“Happiness and unhappiness are states of mind, and therefore their real causes cannot be found outside the mind.” -Gen Kelsang Nyema
I never understood this concept until I experienced it for myself. For years I’d been searching for happiness outside myself: when I’d get the right job, when I’d finally settle in the perfect relationship, when I’d become completely debt-free.
It was the dangling carrot on a stick, always stretches and stretches ahead.
I had forever heard the cliche, you must first learn to love yourself before you can begin to love anyone else. I liked myself alright. I knew I had things to offer. I had beautiful friends and family, a loving companion. I must’ve been doing something right.
Still there was this emptiness. Not apparent all the time, but when I got sad, and when I got lonely, there it was … the gaudy elephant in the room: I wasn’t happy. I wasn’t fulfilled. Something, a big something, was missing.
I would beg and beg to be shown the path. God? Anyone? Again, still thinking outside myself.
I knew I was an artist, a creative, maybe that’s what was missing, but the words hardly came, the discipline wasn’t there.
I was full of disappointment and empty on promises. How could I even call myself a writer when I never invested the time to write? I made excuses instead–gobs of ’em.
It wasn’t until all the pillars that I had thought created my happiness fell one-by-one, in 2007, when I was left naked, stranded, alone, embarrassed, terrified, that I learned to smile, laugh even, in the face of it all. Not at first, certainly not naturally, but it came. In time, it came.
It was nearly a year after I was (arguably) forced to leave my job, relationship, home, friends, life on the east coast that I found myself sitting cross-legged in a yoga class in Hawaii, still looking for answers.
We were learning formal meditation for the first time, a practice I’d been avoiding since I’d landed on island several months ago.
I was eager, or desperate rather, focusing like an earnest child talking to God for the first time.
I listened to each instruction closely.
I sat up tall, relaxing my shoulders down my back, legs crossed at the shins.
I closed my eyes.
Immediately, I felt a buzzing of energy throughout my body, the connection to life and all things living was palpable, and peace like I’d never experienced enveloped me. Instantly, I knew that that which I’d been looking for outside of myself was within me all along. I cried, quietly.
It was that day that I made a pact with myself, that I’d be back. Morning, noon and night, I would listen. I would make time for my heart. I would make time for my soul. I would make time for my intuition who had been trying to reach me all along.
I started with just five minutes at a stretch, because meditation did not come easy for me. And yet, each time I sat, I knew I was getting closer and closer to that love of self that I’d never understood.
It took time. It took persistence. It took decluttering the mess that was my mind. Happiness came from listening to my heart. It came from living in alignment with my intuition and cultivating creativity (that was in me all along) over time.
It took letting go of the facade, nearly everything I thought that had made me happy, to find me. I never knew lonely again.
Anytime, anyplace, I could close my eyes and connect to every living thing around me, where compassion is endless and forgiveness is nonnegotiable.
That church. That love. That’s inside of me.
Eight years later, I hardly miss a day.
I am fulfilled. I am whole. I am happy.
I leave you with this: What was your first experience cultivating your own happiness?
PS … saw this after I published this post: Celebrities talk fame and happiness.