Many, if not all of us, pursue happiness. But how is happiness discovered? One line of thought is that happiness is created; you go out and actively create the life of your dreams, at which you will be met with happiness as your reward. An other, perhaps less popular, belief is that we need to learn to be content and satisfied with what we have, at which point happiness will find us. Over the past one or two years, however, I have been exploring the possibility that perhaps joy already exists within our world, and is just waiting to be unveiled. Perhaps happiness is really about attention to what surrounds us. I wonder, if we surround ourselves with things we love and feel passionate about, will we necessarily be happy? We will necessarily feel fulfilled? We can provide ourselves with an abundance of opportunities, people, and gifts, but what if we achieve everything we want and still are left feeling empty?
I think that many opportunities to feel joy are missed in life. What happens if you lie next to your partner on a rainy day and ignore the shape of their body, the sound of their breath or the pattern of the rain falling on the window? What happens if you prepare delicious meals for yourself but ignore their taste and drown the sensation in the noise of the television or the chatter in the mind? What happens if you rush into your car and into work each morning without pausing to smell the air and notice that the clouds have parted just so to let in a rare ray of sunshine in an otherwise grey day? Gifts are given to us on a daily basis, as are opportunities to delight in sound, sight and sensation, and too often, we miss it because we haven’t the patience or discipline to pay attention.
In a yoga retreat, a fellow participant said something during a dharma talk about contentment that always stuck with me. She said that it’s partly about “knowing when you’re content.” We need adequate time and space – thoughtful space – to reflect and say, “this is a great moment.” Without that freedom of headspace to acknowledge beauty when it makes it appearance, or to celebrate joy when it comes fleeting into our hearts, we might never find happiness.
As I pack my life with greater and greater goals, I want to leave enough space to re-unite with these gifts. To permit enough time in my day to pause and look out the window, or to silence myself long enough to notice the beautiful simplicity in the hum of the washing machine, a beautiful quilt on the bed, a kitten bunking down upon said quilt to prepare herself for an evening snooze.
I’ve often blogged about simple pleasures and readers have often chimed in, freely celebrating the humble but satisfactory joys in their life. But I think it goes beyond the ability to enjoy frugal luxuries. It’s about actually deepening an awareness and appreciation for what life already is. It’s about giving yourself the freedom to acknowledge that you might already be happy.