"I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

You and Your Heart

I was reading a magazine today which had several articles about happiness in this issue. What it means to be happy, how to be happier and what happiness does for us.
Its interesting that in many studies people did trying to understand and explain happiness, some of the conclusions that were reached were: people generally could not verbalize or express what really made them happy, that happiness was often confused with success, and most profoundly, that happiness, true and pure in form, is most often brief and fleeting. As humans we suffer from a condition where the things that we anticipate excitedly and that we believe will give us joy, do in fact give us joy upon initial reception, but usually just moments after experiencing this joy, the true joy turns to just comfort.
That, among a lot of what I thought were sort of discouraging facts about people and happiness, was what disappointed and saddened me the most.
Are we so desensitized?
In a culture of instant gratification, bigger is better, have we have become so utterly greedy and spoiled that nothing really impresses us anymore? I find at certain times, I am sadly no different. The simple things that I seek for joy, like a walk in the park, do make me happy, but sometimes leave me feeling a bit underwhelmed. Occasionally I find myself thinking, well, that was nice but not very exciting. This is truly sad.
I try to think of the moments in my life where i felt truly and unequivocally happy. Sometimes they occurred in places that maybe were grand or exciting; a ski mountain an amusement park, a nice resort. But was it really the things that money bought that made me truly happy? And really, the answer is no.
When I think about it, it was mostly always because of the people that completed those scenes.
The funny story we shared, the meaningful conversation, the simple pleasure of company of a loved one.
Another frequent contributing factor for me and my happiness seems to be nature. The majestic ski mountain, the beautiful beach at the resort. And what a wonderful thing that has just happened. I am able to name two things that make me truly happy: loved ones and nature. It seems simple, but I think that many have a hard time naming things that really bring them true joy. We can all name things we like, that entertain us or give us some sort of instant gratification, but those cannot be confused with the things that bring us pure happiness.
Although many have probably heard a similar saying, I really liked this quote about happiness:
"Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling."

Now this is different than the issue of happiness being brief in that it turns to comfort, and then quite often a sense of disappointment,
I think that happiness turning sort of placid comes from unhealthy high expectations.
It comes from a culture that pressures us to be thrilled, all the time.
Life is often not thrilling, but that does not mean it is not fulfilling.
Instead, this quote helps me put real happiness in a different, more healthy perspective.
The moral of the story is, we cannot expect to be constantly truly happy.
That does not mean that in the moments in between we should be depressed.
It just means that true happiness is wonderful, special and something to be treasured.
It is moments of brilliance, memories to look back on fondly and the reasons we find we are lucky to be alive.
And the moments in between are pleasant and also happy, they just might not be the real bliss moments.
So we need to stop aiming at happiness as if it is a station, a destination to reach.
Instead we go along, finding joy in every day and stopping to relish in those moments of real and true happiness, bliss, that we are lucky to encounter.
Now, for me, since I know two things that make me truly happy, I'll do my best to incorporate those in my life in hopes of having many moments of true happiness.
In this magazine psychologists tried to define or explain what this "true happiness" is or means, and I think they did it more than well: Immerse yourself in whatever you are doing. This state is what they call "flow". You get caught up in something that feels bigger than yourself while staying present in the moment.
And when I think about my true happiness moments, that is exactly how they occurred.
I feel like I had one of these moments just this morning, and in true happiness fashion it was a simple thing that made me feel this way.
I was on a walk to a coffee shop. That is it. It was a beautifully sunny day with a nice breeze and I felt truly happy. Being able to walk with the sun and breeze on my face, in a place i love to be.
I was present, feeling the current weather conditions, observing the details of nature around me, yet I was lost in the bigger picture that is nature and a bit awed by the brilliance of the world.

I came across this music video for Jack Johnson's "You and your Heart" the other week and I am in love with it. I couldn't exactly explain why it spoke to me so much when I found it except that it is filmed in a tropical ocean, one of my great loves in life. But as I watch it again today, I know exactly why I love it so much.
To me, it displays true happiness. It is so simple. Scenes of surfing and swimming in the ocean.

I can feel the pure joy of him being completely in the moment, immersed in the greatness of the ocean, while being at the mercy of the sea, definitely a reminder of the bigger picture.
And if that doesn't come across to you, just look at that smile. :)


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