Most of my writing focuses on being happier. Overall I consider myself a happy person. But I have bouts of depression, and there was a time in my life I identified myself as a depressed person, and found happiness fleeting at best. So how does one get to be happy?
I wish I had a generic answer that would help everyone. I help my clients discover what might make them happier, and of course offer some generic suggestions for trial as we go. But this post will focus on my Now: what is working for me, and why.
First I’d like to talk about what isn’t responsible for my happiness, though most might think it is. I had a great day. Totally enjoyed the classes I taught. Came home and took a nap. Went to the beach and prepared for tomorrow’s teaching. Took a long run listening to my favorite music. It was a beautiful day in paradise. I certainly can’t say this didn’t add to my happiness. But I’ve been pretty effing happy for a bit now, so these isolated incidents aren’t all of it.
Two months ago I was depressed, maybe worse some days, because what I expected to be happening in a relationship suddenly wasn’t. To put it bluntly, I was fucked up. I got through my days, counseled others, taught, and did what I needed to do. A lot of days doing what I needed to do, interacting with others helped. But I wanted to isolate. Wanted to be left alone a lot of the time. And was. But sometimes, connection with others, making them laugh (in class) or helping someone, does bring happiness. Or, it at least brings relief from sadness. And maybe, like cold is simply the absence of heat; happiness is the absence of suffering.
It isn’t a relationship that’s making me happy. I’m quite content not being in one right now. Downright enjoying it. It isn’t money. Things are slow in private practice, and although teaching helps pay the bills, it isn’t enough. In fact I had to ask why I didn’t get paid this period, despite teaching over the holiday break. Plus, anyone who knows me knows I’m not about money. It isn’t security, I have none, lol. Most of the things people clamor for believing they’ll bring happiness, I do not have. No job security, no savings, no retirement, no stable loving relationship, and no expensive toys. So why the hell am I happy? Insanity?
Lately I’ve been reading some existential writing about the absurdity of life. At the risk of being too general but without being too esoteric, life really is absurd. We like to believe it has so much meaning and importance. And, individually, at times it does. But as a quote I recently read by Elbert Hubbard says, “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.” Many find this quote morbid, or the whole idea of life being absurd depressing. But it doesn’t have to be. It can be freeing.
I don’t mean freeing the way some view existentialism: as a “do what you want and let the chips fall where they may” philosophy. A basic tenet of existentialism is with freedom comes tremendous responsibility. Whatever choices you make, you are responsible for. At the same time, however, how important is everything really?
Besides the existential reading I’ve been doing, I’m also reading Ram Dass “Be Here Now.” That book discusses the interconnectedness of everything (amongst many other things). This might seem diametrically opposed to the above view, but it isn’t. Everything is interconnected, but it also will be okay, and might be illusion. The main point of the book, however, is that all we have is the moment. Sure we can plan for the future, but as he says, do we dance with those plans, or carry them like a burden?
To be in the moment is much more difficult than it sounds. The mind races. It plans the next move, or relives some prior one. It attempts to figure everything out. It attempts to entertain, to find something more important than the moment. This is fine some of the time. But happiness lies in the moment more often than the mind wants to allow it.
A way I’ve been getting in the moment is by thought stopping. When my mind is wandering, playing some nostalgic (and often sad) film of what could have, should have, or might have been, I stop it. Or when it is trying to figure out someone else, or the “why” of anything, I stop it. I realize with a smile that this isn’t fact. My thinking is untrustworthy (as all thinking is, see “I’m Full of It, And So Are You”, or “I Think, Therefore I…Huh”, or “The Truth Will Not Set You Free”). So I stop my thoughts, realizing my thinking is untrustworthy, and life is absurd. I stop taking anything I’m thinking seriously (except when trying to help another). Then I enter the moment.
The moment isn’t always blissful. But I gain a sense of accomplishment entering it, and deciding I won’t simply allow my thoughts to lead me around. I sometimes go back to realizing I can create myself in the moment (see “Authentic Personal Growth” or “You, And The Manifesting Of Reality” or “Consciously Creating Your Relationships”). This is a powerful feeling, the realization you can create yourself, and you can be whom you want in that moment. It is the essence of empowerment.
I often think about giving up writing (and talking period). In fact, I hope someday before I die I do. I hope I just shut up. Why? Well it isn’t depression. I think similarly when feeling good. The reason is because silence helps destroy the ego. And besides, everything I say about happiness, enlightenment, serenity, everything, has been said. All I’m doing is repeating what much wiser people have said: the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, Eckhart Tolle, David Hawkins, Wayne Dyer, Jane Roberts, Deepak Chopra, Ram Dass, Jean Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, William James, Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, and the list goes on. But you know what? Sometimes we all need to be reminded. I’ve spent half my life reading the similar messages said in different ways. And, as evidenced by my “see also”, I’ve repeated myself yet again.
I haven’t destroyed my ego yet. I don’t think I’m enlightened, or self-actualized, or any of those lofty goals. But I feel good. I’m grateful for my life, and understand how I’ve created it (with the help of others). I’m also aware it’ll end someday, and want to embrace it fully (see “Using Mortality To Be More Conscious”). And, more often then ever before, I’m letting go of the absurdity, seeing the humor in much of life, and being in the moment. May you as well.
I came across this quote, which might be helpful: “For the absurd man, the ideal is the present and the succession of present moments before an ever conscious spirit.” Sartre quoting Camus.