In college I took a course in Zen studies that served more as a life-coaching class rather than an academic requirement, because it left you feeling like the controller of your own life; the master over your ever-fleeting thoughts and emotions. Our final project was to choose a cultural event that dealt directly with Zen; a lecture, art exhibit, meditation class. The goal was to step outside of the required readings for the semester and into a tangible world where one could experience the limitless lessons of an ancient school of thought, traced back to centuries past. I chose a meditation class that alternatively served as the backdrop to the Zen master’s lecture; an enlightening lesson that allowed some light to peek through on our natural human behaviors and thought processes.
She asked us what our idea of happiness is. When she first asked us this, I thought of the basic things that would make a person happy: family, love, good health, money…all of those things in their more specific forms. She went on to say that the majority of people live their lives by their own codes of happiness; most people living with an idea of happiness that only exists in the future: “When I…make more money; get a new job; have a boyfriend or girlfriend; move to a different location; get a new car; meet new friends…then I’ll be happy.” Every pre-determined code of contentment exists somewhere in the distant future; none are planted firmly in present life circumstances.
Life seems to revolve around waiting for one segment of our lives to be over for another one to begin. When we’re in high school we can’t wait to go to college, when we’re in college we can’t wait to get a job, and when we get a job we can’t wait to retire. It’s a consistent and viscous cycle of rushing through everything we are here to do and experience. By thinking about things in such a way, we lose the element of actually living; of breathing in a moment and staying in that moment for some time; of the gratefulness attached to each and every circumstance we are given; of the happiness to simply be alive.
Renowned authors Esther and Jerry Hicks sum it up perfectly: “Everything that I think that I need to do, is all only in order to propel me to some place, that when I get there I think I will be happier. So, everything that I am doing, no matter what it is, all of my lists of rights and wrongs, are all about me getting to a manifestation, that I believe I will then be happier…So, why don’t I take a short cut and just be happy?”
Maybe if we believe that wherever we are at is what happiness is, then we will actually begin to feel that way. Happiness in its true form is our natural state of being. Holding the awareness of that fact, we can begin to shape our lives into a more fulfilling one by knowing that whatever we are doing, and wherever we are, is all we really need to be content.