I say this neutrally, my flight instinct is it’s safer to be nice than to be happy. And what is to be happy? I’ve thought of it as the immensity of the ocean, after this talk by Matthieu Ricard called The Habits of Happiness. The ocean is deep and substantial and watery. A wave breaks on the shore, there is a storm on the open sea or brilliant sun, but the depth is still there, unchanged and indisputable. Ricard says that happiness is a state of wellbeing and a deep sense of serenity that pervades and underlies all emotional states and can only be a state of being.
I listened to the last talk of the Winter Happiness Summit. Robert Holden said, not verbatim quotes: Happiness is not your state of mind or a positive attitude. Happiness is you. Your essence, unconditional self. Your true nature. The ego is so busy searching that we’ve forgotten we’re already happy…We need to tune into something we already have.
He also said: We’re already choosing how happy we’re going to be, the choice is unconscious and aligned with your story about how much happiness is possible and how much is too good to be true. We may need to make that point many times, and turn to an outside source like God, meditation, music to decide.
I watched a movie with the aunt called Ruby Sparks. The character Calvin, a writer, falls in love with a woman he’s created. She wears coloured tights and dresses, she’s had a life with interesting men, and even though sometimes she’s sad, she’s also happy. She’s attune with her deeper nature. Or is she? Calvin realises he can change her by writing it, and then she disappears when he writes that she leaves him and is free.
Still, from now on I wanted to be her. And the best part is that she’s in a movie so none of it would be real: just the storm and sunshine on the surface of the sea, and the dresses and the smile. (And according to my research, obviously I also want to claim the traits I admire in her which are those I am not nurturing in myself.)
Robert Holden also says searching is a ‘denial of happiness’. Maybe it is, because when I reflect on my days I see hundreds of proofs that left me cold. A red rose in the guest room smells so sweet, water gushing from a fountain, four men climbing a pole, the sun, someone giving me their cat to hold. There are other things that can make life difficult, like shyness, but mixed with this is simply what has happened, which can only be a violent storm on the ocean. Storms pass and a taste of salt is my own.