When you become a master of your thoughts, you are unafraid to heed them even if they are contrary to popular belief. You are unafraid to speak your mind and mirror your speech through your actions.
You start living an authentic, congruent and consistent life – precisely the conditions that need to converge for happiness to manifest.
Yet, even when you are at this divine delta, happiness is not a certainty, its only a choice that’s available to you. You can choose to be happy or unhappy. The choice is up to you.
If happiness is a choice, is it one worth making? Why are we fascinated with this blissful albeit temporary state of being?
What exactly does being happy look and feel like? How can one stretch an moment of happiness into a lifetime of bliss?
Is happiness everything? Is there something even better than happiness that we can aspire towards?
Scientists say that your disposition for happiness is predetermined. What if you are missing the happiness gene?
My hubby sometimes says, “You have your unhappy look again.” I used to bristle at his remark. Secretly I would chastise myself, “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you be more happy?”
Last year, I read the Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. At WDS2013, I was fortunate enough to meet Gretchen in person. She is just as warm and inquisitive as she comes across in her writing.
For a while, I plodded my way through her book, following her suggestions to become more happy.
Exercise, organize, show love – check, check and check. Happiness should have been oozing out of my pores by the time I finished her book.
Instead I was sick and tired of happiness. I didn’t want to so much as hear that word any more.
Since Gretchen’s book was released in 2009, hundreds of books have been published, thousands of blog posts have been written about the subject of happiness.
The entire world seems to be conspiring to ram this happiness concept down our throat. And yes, I have a big problem with that.
You are welcome to chase after happiness if you wish. And why shouldn’t you? After all it is your inalienable right.
As for me, I will take a rain check on a date with happiness. I would rather spend time with Joy.
We don’t have to look further than the Bible to find a better contrast between Joy and Happiness. Just as the Bhagavad Gita teaches resilience, the Bible offers profound insights into Joy.
The apostle, Paul, calls Joy, a fruit of the Spirit. He proclaims that Joy emerges from living a spiritual life. He recounts his time in prison to the Philippians and shares the secret he has learned of being content in any situation.
We learn from Paul that we can be happy as long as the conditions in our lives are favorable. But Joy only comes as a result of a complete faith in the love of God. Joy is the knowledge that everything you do has a purpose and is one with the divine plan.
The Gita provides its own description of Joy. Lord Krishna counsels Arjuna that eternal joy is a state that can be attained by anyone through meaningful work.
This man sees and has no doubts: he surrenders, he is pure and has peace. Work, pleasant or painful, is for him joy. ~ The Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 18, Verse 10
Which brings me back to my grievance with Happiness. I find Happiness to be shallow, undependable and volatile.
Happiness is my frenemy. She doesn’t return my calls and scoffs at my overtures. She is skittish, and tends to bail on me over the smallest mishap.
Happiness is a two faced bitch. She ignores me when I court her, but just as I am spending time with her cousin, Joy, she comes knocking.
When I am absorbed in writing, working with a client, or creating something meaningful, she is all eager to crash the party. But then at the end of the show, when the work is done, she is nowhere to be found.
Her cousin, Joy however is my constant companion. She has been there for me from an early age.
I first became acquainted with Joy when I was 5, watching with delight as words formed on a page with a few strokes of a pen (a genuine fountain pen!)
I was mesmerized. I was besotted. I was in love. Joy snuck up on me and whispered, “You will always have this, you know.”
Since that day Joy has never abandoned me.
She was my crying shoulder when I left my family and my country to come to the United States to pursue a higher education.
She patiently encouraged me when I spent years in my old laboratory, engrossed in research. She was my champion whenever I stepped on stage for a speech, palms sweating and voice croaking in anxiety.
She was the angel on my shoulder through midnight feedings and early dawn cuddles.
Ink/paint/marker stained, sticky, dirty hands; hands that have been writing, painting, cooking, creating, cleaning – are all Joy’s hallmark.
It doesn’t matter whether I reap praise or face rejection, Joy beams and envelopes me in her warmth. Just the memory of the experience is enough to summon her to my side.
Joy is my guide when I am out in nature. Muscles aching, sweat dripping, I chase her up mountains.
She is my coach as I attempt to push past my own limits – 5 Km, 10 Km, could a half marathon be in my future? With Joy at the helm anything is possible.
However, Joy can be irritatingly picky. There were months, at times even years when she disowned me for doing work that didn’t harness my strengths.
When she withdrew, I felt bereft, as though life itself had abandoned me. Work lost all meaning, my life was empty.
I was tempted to invoke the auto destruct protocol. Instead I chose to hit the pause button to figure out how to coax Joy back into my life again.
Happiness is but a pale shadow in comparison to her vibrant cousin. The difference between Happiness and Joy, is like the difference between infatuation and love. Infatuation is fleeting, real love takes hard work but endures a lifetime.
Joy urges me to serve others. She cheers me on when I volunteer or dedicate myself to a cause.
Joy is found in creativity, movement, and spirituality. In moments of meditation and gratitude. To know Joy, we have to surrender to the greater consciousness. Even as we are toiling away at our goals, we must seek satisfaction in the work itself and let go of the results.
I can’t believe it has taken me decades to discover and embrace Joy! So given a Time Turner, I would rush back to when I was 5. I would learn to heed her voice more often.
Thankfully it is not too late. Joy and I have forged an amicable relationship. She has sworn to be my staunch supporter as long as I continue to use my talents. And I have agreed to renounce my pursuit of happiness.
Happiness can stay on my friends list, but I know better than to elevate her to BFF status. Instead, I solemnly proclaim my allegiance to Joy.
So, the next time my husband tells me that I am acting unhappy, I know that it is time for a heart to heart with Joy. I pick up a good book, chase after a child or climb a mountain. In no time at all, Joy will return to me, lighting up my life and making my husband very happy indeed.
Dear reader, stop fantasizing about happiness and awaken Joy instead.
Trust me, everyone has the capacity to find and cherish Joy. Once you have found her, you will never want to let her go. Even if you lose her you will always be able to find your way back to her.
What is keeping you from finding Joy? Are you making choices and taking actions that bring you Joy? Are you willing to let go of control? Are you willing to breakup with Happiness?