There is a beautiful song called ‘October Song’ written by Robin Williamson from The Incredible String Band who were a pioneering 1960‘s psychedelic folk band. From the first time I heard the song, I loved the verse:
“I used to search for happiness, And I used to follow pleasure, But I found a door behind my mind, And that’s the greatest treasure”
Happiness is something that we might all like more of in our lives and growing up, I spent a lot of time trying to find things, people and places that would make me happy. There are many books available today proclaiming ways in which we can find lasting happiness. I would argue that some of the popular psychology ideas about happiness could be misleading or even inaccurate. They could have the reverse effect of leaving you feeling less happy because your experience of life does not seem to match the idea of happiness being sold to you. My experience of happiness so far has been a very ephemeral experience; maybe it lasts a few hours, a day or week, even a month. However, at some point it changes and another feeling emerges for example, sadness, excitement or doubt.
Over the years, as my practice of yoga and meditation deepened, I’ve noticed that by being in the world and in relation to life itself, we will hear news that touches us, and we feel sad; then maybe later, a friend makes us laugh and a lightness enters our experience. So, the idea of a state of static happiness that we can finally ‘arrive at’ could be a very misleading view. Our experiences are constantly in flux and life is by its very nature, dynamic. If instead of chasing the idea of happiness, we could look for qualities of a life that has meaning and value. This may then offer a more helpful perspective that can support us through our journey in life.
“There is a there is a recurrent fantasy perhaps, that the purpose of life is to achieve happiness. Who does not long to arrive some distant day at that sunlit meadow where, untroubled, we may rest easy, abide awhile and be happy? Another perspective is the assumption that the goal of life is not happiness but meaning.”
- James Hollis, Jungian Psychologist