Happiness, the thing all of us seek the most, is also most mysterious. While a precise definition for happiness continues to elude us, our vocabulary hints at the lens we use to view it.
It is common to hear people in the west talk about becoming happy. The western idea of happiness is something that is attained. Life’s purpose is seen as the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is seen in buying a Tesla, going on a hike or achieving a personal goal. It is a state or an ideal that we are far from, but strive towards.
Several eastern philosophies take the opposite view. They consider happiness as the default state that we depart from. A mindfulness practice is all about returning to the aliveness, the happiness and the bliss that was always within us. Rather than be lost in thought or activity, the practice of meditation directs our attention to the happiness that already exists within us. Therefore, happiness is not something to pursue, but a refuge that to return to after wandering away.
This distinction is worth pondering about – if what we seek lies within us, it is quite wasteful to look everywhere else. We talk a lot about the pursuit of happiness. We need to talk more about returning to happiness.
Inspiration: Jack Kornfield’s conversation with Chade-Meng Tan