How do we get so friggin’ happy that we can enjoy the gifts of an abundant life, with joy to spare and share? That’s my question. Last post I decided happiness ain’t happening till we’re happy with ourselves. We aren’t talking narcissism or self-indulgence here. We’re talking about learning to accept, nurture and love—really love—our singular selves in a way we rarely dare do.
So let’s talk about it!
Some of your comments last time reflected our cultural ambivalence about whether it’s okay for us to make ourselves happy, rather than focus on the happiness of others. And, I might now add, what about pursuing our happiness in the face of pervasive unhappiness, from Boston and Texas to Damascus and China, where explosions and earthquakes rock worlds and kill the innocent?
In her blog comment, Vicki shared this quote from Shantideva, an eighth century Buddhist scholar, which toes the standard spiritual line about happiness: “All those who are unhappy in the world are so as a result of their desire for their own happiness. All those who are happy in the world are so as a result of their desire for the happiness of others.” That one gives me pause.
Shantideva seems to suggest we will fail to be happy if we make our own happiness paramount. I’m thinking hard about this, and must beg to differ, though the difference may be partly semantic. We all have our own understanding of the “pursuit of happiness.” And the sage’s words make sense if I think of the few people I know (and many I know of) who are successfully preoccupied with attaining fame and fortune—presumably to be happy—but seem miserable.
I’ll bet my own wee wad that few Wall Street tycoons know the simple joy I derive from a home-cooked meal, a loving foot rub or performing a random act of kindness. Those guys (and they are mostly guys) are too busy wanting and grubbing to stop to take life in and savor it, which requires a very different, less acquisitive skill set. So if that is the kind of personal happiness Shantideva means by his first statement, I agree that all-out seeking of happiness doesn’t produce it.
To be happy with— by which I mean within—ourselves is something else entirely. And my experience suggests we do well to make that our primary focus, whether or not we are intent on being of service to others. For to be happy with(in) ourselves doesn’t come from getting stuff for me or giving stuff to you. Being happy with ourselves arises when we get to know and accept ourselves and our “stuff” enough to love ourselves the way we are. Only then can we relax into being our full-blown selves; only then are we empowered to do what we alone are here to do.
That kind of radical self-acceptance is, I believe, the source of true happiness and, as you too must have noticed, it’s about the hardest thing in the world for us to come to. We are too well-versed in judging our flaws and mistakes, even as we downplay our one-of-a-kind gifts and contributions. But anything short of knowing and accepting ourselves one hundred percent leaves us disabled, unable to give all we’ve got. Short of self-love, we shortchange the world.
So let’s get to it, kids. Radical self-acceptance. More of my perspective on why and how we do that next time. Meanwhile, how about your perspective? I can’t wait to hear, and if my words speak to you, would you kindly subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already and, hey, why not share our link with friends who deserve to be happy and might have something to add? Thanks!
Categories: Inspiration, Self-Care