Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. Nathaniel Hawthorne
Like a butterfly, happiness is always elusive: we search everywhere for it, seeking that one moment that makes all things feel good, only to find it slips away, changes or isn’t as we thought, and once again we’re lost in the quest to find it. We know it’s near but where is it hiding? Are we even looking in the right place?
In our crowded and competitive world this search for happiness is becoming ever more urgent. A recent article on the HuffingtonPost stated how there are “over 75 million Google search results for the term and 40,000 happiness-related books available for purchase on Amazon… And it’s not necessarily helping us to become any happier.”
Maybe we need to change direction or find a new approach. As the Dalai Lama says, we all want to be happy and have the right to be. But after years of working with the mind, both training and teaching, we know that to find lasting happiness we have to look to ourselves, beneath and beyond the mind and its endless distractions, beyond ideas and fantasies of the way life should be, to see the wonder that lies within.
However, easier said than done. It can seem far easier to believe that we’re the dust on a mirror and could never be so beautiful as our radiant reflection beneath the surface. Yet how sad to believe that we can’t be happy when happiness is our true nature! When we finally get it that self-centeredness doesn’t lead to happiness, when we realize the pit of emptiness inside is never really satiated no matter how much we feed it, or when we’ve just had enough of chaos and suffering, then we crave something more genuine and the longing for real, inner happiness arises.
And that’s when we also get it that happiness arises naturally when we stop trying to find it, stop looking for it, and instead focus away from selfishness, self-centeredness and self-gratification.
“When we discover inner happiness, it wells up out of our being,” says Prof Robert Thurman in our book, Be The Change. “We realize that our basic nature is happiness. We realize this through meditation, through the deepening of awareness, that thinking of others is really much more selfish than thinking of ourselves. This is what’s called being a wise selfish, while a stupid selfish always thinks or worries about him or herself and is then dissatisfied because nothing is good enough. When we focus on others then we forget about dissatisfaction and, presto, we become more content. All the great traditions teach that when we embrace others as ourselves and we focus on their happiness, then we have a much bigger pool of happiness.”
The reason why the only viable place to find happiness is within ourselves is because when we look within we find we’re directly connected to each and every other, there is no separation. Meditation and mindfulness take us there, then compassion, caring and loving become a natural expression of that happiness.