Happiness is a Learning Process
Some words carry a heavy burden, happiness, I feel is one of those words. There are few others that hold such high expectations, the weight of the world, our very hope.
I invite you to say the word happiness to yourself and notice what sensations, images and beliefs come up for you, can you link
these to specific memories? to moments in which you came to understand what happiness meant for those around you, for yourself? The value and meaning of this word, the state that it creates, is so deeply bound to our unique stories, the cultural, racial, gender, socioeconomic, political contexts that shaped our early experiences. In a deeper way to our survival driven brain structures and our unique neurobiology (again in large part shaped by the larger context of our life) and to every other factor that, throughout our life shapes the outlook of our identities.
Despite the many factors and lenses that impact the state of Happiness, I feel we often regard it as something fixed, anchored and set, as if it's very experience existed outside of us, something stable and concretely defined that we could clutch on to, keep near us, collect. If you're from the West, you've learned that among other things happiness is associated with (maybe even in this order of influence), financial gain, achievement and status (academic/professional, financial, cultural), money (yes, again), relationship status, and lastly with health. Of course there are many other frameworks of defining happiness within our cultures, many construed by our identity's reception within the dominant culture, the degree with which our own 'selfness' or inability to be 'self' is resisted or denied and the historical/political definitions of happiness that has shaped our access to resources throughout generations.
I find that these guidelines that shape our expectations and experiences of Happiness are restrictive and limiting at best. The very shape of the parameters that define the state of Happiness create exclusion and expectations few of us want or can achieve, never mind sustain. In my opinion, Happiness is a learned process that takes a lifetime as unique as our very own life. Learning how to create space and distance between our life as it is and the external/internal imposed definitions, expectations to meet these, is the first step. Although not an easy process (given our own internal survival mechanisms and the obvious collective controlling agendas of our systems), through practice, we become more skilled at identifying, at avoiding, not engaging, resisting, dismantling and creating new definitions of our own Happiness.
Happiness in my opinion is a learning process that gets shaped by our very own discovery of ourselves and the consistent undoing and uncoupling of judgments and beliefs that, perhaps began as protective measures, but that actually impede my experience of Happiness. The learning to be happy is not just in the doing, it's also in the undoing. It is a process that keeps looking for the present point of reference, the point of organic, spontaneous creativity that is me again and again, at each junction, at each interaction and getting curious to see what else is there. It's a process that is learned, discovered, cleared and cleansed through a moment to moment awareness of the processes that shape me, the pressures that mold my perception and that keep me from seeing other aspects of myself, equally valuable, equally beautiful. In this process of observing, creating space, listening closely to ourselves, becoming aware of the forces that pull, push and shape my experience it is important to nurture the curiosity that grows slowly (sometimes out of the shadows) but is eager to experience itself in it's own light, it's own experience of self. In my opinion, this is when our own definition and experience of Happiness can be felt.
If you'd like, I invite you to say the word Happiness again, notice the sensations, the emotions and beliefs that surface. Can you link it to the past? Even if anxiety is alerting you that you are entering 'unwanted' territory, I invite you to stay put, breathe, release, just observe how it all shifts. Take a deep breath and I wonder if you can imagine seeing other shapes beginning to form when you think of Happiness, other outlines coming to the surface. Let your body be the guide and allow yourself to experience whatever is coming up, repeat again and again, After all, Happiness is a learning process that takes a lifetime.