Finding happiness

15 July 2013
“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness.” 
Dalai Lama in The Art of Happiness

I often wonder what we're here for. I'm sure you do too. What is the purpose of life? We're all born into a variety of situations, grow up, become educated along the way, develop friendships and learn what we think we need to know. Then we reach an age when we're independent and we go out into the world. When we start our adult lives, what is it we hope for?  Well, for me, I wanted to be happy. I didn't know how I would find happiness, or how long it would last, but it was what I hoped for. I didn't realise then how difficult happiness would be to find. Or how easy.

One of the stumbling blocks along the way seems to be, and was for me, thinking that "stuff" makes us  happy. I guess that is quite common in a society that has been made wealthy on the back of commerce. I must be a slow learner, or was it that I was distracted by the difficult stages of life - motherhood and raising children, establishing a career and trying to balance it all with some alone time for reading and self development. I wish I'd known then that I was able to cultivate happiness while I was doing all that, but I still believed that happiness was bought and I just had to buy the 'right' things, and I'd be set. Just one more dress, just the right pair of shoes, or maybe it was a new car. Who knew. I just knew that when I bought the right thing or when I moved to my ideal house, it would make me happy. I kept thinking that happiness was outside myself and that it was made up of "things".

Now that I look back on that time, I realise that I did have periods of pure happiness after my sons were born and I remember quite a few days when I was happy. But it was mostly on celebration days, or holidays, or something out of the ordinary. Domestic life was a struggle for me. It was like I couldn't focus on the two main areas of my life at the same time - my paid work and my home life. I knew both were important but I could never seem to get the balance right.

I think it's odd to have found enduring happiness when I least expected it; in the place I thought it would never be - in my home. Happiness was here all along. I just didn't recognise it. Or maybe I was too busy to take notice.  I have an ember of contentment within me all the time now and it takes very little for it to ignite. I realise now that happiness was never "out there" it was inside. Inside my home and inside my heart. I didn't go out and buy it, it found me. When I knew that, and felt it, I never looked back.

I know now that to be happy, one must look for the good parts of life, but not in a pollyanna-ish way. Happiness is part of a positive mindset and if you don't have that, you won't see the potential for happiness. I know too that happiness is not one thing, and that it is rarely anything big. Pure happiness comes in fragments that we collect throughout the day and when we take the time to look back, we realise that what we have is happiness, or at least the makings of it.

I think we give ourselves the best chance of happiness and contentment by slowing down and living simply and according to our values; by examining what it is that we think is important and then fashioning a life that reflects it. By doing that we often have to teach ourselves how to do various tasks and to home produce items we used to buy. That, in turn, builds confidence and when we know we're much more capable of looking after ourselves and our family, we take on new projects and become more connected with our domestic tasks. Self belief is a powerful thing.

I am made happy now by knowing I can work here in my home doing meaningful work. I love the mundane work of ordinary life and I love writing my blog and books. But it is a careful balancing act. I want to live my life, not just write about it, so I get away from the computer as often as I can and I work at all the things that I want in my life - family, friends, good food, gardening, knitting, sewing, reading and, of course, thinking, with a cup in my hand and gazing out into the greenish-grey of an Australian backyard. Yep, you could say I'm one happy gal.  What about you?