Do you consider yourself a happy person? What about your friends and relatives, how many of them will answer positively to that question? I would like to reflect today about our pursuit of happiness. I will not talk about why some of us have an easier than others, rather about how people with similar lives and problems, have different perceptions, reactions and attitude regarding their life.
First of all, let’s establish common ground about what happiness is. As an abstract concept, it could have a different definition for everyone. Nevertheless, we can probably agree in saying that happiness is a long lasting feeling of content and satisfaction that is not limited to a specific moment or cause. Notice that I mention the words “long lasting”. We are not talking here about the joy of the moment, the “sugar high”. We are talking about the elusive feeling that inspires poems, music and paintings, whether it is because of the bliss of its presence or because of the pain of its absence or sometimes its unattainable nature.
Now, let’s imagine any average person that you know. Think about people with normal problems, not with big dramas or challenges. Who do you think is happy? Who do you think is not? There are many articles and statistics about this subject, including considerations such as: countries where we live, gender, , jobs, religious beliefs, or applying the famous Maslow´s Hierarchy of Needs. However, simplifying most statistics conclude that once basic needs are met (or even barely met), all these parameters are irrelevant. They notice that the feeling of belonging to a social group and having some kind of religious or spiritual belief are often a common factor in happiness. They all arrive to the conclusion also, that or material comfort, are definitely not an important factor. I believe there is a little bit of truth in most of these studies, but today I want to tell you what I notice about the happy people that I know, beyond those considerations.
Probably the most important thing that I see is that happy people do not identify with their life or their situation. This is my personal definition of freedom. They do not rely on any external factor in order to feel happiness. They are happy even if, at a given moment, they feel upset, or sad. They “are” intrinsically happy even if they “feel” different emotionally at some point. That makes me think that if both feelings are possible at the same time, it is safe to conclude that happiness is not an emotional response, but a state that is generated and developed at a deeper level. Is happiness a state of the soul ?
Most people get trapped in the belief that certain requirements are needed for us to be happy. Their life is a constant pursuit of steps that are considered necessary, like finishing a degree, finding love , having a good job, having kids or improving one’s appearance. The truth is that happy people are happy regardless of their situation. They are not necessarily the most wealthy, healthy, beautiful or successful from a social point of view, but they are the most morally and spiritually advanced. That may be a reason why, with the same circumstances or environment some are happy some are not. Life is in constant movement, and challenges are part of it. To be alive is, by definition, to be vulnerable, to be at risk, to have problems, to encounter situations that we label as positive and others that we consider negative. If we expect to find happiness when all situations in our life are under control or just how we like them, it would be an elusive and fleeting conquest. For the same reason, when asked about this subject, some people told me that happiness is not possible because it would mean to be in denial about all suffering in the world. How can anybody be happy when many others are victims of violence, injustice, slavery, extreme poverty…? The answer is not to be in denial about it, but to embrace it as a challenge, as something worthy of working on. It is similar to unconditional love, we don’t love somebody because they are perfect, we love them despite their flaws. Not because we don’t see them, but because we embrace them as a whole. When we do this, we are operating following directions from our soul, not from our mind. Let’s have a closer look at this concept.
Humans are multidimensional. No matter what your religious beliefs are, or if you have any, most of us would agree in describing humans as complex, multidimensional beings, with a physical body, a mental body, an emotional body, and a soul, or spiritual body. Although the last three are of a more subtle nature. During our life, as well as during our every day moments, we operate from one dimension or another. The needs of our bodies will determine what we do some times, our thoughts or our feelings will guide us at other moments.
There is nothing wrong with that, except when there is an imbalance, or we live centered too much in one of them. Let’s consider a simplified overview of this theory: when our physical bodies are in charge of our life, we have individuals with addictions (alcohol, food, sex, drugs…) In those cases, physical pleasure is taking the central stage of our life, not leaving space for anything else, and inhibiting or disregarding other aspects, like our emotional or our mental bodies. When our mental dimension is controlling the other three, we have an individual that rationalizes everything to the point of disregarding emotions and feelings, or disrespecting the body. Workaholics, relationship challenged people, are possible examples of this group. What happens when is our emotional body is the one wearing the crown? That will lead to emotionally unstable people. It seems clear that we need a balance, healthy people have a balance in which all our bodies fulfill their roles and are satisfied and fulfilled in return.
However what is the role of our spiritual body, soul, solar angel, essence or whatever name you are comfortable with? Our soul carries the blueprint, the plan of incarnation. Our essence, unlike our personality is who we really are. All our other bodies are vehicles and useful tools to accomplish our life purpose. They are subdued to our essence, which is the source of guidance for our lives. From this point of view,happiness is not something to achieve, it is a measure of achievement. When this balance is in place, we are happy. When there is an unnatural or unintended order, we feel discomfort, pain or emptiness. Those feelings are often just a sign of our essence been ignored. Obviously we don’t ignore it purposely, we do it by focusing our attention in one or another of our other dimensions. For many people, to follow their essence is a natural process. They are unaware of it, they are just naturally happy and they don’t need the consciousness of observing or understanding the process. For others, like me, it has been a discovery, a trip that became conscious at a given moment. It does not matter how our journey is, the pursuit of happiness is really the pursuit of our life purpose, as it should be our natural state. As such, it is a good guide for when we need to change direction, or when we need to know that we are following our path.
I believe that, after all those considerations, happiness seems more attainable. First, we need to understand that it is a choice, it is our right and it is our natural state. Our images or our beliefs determine our reality, so the first step is to notice what our beliefs are and to challenge the ones that are not useful in our lives, or that stand in the way of us having a more fulfilling life.
The second step is to be aware of our spiritual nature. This is called awakening; using a J.K.Rowling simile, it is the difference between muggles and wizards. Using a Mafalda approach, it is the difference between us living our lifes or life driving us. In my own words, consciousness is the difference between feeling alive and happy versus just surviving. To be aware of our spiritual nature means to realize that we are eternal spirits, temporarily incarnated in a body, and not the other way round.
The third step is to learn how to witness our feelings, our thoughts, our attitudes, noticing what is important for us, what is in tune with our purpose. This will require total honesty, so we can recognize when are we acting following old patterns determined by our egos, traditions, or by what other people expect of us. We will also notice where we feel trapped and powerless.
From there, we need to make choices that honor our true needs. Those choices will eventually shape our relationships, our jobs, our appearance and our lives. In this way, how we with all obstacles will determine our growth.
To sum up, happiness is not a selfish objective, but a birthright and a natural state, that has the purpose of evaluating and measuring how our life is enfolding. To be present, to develop our consciousness and to learn how to witness our inner processes are a good way to find happiness. Aren’t we lucky that our g uide for controlling our growth and improvement is through pleasure?
By Helena Aramendia. Allowed the partial or total reproduction as long as the source is credited.