What or who are you attached to? What is your happiness dependent upon? What invisible strings are tying you to your ego?
A good friend of mine has been on a spiritual pursuit for years. He was a highly intelligent, personable, healthy and highly financially successful person. But much like most people who achieve material success, he found it dissatisfying and he instantly shifted to wanting the sort of spiritual success that simply gets defined as “Happiness.” He realized after all of his achieving that the whole point of “success” was actually happiness. And if he got the former without the latter, it just wasn’t worth much at all.
His new challenge was that he wanted to be happy. But that’s just another way of saying that he was dissatisfied with his life as it was. So to be focused on achieving Happiness means you are also focused on stopping Unhappiness. You still want something outside of yourself. But as Eckhart Tolle says, “You ‘get’ there by realizing that you are there already.” So no ones true happiness is dependent on anything other than the understanding that you will feel whatever you think.
It’s a bit like learning to multiply numbers. You did that in a split second—just as soon as you had the insight that allowed you to see the idea of multiplication from a perspective where it simply made sense. It’s not a complicated concept. 5 X 4 is five bags of four apples. But until you can recognize that, it seems very, very hard. Same with happiness. Until you know how to do it, it seems hard. After you know how to do it you have trouble understanding why other people can’t do it because it’s so much easier than being an unsatisfied ego.
A lot of my students will change through a series of small, incremental insights. A few weeks of Aha! moments and they’re different people. It’s the Aha moments that do that. And those happen inside you. That’s why they’re called Insights. They’re a reorganization of thoughts you believed you understood. But you make one small adjustment and suddenly there’s new lines connecting the dots in your head and you’re left with a totally different picture of how the world works. Some of those insights happen at a base level, where a concept is writ large over the person’s entire reality. And like my friend did, those people experience full-on epiphanies. They are literally different people the moment afterwards.
My friend used to walk around slouched, with his head down. He wore almost exclusively dark colours, and if he spoke it was often as sharply judgmental as it was intellectually sharp. His view of humanity was fairly bleak, and his life was a repetitive collection of meaningless activities in that none of them even brought much joy. He was still a fundamentally nice guy, but you rarely heard him laugh at anything that didn’t involve someone else’s suffering.
Now he’s like spending time with a newborn. He literally beams love. He walks around with his head up, wearing bright colours, and he smiles a lot. He’s much more generous with those around him, and he only sees the best in each and every person he knows. He’s more willing to be honest about important things, and he can be both more generous and he can stand his ground more firmly. He’s developed more meaningful connections to everyone from his parents to his siblings to his co-workers and friends. He is perpetually in a state of love.
If you were to ask my friend what the difference is between his life before, and his life now, he would tell you that his happiness is no longer dependent on any specific outcome. He is rich because there is nothing he wants. He is peaceful because there is nothing he wants. He can be loving to anyone because he knows he does not feel their love for him, he knows he feels his love for them. He no longer pursues happiness, he enacts happiness by being very childlike. Very young children want to share their good fortune, they want to be playful and not harbour useless thoughts about obligations or times other than Now. They are little Buddhas and now he has joined them.
My friend is a beautiful person and I experience great joy when I think of his transformation. He’s inspiring to many people and much of what challenges us in life is over for him. Yes, his enlightenment will continue to be a practice. It is a verb—he will have to use the power of his consciousness to maintain that “place.” But just like you can’t forget how to multiply numbers, he can’t forget that he knows what the Truth really is. And he won’t go back to living in ego simply because that other world just looks too crazy once you’ve seen the Truth.
Look at your life. It is filled with conditions for your happiness. Your boss has to do this or that, your romantic partner must do this or that, your friends must do this or that, your government must do this or that, your society must do this or that, you must change or this or that way. There are no musts. There is only what Is. Accepting that, and looking for what you already love about it, is all you have to do. Just let go of your attachments to the idea of happiness and instead simply enact it. No more thinking about happiness. It is time to Be Happiness itself.
Now go create yourself a beautiful day. I love you.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.