Practice the Pursuit of Happiness

The happiness that is genuinely satisfying is accompanied by the fullest exercise of our faculties and the fullest realization of the world in which we live.

~Bertrand Russell

Do you see the glass half full or half empty?

“Pursuit of Happiness” – it’s in America’s Declaration of Independence, and it is an integral part of practicing Beauty. Integrating Beauty is about broadening harmony, and creating harmony has a great deal to do with each individual’s ability to understand their own experience of happiness. And that is something that has become increasingly elusive in our modern society.

So, what’s the trick?

IMG_7920 - Version 3See the proverbial glass. See it half full and half empty. See the whole glass. Cultivating happiness, and the ability to have happiness is a choice, or more correctly, a continuum of choices. But at its root, being happy
is being able to see, to observe “the whole glass” and still choose to emphasize its fullness. So we have come, quite beautifully, full circle: back to the ability to see, our first practice —  in order to have happiness, our last primary practice.

In their book How We Choose to Be Happy, Rick Foster and Greg Hicks did an impressive survey of how people achieve and maintain happiness. They were not looking for the “rose-colored glasses” kind of happiness, either.   Their subjects felt all emotions deeply. In fact, it is from the Foster/Hicks survey that the proverbial Glass metaphor is resurrected.

One of the foremost results was the uncovering of this ability by those deemed to have maintained sustainable happiness to see the glass both half full and half empty.  I.e., to see the balance in each situation, pros and cons, good and bad, and then to choose to concentrate on the positive aspects. This, according to the authors, created stable happiness.  The survey revealed that consistently happy people were far from being in denial about the less than optimum, shall we say, aspects of their lives. The paradox being that in order to experience great happiness, we must also be able to experience life’s greatest sorrows.

Hence, do we conclude that the choice to pursue happiness is, perhaps, a strategy that can carry us through all that life has to dish up?

Seeing the glass, the whole glass, is a Beautiful ability. To be aware of the complexities, of the polarities original art (c) E.Z. Lindahlnecessary to create balance bequeaths a sense of harmony to the one observing and experiencing this wholeness. To see only a part is to experience only a fragment. Having only that experience, one tends to be reflecting only a fragment; to be, perhaps, one-side, or fragmented.  Don’t we all know that person who persistently sees only the glass half-empty?  For whom there is always an issue, problem, something not quite right enough?  And then that other person, who refuses ever to see any problem, anywhere; who even as the house falls down around her/him peers through those rose-colored glasses and says “Oh, it will all be fine.  Maybe I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

To see the glass, whatever it holds and how much/little of each, is to begin to allow for the “Both/And Universe.” It allows for all the layers of Truth. It gives space for our authentic self to be still, perhaps take a moment…and choose to see a good, a learning, some positivity in the situation without denying its darkness, from which we may create and/or begin again.

Choose happiness.

To Practice Pursuing (& increasing the catch of) Happiness:

  1. Make sure you are being honest with yourself about yourself.
  2. Take responsibility for your own circumstances: you are in charge of your situation. Attitude!
  3. What feelings, specifically, do you associate with being happy?
  4. Identify those things, people and/or events, both small and big that contribute to your feelings of contentedness.
  5. Surround yourself with “higher companions,” those people who have your best interests at heart. Politely avoid those in “nay-sayer mode” (and we’ve all been there!).
  6. If you fall into a dark place for a bit, recognize it, don’t bury it. Take it out for a walk. Own it and try not to spread it around inappropriately.  Once you’ve had a good cry or rant, look further and see what’s next.  Repeat as necessary.
  7. Always remember: This too shall pass. So cherish the light and respect and endure the darkness.

Happiness is a particularly enhanced, perhaps human, state of harmony. It is an important Beauty practice. Do not think for a moment it is trivial or shallow. Some of the happiest people are the most productive.   photo by L. Lindahl

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has had a great deal to say about happiness:

“The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness, no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy. …

When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace. …

Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others. “

But what is happiness except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?

~Albert Camus

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2 Comments

  • beautiful! RIck Foster’s work on happiness is excellent and im glad you referenced it here. even a slightly upturned mouth is always more lovely to see and have on one’s face than a downturned mouth. thank you for reminding me that being happy is an inside job and its what helps the outside shine more brightly

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