Where to Find Happiness
One of the most challenging issues many of us face centers around happiness--where it comes from and how to find it. In fact, for some of us this very well might be the greatest challenge we face.
Finding happiness and holding on to it has been one of the most difficult things I've had to deal with in my life, and I suspect I'm not alone in the way it has challenged me.
For most of my life, I have sought happiness outside of myself. I believed I could find it in people or in things. The problem with this is that when the focus of our presumed happiness is outside of us rather than inside, it seldom lasts.
And here's something else I've begun to figure out. When you place the burden of your happiness on others, they feel that burden. It can become so weighty that they find they can't bear it.
The same goes for the things we seek happiness through, like work, success, money, possessions, and even religion.
The shift from looking outside for happiness to looking inward is not an easy shift to make, especially if you have spent years operating in co-dependent ways. It can also be debilitating as you find yourself creating the same situations over and over.
I'm still learning how to make this shift. Some days, I feel like I have it all figured out, and then something will happen, and I'll feel all those old feelings of despair and frustration again.
But on my best days, I find an incredible amount of peace that comes from letting go of my outward-looking habits and building new ones that turn inward to my feelings, desires, and longings.
I have found such inspiration in the example of Jesus the Christ. Jesus took each day on its own terms and did his best to teach his followers to do the same. He received people not for what they could do for him but for what he could offer of himself to bring light and life.
And Jesus knew the importance of prayer and solitude. Conversely, he also knew when it was important to be with others, connect with them, laugh, enjoy a meal, and attend a party.
I read this wonderful quote from Thich Naht Hahn the other day, and I think it speaks so wonderfully to this very thing:
You can't offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself.
Jesus' Great Commandment was to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength and love your neighbor as yourself."
It's so easy to forget those last two words in the Commandment, right? If we don't love ourselves, find happiness from within, and let go of our need to control all our outcomes for our own benefit, we can become more open to self-love and acceptance.
If you struggle to find happiness and find yourself returning to the well of outward-focused searching without ever feeling truly happy, maybe it's time to do something different.
Start by taking care of yourself better. Find ways to care for your mind, body, and spirit. Even a small step toward nourishing your whole self is in the right direction.
And then release all the people and things in your life from the burden of your happiness. Let them off the hook. Stop trying to change them so they will give you what they want---it will never work how you want it to.
May you discover ways to find the space within you to let in happiness, joy, and hope. May your relationships be transformed by letting go of your need for control. May all the things you thought would bring you happiness be seen through different eyes.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.