“If you are doing things in order to be happy… you’re doing them in the wrong order.” Michael Neill
Although happiness is something that is hard to define it is something that we seem to want more of in our lives.
There are dozens of books written on the subject and articles seem to pop up on a daily basis in the media.
I was reflecting on this and it seems to me that there is one single question, innocently asked, that is at the root of all this wanting…
What will make me happy?
And this question is at the root of the problem because the answer is… nothing.
Nothing can make you happy and yet our entire society is built upon the belief that ‘things’ can make you happy.
For instance, the advertising business is built upon the idea that the lack of something is the cause of unhappiness and then the product rides in on a white horse and saves the day.
They even try to convince you that floor cleaner will make you happy!
Many people believe that more money (perhaps this is the biggest illusion of all) will lead to happiness.
So, they chase it with abandon and yet aren’t there many documented cases of people with extraordinary amounts of money who lead miserable lives?
Other people believe that they need the right person or a relationship in order to be happy. Some have such stringent criteria about the required qualities of their perfect mate that this person may not even exist!
The illusion that happiness is a result of external circumstances leads to the most common trap of all.
‘I’ll be happy when…’
This is what executive coach and author, Marshall Goldsmith calls ‘The great Western disease’.
We create an imaginary list of what we think will make us happy and this is what we put our time into. We think that all we need to do is get the ducks all lined up and hey presto, we’re happy!
I used to be a regular meditator and my teacher made a point that I will always remember. He said:
You will never experience a better meditation by really going for it. It just does not work that way.
Happiness is just the same. The harder you pursue it, the further away it gets.
Why does this happen?
Because the imaginary content of the ‘I’ll be happy when…’ list is the problem, not the solution.
So, if happiness is not the result of acquiring or experiencing things outside of us, then what is?
The natural backdrop to the human mind, beyond all of the personal thinking we do, is a space of inner peace, contentment, grace, resilience, perspective, love – there are a many words that point to what is at the core of every single one of us.
Michael Neill wrote in his book, ‘The space within’:
‘When you rest in the feeling of this space, the warmth of it heals your mind and body. When you operate from the infinite creative potential of this space, you produce high levels of performance and creative flow. When you sit in the openness of this space with others, you experience a level of connection and intimacy which is breathtakingly enjoyable and filled with love. And when you explore this space more deeply, you find yourself growing closer and closer to the divine, even if you’re not sure there is such a thing and wouldn’t how to talk about it if there were.’
When we fall into this space it would not even occur to us to ask ourselves if we are happy or not.
So, there really is nothing to do.
The logic of the inside-out understanding is that the mind only works one way, no exception. The clearer we realise this truth the more happiness, contentment and peace of mind we experience and the less inclined we become to chase illusions.