Here is a simple lesson about happiness.
It is an important lesson because many of us have some wrong ideas about happiness. Having the wrong idea can cause you to waste a lot of time – just like having the wrong directions to go somewhere. If you have the wrong directions, you end up somewhere else, and when you have the wrong ideas about happiness, you end up with something else. You may have been looking for happiness in all the wrong places.
The first thing to know about happiness is obvious, but I better say it anyway. Happiness is an inner state; it happens inside of us. The feeling is sort of like taking a dip in a refreshing ocean. Happiness wakes you up. Oh, but it is good to be alive! you think. It is refreshing because it pops you out of the “envelope” you live in, which is way too constraining and—dare we say it—BORING!
People naturally become very fond of the things that connect them to this state of aliveness. So they become dedicated surfers or sailors or dancers or baseball fans or whatever that activity was where they felt happy. But at some point the magic may stop, and the prompt no longer pops you out. This happens when you are comparing and measuring and demanding it be as good as last time. You become a bean counter rather than someone enjoying the perfect wave.
If you remember that happiness comes from inside you, it helps. It is like a secret elixir that gets made inside your inner laboratory when you are experiencing life in a certain way. Happiness is not about what life is offering you, but how you are experiencing it.
So what is this way of experiencing life? It is with wonder, with openness, with your heart open to be touched.
Here is a secret: You don’t have to be doing anything to experience happiness. It is just that we are usually doing something, so then we associate it with what we’re doing. I have felt this happiness staring out the window. Some experience it during meditation. And so like skydiving and surfing and baseball, people who have felt it this way want to do more staring out the window or meditating. “Oh, if only I could do nothing and just stare out the window!” they say. But then you stare out the window and guess what? Next time the bean counter is there.
Happiness is not something you can pull up on demand. It is like a wild horse that cannot be domesticated. It will come to you when you are most open. So the first important thing to remember about happiness is that you cannot control it.
The second thing to remember is that you have to be in the moment, not too busy in your head.
Children know a lot more about happiness than adults do. Adults may think that’s not true (that children know more), but then adults don’t know everything. Children are happier because they are less boxed in. Their minds are not exploding with so many thoughts that they are in a constant state of brain cramp. There is still some space in their brains, and space is critical for happiness. Children can just be here now and enjoy the sandbox. (Adults, on the other hand, go to the beach and take their books and cell phones and every other gadget and busy themselves with everything but being there.)
The third thing is that happiness is bubbly and ecstatic, at least to some degree. There is a spontaneous, not-to-be-contained sense about it. It is like when the crowd goes wild at a sporting event.
Yes, there is also a peaceful form of happiness (contentment), but what we’re talking about here is a little different. The difference is a matter of how much fizz is in it—like the fizz in sparkling water. The more fizz, the more ecstatic and unbridled. Maybe the fizz in sparkling water is a crowd of water molecules going wild.
Wild horse – sandbox – fizz. Can you remember that? You can’t control happiness (wild horse); you have to be in the moment (sandbox); and it brings a bubbly, happy feeling that pops you out of your normal state and feels refreshing (fizz). Now that’s not too much for one lesson, is it?