Sometimes I think we have got life arse about face. We look in the wrong places – or for the wrong things, which is why studies show the more we chase happiness, the more likely we are to get depressed.
Like most of us, I read about happiness. Living with pain, I can't rely on outside sources. I can't go shopping to cheer myself up or take a weekend away. I have to spin happiness from within. So I read a lot, to find out how others cope.
The gurus plot a self-directed path to nirvana. Yet, research shows that dwelling on self and fishing for happiness actually makes us more miserable. I find I have arrived at the same endpoint, but by a different route – and it is that alternate path that that has made all the difference. Chade Meng Tang writes about “happiness on demand.” The word demand strikes me as an oxymoron. Happiness is ephemeral, a butterfly, not to be commanded, although his idea of capturing slivers of joy in passing, savouring a single taste of chocolate, or a snowflake landing on one's hand is powerful.
In fact, it is the best way to feel happy I know. Stop, listen, feel the delight of a single moment – and know that for that instant you are totally happy. I use it for pain all the time, delving within to that sweet spot where time stands still – and I am not unhappy or in pain.
But I found this trick by a different route. I didn't demand; I stumbled on it in answer to a primary question: who is God? Or rather how is God? What is His nature?
You can spend a lifetime asking, or trying to integrate a theology into your psyche, but still have a feeling that something doesn't fit. So, knowing I probably don't have many years ahead, I wanted to know deeply whom I am going to meet.
Books told me, the writers sincere but seeming to contort themselves to force a fit. So I stopped pushing and decided to observe. To try and find God in as many ways as She presented. A dew drop on a rose, a maple turnng in the fall, the softened glance at a kitten. God was everywhere. And I remembered that in the still emptiness that followed my mother's death, there were butterflies everywhere – and they comforted me, as if God touched my cheek.
So I reached the same place: slices of joy throughout my day, but richer because it is not about me or my reaction, but gratitude to God.
Three Second Exercise for Finding Happiness – link
Joy on Demand: the Art of Discovering the Happness Within by Chade Meng Tang