Ask most people what they want for themselves or people they care about, and their answer is typically, “To be happy.”
Don’t we all want to be happy?
Of course we do.
But when we consider what it would take for us to be happy, what do we say? Probably the same things we toast over clinked glasses: good health, success, prosperity, friendship, and love.
That’s the nature of what we call happiness. It’s conditional. If this set of circumstances occur (or remain), then I’m happy. Otherwise, I’d like things to be different than what they are so that I can experience happiness in the (hopefully near) future.
Let’s contrast that with inner peace.
One of the challenges with that phrase is its new-agey connotation. We might picture some sort of zen monk meditating in full lotus. But let’s move beyond any imagery and past connotations to what the words represent.
Inner peace: a serene state of joy and tranquility, permeating every cell of our body.
But even more blissful than the feeling is the nature of its source. It comes from within, having nothing to do with anything going on in the world. The source of inner peace, true happiness, is a choice in the mind. Nothing else.
That concept is so radical and foreign to our conditioning – and all our experiences. We think that circumstances define – or at least are highly correlated with – our state of joy or happiness. In fact, we are so convinced of that premise that we rarely question it. Such and such is going on in my life, and as a result I am _____ [fill in the emotion of either “happy” or “sad” or “neutral”].
But everything we’ve been taught about happiness has been wrong. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can make us happy or sad. We choose to be happy or sad. Only we aren’t aware of making that choice. Which is what makes it so challenging a concept.
However, once we recognize that we have this happiness concept completely wrong, then a wondrous world opens up. We no longer require situations, other people, and our bodies to be a certain way in order to experience this transcendent joy. We simply make a different choice in our mind, and burdens drop away.
And while we may still set goals and strive for wordly initiatives, we no longer correlate their attainment as the basis for our sense of happiness. We’ve then traded conditional happiness for lasting joy.
Let’s practice making that inner choice for happiness, and no longer seeking it where it will never be found.