When life still isn’t how you thought it would be by now, when happiness still seems elusive, or just when real happiness sounds like something you’re ready for, this is for you.
I used to run happiness workshops. I would teach people the difference between hedonistic happiness (the short-lived-hit type of happiness) and eudaimonic happiness (lasting wellbeing, contentment, and fulfillment). Then I would teach them a bunch of things they could do to shift into eudaimonic. The kinds of things that Action for Happiness might suggest. Nothing wrong with these, perfect for that point in the journey and this isn’t all there is to it.
I used to do the things I would teach others: writing 3 good things in my bedside notebook each night, or consciously thanking people, or figuring out my purpose, or using ‘the scale of awfulness’ to put my experience into perspective (the best thing = 0, the worst you could imagine = 100, now rate your problem).
With time I noticed I used these techniques less, as though they had served a purpose, like a raft to cross a river. When you get to the other side you don’t need to carry the raft with you. And then I discovered why this happens. Why, with time, we no longer NEED these tools and techniques to be happy, because…
As we grow through life, we’re realising the happiness we are at our core. That’s all we’re here to do.
Happiness isn’t something we gain. It’s not something we add in or find and therefore it’s not something that can be clung to via tools or techniques.
Happiness is the revealing of who we are before thought.
Every single time you’ve felt happy, it’s been because the self-narrative thoughts of me, my needs, their needs, the past, or the future have dropped away and you’ve just been here, in the now. Nothing on your mind. Naturally happy. The sun waiting to shine when the clouds of self-narrative thoughts pass by.
Why else do you think babies’ default state is happy and contented? They have nothing on their minds, no self-narrative plays for them. That is the same default state in you.
The reason the tools and techniques seem to work is that we’ve (mostly) been conditioned to be nice to people, so when we do something nice, that self-narrative temporarily drops away. Momentarily it looks like we’ve ticked the box of ‘I’m a nice person’. Phew! We did a good thing. I’m good. I’ve done it! – inner silence. And it’s in the temporary absence of that self-narrative that we feel warm feelings and happiness and connection to others. Our innate, default state naturally there. Our innate brilliance shining through.
Then the self-narrative pops back up again – because that’s what it does. Its nature is activity. Its nature is ‘not enough’ and so it will soon be there again saying ‘oh, we don’t feel happy now, what’s wrong, maybe you weren’t nice enough or kind enough. Best try again, be kind to 10 people this time!’
You can see how this can become an addictive chase and so much effort, so much thinking about how to be a good person. It’s exhausting.
And so, when people are tired of that chase, they come to this work. When they find that happiness has eluded them, that they feel they’ve done all the ‘right’ things in life, and yet they’re still not really happy – then this is the place for them. Or maybe, like me, they come to this work because they’ve arrived at the next river and it makes sense to cross. Ready for this final raft to real happiness.
So how do we do this?
That default setting I mentioned before – the innate happiness that we are before thought – the same is true of every other quality we’ve been trying to find by taking action in the world.
Ask anybody ‘who are you at your best?’ and you hear – happy, confident, non-judgemental, a great listener, resilient, resourceful, proactive, connected with others, clear decision-maker, creative, fun, adaptable.
This is your innate brilliance. This is your default setting.
Before those self-narrative thoughts kick in, this is who you are. You will already have moments like this throughout your day when there is no self-narrative and you’re the brilliance that you are by default. But we don’t notice those bits, we can’t, there’s nobody there to notice them. What we notice instead are the apparent challenges, resistance and difficulty; and the apparent successes and wins.
All of those times that we’re noticing are when the self-narrative has piped up saying ‘not enough, do more’ or ‘shouldn’t be like this, change it’ or when it’s saying ‘oh we did good, phew!’. And this is brilliant because now, with this work, we can use those noticing moments as access routes. It’s just that now we turn them 180 degrees compared to how we’ve used them before.
In the past, we’d have taken that information as a signal that there’s something wrong with me, or with them, or with the world and stated ‘something needs to change’. Now, here, we use those noticing moments as doorways to see the misunderstanding about what we’ve thought the self-narrative was telling us, you see how thought creates your reality moment-to-moment, and you see that – who you really are behind the self-narrative thoughts – is everything you’ve been looking for – including REAL happiness.
The more we explore this, the more realisations you have about what’s really going on, and the more you find you naturally rest in your default state with less compulsion to be carried along on the thought-clouds that pass.
Now you don’t need to consciously do good deeds to be happy. Now, from secure, contented happiness, good deeds just get done.
Now you don’t need to diminish your experience of something with a scale of awfulness because you just see that ‘this feels terrible now’, safe in that experience, held by the ground of your innate brilliance.
Now you don’t need to find 3 good things each day because there’s a knowing that ups and downs happen, some things we can count as good, some we can count as bad but none of it saying anything about who you really are.
This is real happiness, real security, and real balance.
With love, Helen