Recently I caught myself feeling somewhat low. Perhaps it was due to the countless storms that recently passed through northern California. In any case I thought that somehow I should feel better, and began wondering about what makes one happy, and exactly what is the key to happiness?
My quest for the answer didn’t work well at first. In fact, it made me feel slightly worse. I realized that sitting around, wondering why I wasn’t happy, would not make me happier in any way. Suddenly, my thoughts were interrupted by a doorbell. A neighbour stopped by asking for my help in the yard.
Reluctantly, I agreed and followed him out. For a while, I lazily gave him a hand in anticipation of getting back to my thoughts. However, after a while, I became so engrossed in the work, that I lost myself in the moment, entirely thought free, and… happy.
By the time the work was done, I was physically exhausted, but internally glowing with a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I laughed out loud, realizing that once again life was teaching me a lesson!
Happiness can not, and should not be the goal itself. In other words you should not wake up in the morning, saying “today my goal is to be happy”. Happiness can only come as a result, or an outcome of other actions.
The keys to happiness are to live a life that is open to benevolence, love and compassion. It is these intangible deeds that bring real joy and happiness to you. I find the following to be a good example of such deeds.
The energy created by selfless giving tends to spread out and gain momentum as it envelops everyone involved. It’s contagious in a way that attracts more and more people to continue the process of giving.
Giving freely doesn’t necessarily mean gifts of material possessions. Giving freely of yourself, of your labor and your time. Offering your attention to listen and support at a time of need. Giving without expecting anything in return. Giving even when you don’t have enough for yourself.
As it applies to happiness, acceptance means simply receiving whatever comes your way, without judgement or criticism. The bottom line is, we just don’t know which of life’s outcomes are better for our future. Even when events don’t unfold the way we want them to, the repercussions may turn out to be for the best. Trust in the wisdome of the Higher Power.
Another form of acceptance is to learn to accept the gifts that are offered. As mentioned earlier, giving is a form of energy. But to be fully effective, it must be offered, accepted and reciprocated. Think of it in term of a circle. Giving as well as receiving.
Attaching your emotions to events is asking for disappointment. Don’t attach your happiness to a specific outcome. Maintain a healthy detachment. Remember that letting go is more rewarding than accumulating or holding back. Detachment represents freedom seldom experienced by the modern world.
Happiness is a powerful emotion. It is however transient, thus difficult to maintain. Make peace your priority instead. Peace is a state that can last indefinitely when properly maintained and nurtured. Given the choice, I would much rather remain in a state of constant peace, rather than in momentary happiness.
The key to happiness I found out, is a key to a lifestyle of giving, loving and accepting. Happiness is born of these qualities, and is not their cause. Looking for happiness and creating the conditions that lead to it, are two distinctly different processes. To put it simply, make someone happy, get happy in return.