“How can I claim my happiness and joy if I don’t know what that means?” I hear this question on a daily basis. It’s an epidemic of ennui. There’s a sadness that accompanies the women (mostly) and men (some) who are struggling to make the most of this life. There’s a bit of nostalgia for something they can’t quite put their finger on and wistfulness about time racing.
This isn’t some mid-life crisis or ego-driven need to do more and acquire more, this is a longing of the soul and the heart to leave an impact before our time here is done.
Could it by my age or simply the time I’m living in? Lately every week is full of loss of friends and family at an age that seems too young. While I personally believe that life goes on after we die here on Earth, I still feel the sharpness of the loss and the chair that’s left vacant at the dinner table. People like to make fun of those looking for meaning in their lives – mocking “the navel gazers” for having such an easy life that they need only worry about leaving their mark.
It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was doing the mocking. I was so busy in the do-do-do and accumulate life that I couldn’t fathom what would possess someone to seek a higher meaning. Until all the accumulating stopped feeling good and fun and I was looking at the years looming before with more than a little dread. I felt guilty about that too. From the outside my life looked pretty spectacular, with a successful business, a cute house in Del Ray, a husband, a convertible and more. Still it was starting to feel like “stuff” was running my life. I felt that if that was a good as it gets, there wasn’t much point in living.
Don’t get me wrong, eating at great restaurants is still a highlight of my life. I like cute haircuts and clothes that fit and feel good. Having money is definitely better than not having money – there’s no argument there. However I know that having money and a purpose is a much better place, emotionally.
I asked myself what it would take to feel pure happiness, and I felt completely unqualified to answer.
So began a 10 year odyssey to figuring out what brings happiness to my life and how to harness joy in each moment. Now’s the point in the story where I tell you that happiness comes from waking up at dawn, meditating in silence for an hour and then chanting through my gentle yoga practice.
And I laugh.
The key to finding your happiness is simple. For me it wasn’t and still isn’t easy. For what it’s worth, I’ve learned a few things since 2004 about finding and keeping happiness (or peace, or Zen, or joy). Here are few ideas to start your own journey:
- Slow the Freak Down. Even though life seems to go too soon, the answer is to slow down, not plow through from one accomplishment to the next.
- Listen to yourself. The reason most of us are on autopilot, racing through our days, is because we’re petrified of what we might find out about ourselves if we stood still. Do it anyway.
- The heck with the Jones’. Stop trying to keep up with them (or whomever you’re comparing yourself to). Keep up with you, stop comparing, start living now.
- Start where you are. You’re 40 and thought you’d be married with three kids by now but instead you’re the President of a multi-national organization – rock on. Be there. And then figure out what the marriage and kids vision represents for you. From there you can move forward.
- Know WHY you want meaning. I know it seems trendy to be on a spiritual path these days (all the cool kids are doing it!) but if you don’t know WHY you’re looking for meaning, it’s going to feel meaningless.
- Stop worrying about everyone else. Unless the one you’re worrying about requires your body parts to provide them food and shelter, just resign as the queen of the world. Let the other humans find their way. You finding your way is the best way to get others to pay attention.
- It’s not your job to fix anyone, including yourself.
- It really is about love. Until you can find something to love in yourself, without caveats, it’s going to be tough to find happiness.
- Trust yourself. Trust the Universe.
- Release your need to control anyone or anything because control is only an illusion anyway.
That’s just a random sampling of lessons I’ve learned on my way to happiness. Most days are happy. Some not great things happen but at the end of the day, there is a happiness that is not dependent on anything outside of me happening (or not happening). For me, that’s the point.
Written by: Peggie Arvidson