“What I want most in this world is to: _____________”. The natural inclination is to complete this sentence with “be happy”. And why shouldn’t it be? The idea of happiness feels so good that if we are not feeling it in the moment, we consider it missing and send out a massive search party.
We look for the happiness we feel we are missing everywhere: in our relationships with our partner, family, and friends, a promotion at work, in the logo of a newly purchased Coach purse, in a carton of ice cream. We avoid people, places, and things in our search for happiness, we blame others for its loss in our life, we rehash the past and fantasize about the future in happiness’s name. We do a whole lot of work in our effort to be happy. But the truth is that happiness is rarely found in our next relationship, at our next job, or at the bottom of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
When the word happy is hyphenated, as in “trigger-happy”, it refers to an “overwhelming urge to do something”. Is it possible we have become a little too “happy-happy”? We are operating with an overwhelming obsession to be happy at the cost of other experiences. We are so obsessed with it that even knowing all the places happiness isn’t, we find ourselves habitually returning to these well-worn spots. We are on an endless search for happiness, running through the streets trying to find it, and creating turmoil through the wanting of our efforts.
The Sufi poet, Hafiz, said: “Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you”. The truth is, if we really want to find Happiness, don’t we already know its address?
When we stop running, take a breath, and begin to look around, we begin to notice the little things in life we’ve taken for granted — how good the sun feels on our skin, the smell of freshly-made coffee, the joy in our dog’s eyes as he greets us at the door. If we learn to pause and be still in the present moment, we might realize that we are pursuing a happiness which was never running from us in the first place.
When we let go of the struggle to be happy, we open ourselves up to experience all that life offers us — a full range of emotions. We can begin to investigate true happiness — the gift of experiencing life just as it is — in the last place we think to look. Being with exactly what is gives us the opportunity for Happiness, which has been running down the street after us, calling our name, to find us and bring us home.