Everybody has this line of happiness. Or at least that’s what I like to call it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned above everything else, it’s that life is a balancing act between clinging to our desires and pushing away our non-desires. Our idea of happiness is very much distorted from a young age. When we get what we want, whether it is going out to play as an 8 year old, or that glance and smile from someone we have a crush on as a teenager. We interpret that feeling as happiness. It becomes how we always want to feel. So we spend the rest of our lives trying to get there – we grab hold of things so we can feel good, we push away other things to avoid feeling bad.
The search for happiness becomes a constant theme. “I just want to be happy, is that too much to ask?” It becomes a mantra for our lives.
I heard a story about a guy who got a phone call from the local hospital. He was living a pretty normal life, working every day, with the normal struggles we all have. He was tired and always seemed to be irritable with everybody.
The hospital informed him that a test came back with some results and he needed to go in urgently to discuss them. They informed him the test showed an incurable disease, and that over the next 10 years he would slowly break down and lose his fight. There were things they could do but there was no good news.
He was devastated; he’d been looking forward to his retirement in a few years time, and this turned his whole life upside down. He sat outside in the car sobbing, leaning on the steering wheel for quite some time, having thoughts of telling his children, saying goodbye to people, and what life was going to be like in just 12 months time.
Then there was a tap on the window – he wound down the window and the nurse confirmed his name and date of birth. The date of birth had the wrong year. They weren’t his results. He was fine.
Upon hearing the news he felt overjoyed, jumping out of the car and hugging the nurse. He couldn’t believe his luck! When she asked if he was okay, he replied that he’d never felt better in his life. He was so incredibly happy!
But what had changed? Nothing. Between the phone call the night before, the devastation, and then feeling on top of the world, absolutely nothing had changed in his life.
Apart from one thing perhaps – his awareness that one day he would die, and that his life was there to be lived.
The line of happiness is where we are all the time. It is the norm in life. Here’s a diagram to explain.
The cooking, cleaning and working that we so often find a chore is our normal happiness. The day-to-day duties of care to our children, friends and relatives is exactly what we do, but we do not see this as making us happy.
The desires, lusts and all the enjoyable things are to varying degrees above this line. They are temporary – they come and go.
The happiness line stays.
The things we dread, push away and avoid are the things below the centre line. Things like debt, health issues and relationship problems. But these too are temporary!
On the diagram where is your line of happiness? Do you think it’s above the normal or somewhere below the normal?
If you’re living below the happiness line, even without realising it, you will strongly grab at any desires you can, just to temporarily lift yourself. You might overindulge in these things, hoping the temporary moments of feeling great will somehow last longer. And if you are living above the happiness line you will dread anything going wrong in your life, you will hate anybody that disrupts it in any way. It will become difficult and tiring to try to maintain that level of energy in your life.
There is no balance to be found living above or below this centre line. Neither is sustainable over a long period of time; they will either kill us with depression and anxiety, or kill us with fear of losing what we’ve got.
Everything in life that is above and below the line is temporary, all the highs and lows will fade back to the centre, every moment will pass.
The idea is to remember that when things are just as they are, on that centre line of happiness, that is truly being happy. Right there in the middle.
That does not come and go, that is always available.
Taking a deep breath, recognising what’s happening in this moment, and mindfully accepting and enjoying it – that is being happy. That’s the spiritual path: the enjoyment of living.
Visit above and below as many times as you want to, or have to. But don’t cling or push either, don’t get attached to the desires and attached to pushing away the non-desires. Practice acceptance. The middle path, the middle way and the balanced life is where all the happiness is.
Try doing this for yourself over the next few days.
Here is my Facebook live show explaining the idea and exactly how to do it.