Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sustained Happiness, Part 1

When I have my students write about happiness or when I read others write about it, they often zero in on happy moments or happy occurrences.  I enjoy it when these momentary things happen, especially when they are a surprise, as much as the next person.  For example, when he was alive, I couldn't always predict when Snug would suddenly lick my face; it made me very happy in that moment when he did.  I enjoy sudden rain showers.  They clean the air.  They freshen up things.  For a few minutes, sudden rain showers make me happy.

But, what I'm really after is knowing a more sustained happiness, a happiness that remains with me even when I grieve or when I get angry or when I'm annoyed.  I'm trying to come to grips with what I can do in my life that makes an enduring happiness more possible, not a fleeting happiness, but a deep happiness I can trust is alive, whether I'm in pain, even when circumstances are lousy.

The best way I can think of to articulate this is that I am less happy in feeling happy and more interested in being happy.  It's the difference between saying, "I feel happy" and "I am happy".  Feelings are fleeting.  Being is what we are.  It's what Thich Nhat Hanh calls our "ontological ground of being".  It's the ground upon which we build our lives.

So I've been wondering what ground I have been building my being upon.  In other words, what is the substance of that ground, what's it made up of?  Is happiness the ground of my being?  In the same way that ground (or soil) sustains plant life, is happiness sustaining my life as a person?

I can answer this best by looking at what the primary sources of happiness are in my life.  Then I can ask myself if these sources are substantial enough to sustain happiness, or are they fleeting and temporary?

I'll write about this in Part 2. 


Loren said...

Looking forward to your next post. I've been wondering about this for awhile. I've already collected four books on "happiness" and have found some interesting online sources on happiness.

Poor choice of words said...

I can't help but think of a great quote from Tom Robbin's book Another Roadside Attraction.

Happiness is a learned condition. And since it is learned and self-generating, it does not depend on external circumstances for its perpetuation.

If only the context of the quote helped... I think it's something worth thinking about at least.