiness from the outside. It’s the way we were taught. There is a recipe for success and if we follow it we will be happy, right? Not so much. I know a lot of people who are wildly successful and rich with all the trappings that define happiness to a tee and they are the furthest thing from it. They are left with a void and a strong case of, “is that all there is?” The high of the new last thing has worn off and it leaves them wanting for more. That line that we thought would surely signify happiness when we crossed it begins to move every time we approach it. This was the role model for happiness that we were given. Unfortunately, it has built a world of insatiable greed and avarice. Fortunately, we are at choice and we are beginning to change things from a place of stability and power – from the inside where all creation exists. We stand poised on an exciting stage of possibility.

Dr. Robert Holden, psychologist and founder of the Happiness Project in England, tells us that, “Those looking for happiness often don't realize they already have it…you don't chase happiness out there. You learn that you're happy inside you…. Then you go into the world.” One of his big prescriptions for happiness is to be present, live in the moment. He says, “Living in the ‘not now’ is a chief cause of unhappiness. The strain of being not present in your own life is simply too great. When you miss out on the present, you miss out on so much. No now; no life. In the English language, the word ‘present’ has three distinct meanings: ‘here’, ‘now’ and ‘a gift.’"

It’s not as hard as we think to change our external quest for happiness to an internal one. It’s a simple shift of consciousness and it takes practice. The more we practice, the more it will become natural. The more natural it becomes the happier we are inclined to be. This begins to shift in the way our world responds back to us. The mirror changes so the reflection has to as well. Buddhism has a beautiful concept know as esho-funi, oneness of life and its environment. The two are not separate but one. When one changes the other has no choice, they are two integral phases of a single reality. Discover your happiness within and it will be reflected without. Your life will change and you will find the happiness that you desire without all the stuff.

This week I would encourage, as always, to be mindful of your thoughts. Change your mind about those things that make you feel bad. For the most part, it’s just a story that we keep telling ourselves. This week let’s mine our inner storehouse for happiness. Make a list of 25 things, people, places or activities that make you happy. Maybe it’s something that you haven’t done or thought of in a long time. Then go do that. Tap into that place inside you where there is a wellspring of joy. You may find that it will bring a new relationship, home or career direction. There are countless numbers of people who have stumbled upon a new career path by virtue of doing something that made them happy in the moment. Greg Mortensen comes to mind. A man who has established over 90 schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan as a result of climbing the second-highest mountain on Earth, K2, to honor his sister’s memory. I think of the prominent attorney whose casual, polite greeting of a homeless man in the park turned into an idea of Book Club for the Homeless – the idea is now catching on globally. One man with a kind gesture – nothing makes him happier – take a good look at his face as you watch this video I leave you with this week. I leave you also with a quote by Henry Miller who said, "If we have not found heaven within, it is a certainty we will not find it without."

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  1. Thank you for the words that I love to hear. I love the video what a beautiful story!!

  2. This was a very inspirational post to read today. Thank you for the reminder!