“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder”-Henry David Thoreau
I’ve been chasing happiness for as long as I can remember. I just wanted to feel joy within me on a consistent basis, rather than in sporadic, fleeting moments.
Because I was born into a fearful, poor, and troubled home, I quickly realized what I didn’t want. I despised the feeling of fear that permeated my home. I just wanted to feel happy and free.
So, the chase for happiness began….
As a child, I thought I would be happy if I could release myself from the burden of fear. So, I stuck to a plan to study hard, get a good job, and support myself. With such independence, I would free myself from my distressed home life.
This plan worked wonders. I became fiercely independent by the age of 23 and I didn’t need my family to support me anymore. The freedom from pain brought great relief. It felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.
But, I soon realized that true happiness still eluded me. I didn’t feel the level of contentment that I thought I would achieve.
Off I went, chasing happiness again…
Being highly influenced by my western culture, I assumed I could find happiness in external things. It appeared that the rich who had nice houses, cars, clothes, and beauty were the happiest. They certainly looked perfect and happy.
So, I followed suit. I bought a nice house, nice cars, and nice clothes. And I worked very hard to achieve a nice body image.
On the outside looking in, my life looked happy and perfect. But inside, I felt miserable.
There was no real happiness in material things. On top of that, trying to keep up with perfection was impossible. Trying to maintain the perfect house, kids, cars, body, etc. was downright exhausting.
Human beings are not meant to be perfect. Perfectionism is unnatural and depressing.
I was completely overwhelmed, and far from happy, in my attempts to keep up with “The Joneses”.
I needed out of the chaotic, competitive, and materialistic rat race.
My chase for happiness continued…
I decided to turn to psychology/self-help/spirituality/philosophy. Why? Because I needed to deeply understand what was going on with my mind, body, soul. And I wanted to discover the secrets to happiness.
I consumed hundreds of books. My office desk, bedroom nightstand, and kitchen table were piled high with books. My husband and kids must have thought I was crazy!
I was delighted because there were oodles of literature on the meaning of happiness and how to attain it.
I tried a number of techniques and recommendations suggested by the great teachers and masters of the world. I practiced meditation, Qigong, and positive self-talk daily. But for some reason, I wasn’t reaching the level of happiness I wanted.
I started to doubt myself. I intellectually understood the secrets to happiness, but I couldn’t apply them in my life.
I would often think “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I get this? Maybe I’m just not meant to be happy.”
So, I gave up…
About a week later, something profound occurred to me. Like a flash of insight, I suddenly realized what I was doing wrong.
I was trying too hard to be happy my whole life. In my chase for happiness, I’d never find it.
I understood that happiness is found within, not without.
I was very much done looking outside of myself for happiness. I knew firsthand that doesn’t work.
But, what I didn’t realize is that I couldn’t search or try to find happiness inside of me either. I’d never find it that way.
The secret is that I had to completely let go and allow. In my effort, in my trying, I resisted the happiness.
The only effort I needed was “no effort”.
When I stopped doing and starting being, I could feel the innate joy rise from within. It was within me all along. I was simply resisting it.
The secret was so simple, but I was making it so complicated.
All you have to do is just let it be.
Photo Credit: Image by Ari Helminen via Flickr