Blog 3: Happiness from the inside-out

Blog: 22nd Oct 2017

Happiness from the Inside-Out
Surely this title should read ‘happiness from the outside in’? After all, society teaches us, from an early age, that we cannot be truly happy unless we have the latest toy, gadget, phone… ‘I’ll be happy when… I’m older, when I get a girl/boyfriend, when I pass my exams, get that job, that car, that house…. Chasing after things that are both outside of ourselves and somewhere in the future.
Even when the future does become the present and we have obtained our desired social position or possession, the elation we might feel on receiving the diploma, the promotion, the phone call, the ring on the finger, the buzz of the engine might last for a while but, eventually, wears off. Thus, begins the next cycle of craving.
Often, in the present, as we deal with everyday demands and stresses, it doesn’t occur to us to stop and look inwards for relief. No- we reach for the very things that, although may bring a form of happiness in the short term, more often than not, add further layers of guilt, remorse, shame and self-recrimination so that we end up feeling worse than we did before we ate that cake, drank that drink, bought that top, that gadget, that drug of choice….
Searching for happiness outside of ourselves leaves us at the mercy of people and situations that are, for the most part, beyond our control. We judge, we chase after or push away, we blame others for making us feel bad as though we have no choice in the matter. This can become our habit and, worse, our self-fulfilling prophesy; happiness always seems to be just that little bit beyond our grasp.
So, what if, realising that true and lasting happiness cannot be found outside of ourselves, we turn inward and explore the possibility of finding happiness within? At first this may seem a scary prospect- going to a place that we’ve been trying to avoid most of our lives. A useful first step is to begin by quieting the mind so that we can experience a little light in that fog of thoughts and searching. Knowing that energy flows where attention goes, we can shift our awareness from getting caught up in ruminations of past and future and bring it to rest in the present moment- where reality, our life, is actually unfolding.
How do we keep the mind in the present moment? We have a number of options and one of the most popular is working with the breath. Each breath we breathe happens in the present moment- the in-breath, taking in oxygen, the outbreath releasing carbon dioxide, the in-breath filling the body with life-force, the outbreath releasing toxins, the inbreath bringing in possibility, the outbreath releasing tension/concern…. Each time our mind wanders off, lost in thought, we bring it back to the breath gently, with loving kindness, as we would do to a small child or a puppy that had wandered off. Each time we bring the mind back, we are cultivating awareness- we are training the mind to stay present. With mind in the body, we begin to experience life as it unfolds- we begin to take part in the dance of life and then to choose the steps we want to take. Gradually and ever so subtly, we begin to enjoy the art of choreography for this is what we are doing… taking responsibility for ourselves and deciding how we will move through life… how we will greet each day from the new- found inner-strength and peace that gradually arises. From this place of peace, we make more skilful choices and find we can hold our ground and our happiness no matter what is going on around us.
‘Happiness from the inside-out ‘ now begins to make sense….