One spring afternoon in Atlanta, when my daughter was three years old, she invited a friend from day- care to walk to the neighborhood playground with us. We were holding hands and walking together when suddenly our houseguest broke away and dashed ahead towards the shade of a huge pine tree. She crouched down, turned her eager eyes to us, and said, “Come here quick!” We ran over and squatted next to her to see what was so urgent. A little budding crocus, clearly new and purple, peeked out of the ground. My daughter’s friend looked at us and said in a gentle yet excited tone: “We’re alive!” And we looked at that flower and then at each other, and knew it was true. Then the two little girls broke into giggles.
HAPPINESS IS AN INSIDE JOB
OK, so there is no secret key to happiness, but if there were one, it would be that happiness is inside, not outside. And that’s not a secret, just a well-ignored fact. We pursue happiness as if it were the result of individual events, the consequence of certain behaviors, or the sum of certain acquisitions. Happiness eludes those kinds of equations like a butterfly escapes a net or water passes through a sieve. House + car+ job + family does not equal happiness!
HAPPINESS IS CHILD’S PLAY
Happiness is a state of being and not one that we can achieve by reasonable means alone. It has more to do with the magic a child feels. So do we jaded adults have a chance? What do kids have that we adults don’t possess? Well, they have less: less hassle, less worry, less responsibility, and less conceptualization. Behold our little gurus of happiness…behold the lesson of “keep it simple.”
HAPPINESS IS NOT A PURSUIT
Adults came up with the phrase “the pursuit of happiness,” and maybe we’ve gotten it wrong. Maybe we’re supposed to let happiness find us. Maybe achieving happiness has more to do with inviting it, making room for it, and removing disturbances and distractions, than it does with chasing it down. Perhaps happiness is something to be with rather than possess, much like the scent of a rose, or rain trickling down the window, or wind rustling through autumn leaves. Maybe happiness is already mine, but in ignorance, I am like the musk deer that wanders the forest in search of the beautiful scent that he’s blindly carrying within his body.
THE HEART HOLDS THE KEY TO HAPPINESS
There is no happiness without love, and there is no love without the heart. That means happiness is more a quality of the heart than of the mind. Pseudo-happiness is of the mind, which says having or doing should make me happy, that more is always better, and that external success equals internal fulfillment. Not so. The heart knows when it’s had enough, and also when it hasn’t. Without the heart’s satisfaction, the mind stays restless and wanting and seek- ing. What does the heart want? What satisfies the heart? In a nutshell: it wants its nature; it wants itself.
HAPPINESS NEEDS NO REASON
Happiness is one of those “just because” experiences not attached to anything but feeling good inside. Like a newborn colt running in sheer exuberance. And when we link it to something—anything—we spoil it and become dependent on whatever we’ve attached. This sort of “happiness” comes and goes with the tides of changing circumstance, the pursuit of which makes us re- active, and therefore unstable. Proactive people are happier than reactive people merely because they predispose themselves to be happy… just because. Reactive people tend to trip over all the reasons for being unhappy; proactive people are happy because they choose to be happy, with or without reasons. Not that reason doesn’t have its place on the happiness path. Figuring out what I want, and how to make it happen, can be fun. Ultimately, I believe entering the world of happiness takes a leap of faith. The mind can take us all the way up the ladder to the very edge of the diving board, but then we have to jump to experience the freedom and exhilaration. That’s where I want and choose to live! If happiness is already within me, and only my “adult” grabbiness keeps me from it, then I pray for the guileless heart of a child and the good sense to keep my focus simple. When all is said and done, I want what my heart wants.
B Y ANDY ROMAN, LICENSED
MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELOR, MS, RN