Got you, didn’t I? Who among us doesn’t want that ticket? Who doesn’t want to ride the ride?
Happiness is an elusive, much sought after tease. We race after it using self-help books as road maps. We listen to speakers extrapolate guidelines and flow-charts to finding joy. We talk to therapists, spiritual leaders, ministers and priests as well as friends and loved ones about uncovering what makes us truly happy. We do crazy things to find that much longed for Blissful State.
With so many people looking for it, you would think it would be easier to find. So why then does it seem to be so difficult to pin down? Under what rock does it hide? And — here’s the kicker — should you find that Zen, Happy Place, what kind of deal with the devil do you have to make to stay there in Wonderland?
I’ve heard it said that Happiness is a Decision, not an Occurrence. That you choose it. That no matter what comes at you, you can decide whether to allow it to thwart your joy or strengthen your spirit. I learn that in my Yoga practice. No matter what Pose I’m faced with — or how difficult/easy it might be, I can determine how to respond and manage the challenges it presents. I can determine my response. And I can take that off the mat every time I leave the Shelter for the World.
That said, I’ve also read that there’s More to life than Being Happy. That it’s the very pursuit of happiness that will actually thwart happiness at every turn. We should instead look for Meaning, which doesn’t necessary make us happy — or unhappy for that matter — or stress-free and easy but does potentially increase our overall sense of well-being and enhance our self-esteem which is good too. Investing in something bigger than our own personal agenda gives us a chance to use our highest strengths and talents in a servant focused way. But … that potentially produces depression, anxiety and worry.
Taking care of others allows us to transcend ourselves and reach beyond the present moment to affect change and serve something more significant. Sometimes it involves self-sacrifice or denying self. As Dickens wrote in A Tale of Two Cities and Spock later quoted in Star Trek’s Wrath of Kahn: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one.”
Seeking Happiness can be considered a shallow endeavor, encouraging us to choose things that make us feel good, satisfy a need or desire or bring us closer to what we truly want in our lives. We want less stress and more peace. We seek a calm ride instead of one riddled with bumps and challenges. We want our lives to Matter, sure. But we want Joy along the way too.
Is that too much to ask?
That’s selfish, I guess. After all Money doesn’t buy you Happiness. It may get you that outfit you want or that book you want or that house you want or the cool car or the pretty lingerie or the Pandora bead or the trip to that warm, sunny location which will make you Happy for a time but won’t necessarily buy a continued Happy Happy Joy Joy. Happiness just isn’t like that. Neither is a Meaningful existence.
When we seek the Happy State, we selectively avoid elements that might rock the boat and thereby enhance our resiliency and make us better human beings. We resist, avoid, dislike and even resent those things that require us to make sacrifices and keep us from that longed for Blissful State on the couch of life. We steer clear of projects or people or things that might challenge us or cause stress. But when we seek a more Meaningful existence, we serve others and find Joy there — perhaps relinquishing our personal Happiness for a Higher Purpose, a Greater Good or to Serve Another.
It’s a vicious cycle, truly. I want Meaning. I want Happy. I find Meaning. I find Happy. Yeah! Did it, right?
Nope. Here’s how I figure it works. Happy is just one aspect of your Train. It’s always with you. You just have to embrace it and recognize it might look different than you expected.
While you ride, you encounter special moments of necessary respite or growth or gifts you need to support your journey at a series of Train Stations. These can offer moments of peace and rest or especially dynamic joyful times. You drive through them during your Journey, disembark for a bit. You even make longer stops at times and relish the many Blissful Benefits of that specific station. Then you climb back on the Train and continue your journey in an effort to find Meaning, making delicious memories and experiencing amazing adventures all while you grow and make your life count. Your ride gives you a chance to meet and touch the lives of others … to do what you love to do … to laugh and cry … and encounter Wonderland on and off the train as you travel along.
Happiness isn’t truly elusive. It’s with us all the time. When bad things happen to me and I’m “unhappy,” there are moments I still laugh. There are moments after a cry that I smile. There are moments of Joy in all Sadness and Struggle.
Happiness. We seek it. We find it. We settle for a bit and bask in its warm, golden glow. Then we get up and keep moving, taking that Glow with us. It empowers us to touch the lives of others as we are called to do along the way, doing the things we love to do and making the most of the other stuff too. And we shine all the brighter for the tunnels we go through on the journey.
We have a ticket on the Happiness Express, but it calls us to complete the work we are meant to do and become what we are meant to be. Whatever that is. Wherever that is. .
Only then do we stop our Pursuit …