Having spent a beige morning in a hospital waiting room, I decided to give it a go. I decided to be happy. It's a lifetime decision, not a petty fix, I know. But this seemed a good time to practice. Why not be happy instead of impatient, bored and constantly nagged by my back?
I have to admit a reluctance – in my British Protestant work ethic childhood background, happiness was a wuss* emotion. Enjoyment was ideally part fun, part discomfort, ideally surfing in a howling gale with no wetsuit. Happiness was allowable as a biproduct, but not an end in itself. Then came the self-help era and happiness became a goal. Books instructed us and we felt failures if we weren't “having it all.” Perhaps coincidentally, depression and anxiety increased.
I always felt it a greedy aim. Sure, I would like it, but some niggle underneath whispered that there's only so much happiness to go round. How could I take a large slice of the pie? After all, what about refugees and starving children?
Then I read “The Untethered Soul.” Happiness as a decision made sense. Living with pain, everyday I tell myself firmly, “This is what you've got; you can be miserable or content.” Meanwhile my monkey mind trots out the usual irritations and distractions.
This is different. This means catching the clouds across my mood before they rain on my day. Asking myself what is interfering with a happy state. It is NOT expecting happiness to be caused by anything external. It is knowing that it isn't generated by shopping or a meal out. It is not dependent on hearing, “I love you.” At least, that is wonderful to hear – don't knock it. But happiness is a quiet flame deep within, a clear window. According to Michael Singer, we need to identify whatever is clouding that window – and stand back. Watch ourselves feeling or reacting. We need to be the observer, not the grumbler or whiner; the true self, not the ego.
It didn't take any effort, no firm self-talk or determination. Just recognition that there was no reason not to be content – and it's so much less tiring! I also noticed that my body relaxed. It didn't prevent the pain; I am still lying on heat and writing this up in the air on my iPad but I am not fuming at paying for a two minute consultation with hours of pain. My observing self is peaceful.
At a deeper level, happiness is appreciation of God's or the Universe's bounty. It is not a greedy grab, but an act of prayer.
The Untethered Soul: the Journey Beyond Yourself by Michael A Singer
* Wuss – n. 1982, abbreviated from wussy. Mike Damone: You are a wuss: part wimp, and part pussy. Dictionary.com