When Are YOU Happy?




When asked "when are you happy?" most people think of what they associate with happiness: "when I'm on vacation," "with my friends/loved ones," "doing what I like to do," etc. But when you really think about it, the only time you are actually happy is now. You never experience being happy in any other time, although of course you can remember or anticipate it. This is so obvious but so important! Because if we are not clear about when we are happy, much of our efforts to find happiness may not be working very well. And the opposite of happiness is depression.

One of my tendencies is to rely on having future plans for happy things. Then if I'm not completely happy in the present, at least there is the future to look forward to. But I've also noticed that when that future arrives, I'm often not as happy as I expected to be. Fortunately I know why. By trying to find happiness through future guarantees, I am in essence searching for happiness through the act of anticipating a future happiness. So when the event arrives, instead of just being there, I begin engaging in my familiar happiness-seeking habit: thinking of future events I can anticipate to make me happy. This distracts me from fully appreciating the present event, because I'm also busily focusing on the future.

The skills that create happiness are not related to planning, accumulating material objects, engaging in the pursuit of sensual pleasures, or etc. They have to do with how you use your attention, moment by moment. Many people habitually use attention to defeat opening to the present, and thus the actual source of happiness. We don't realize it. It's one reason why our upset feelings, depression, and anxieties are not being resolved. Or, why we can feel victimized by life when the external props we previously relied on are removed. There is hope! It comes from more skillful ways to use attention. Much of my teaching and workshop/retreat work is about realizing and cultivating such skills. They are easy to learn and they work. They can transform your life.
© 1995
 Mark Shafer  


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