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Chasing Happiness – A Different Perspective on Our Want to Feel Warm and Fuzzy

photo by instantflowers
photo by instantflowers

By Lauren Anne Edwards – The word happiness swirls around us. In articles and books that promise simple steps to be it. In advertisements that promise if we buy x, x will provide it. And it’s obvious why – happiness feels great! It fills you up and makes your whole being feel light. It spills into and colors the world around you. But there are lots of moments we don’t feel happy. The past few days I have failed spectacularly at “happiness”. The days have been hard ones – days of doubt, of insecurity, of loneliness, of aching, and of heaviness. The thing is – nothing that bad even happened. Doubt, insecurity, loneliness – they all just swept in, landed, and stayed.

That’s the thing – sometimes you just feel like shit terrible.

I worry that all this swirling talk of happiness makes things worse. That it paints the dark and heavy feelings with new layers – like failing and isolation. That it makes you wonder – what’s wrong with me? Everyone else has figured it out and apparently ‘it just takes four simple steps’!

But you are not alone and you have not failed. What if, instead of trying to chase happiness, we let it go? Take the past few days, what would the dark, heavy visitors have said if instead of trying to hurry them out, I sat down with them and listened? Maybe they would tell me that I need to make a career change. Maybe they would tell me that I want to be more creative. Maybe they would tell me that I love this man. They would definitely tell me – I’m human. Happiness may only be ‘four simple steps away’ but it will find us again and the crowd of sorrows are here now. And they are teachers too and they have value.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks