The Being of Happy

(photo via Marc Olivier Jodoin)

(photo via Marc Olivier Jodoin)

A friend and I were recently talking about her new boyfriend. It is a new relationship, filled with promise. They seem a good match, both are active, interesting and interested in varied things. He is teaching her to fly a plane, she introducing him to the world of roller-derby. 

He asked her, “Do you think I’m a happy person?” 

“I think” she quietly answered, “You take what comes your way and turn it into joy.” 

It was a lovely statement, but honest. She did not say he was happy. She said, he turns the events of his life into joy. This is not just semantics but an interesting thought on the path of happiness. 

Many of us want to be happy, and in our quest spend lots of time thinking of and doing things to express this yearning. We take workshops, read books, go to therapists, engage in various activities, all of which are intended to help promote this sometimes elusive feeling. These activities are usually good and worthy efforts, but they are not happiness. 

Actions can bring many things, but happiness is a state of mind, often gained more through subtraction than addition. We say, “I want to be happy”. We don’t say, “I want to do happy”. Happiness is not about doing, but being. Said another way, the happiest people accept what is--in their nature and their life. This is different than needing to take some action to change and become different. 

A great deal of research has been devoted to the subject of happiness, but one thing most agree on. Happiness comes from the way we hold the challenges of our life. It is created in our minds. Our ability to sit with what is, no matter what, ultimately determines the quality of our inner peace. Happy people aren't always happy. But they do appreciate the ordinary and genuine moments of life when they appear. Dinner with friends, a walk in the woods, a conversation on the phone with a family member...it is these simple events and our ability to truly savor that defines the best of who we are.