happiness is an inside job
“Tree Book”

Happiness is an inside job. Really?  Here’s my backstory.  When my grandkids turned six, I gave each of them what we called at “Tree Book” — a little book actually made of wood, which seemed appropriate because the idea was to have a place to record sayings and experiences that would help us grow, like tress do. It would contain tips, tidbits, and teachings that could help us when times were tough; help us to bounce back, to handle life’s challenges.  My mom had given me a little booklet like that too, and while I confess that I didn’t look at it very often, I did register the idea that many of our strengths and resources are on the inside. My intent was to share that radical idea with my grandkids  They’re not at a point yet where that really means much — they are currently quite focussed on living their lives as teenagers or 20 somethings. Still, it is true that happiness is an inside job, and that wisdom is registered in my Tree Book, and there for us all, at whatever age it dawns on us.  

Full disclosure: I didn’t really grok that I was responsible for my own happiness until my mid-forties! Separating from my then husband, I realized I thought it was, at least in part, HIS job to “make me happy”. It was a long slow process, but that event was the beginning of my growing awareness that happiness is an inside job. He and I are now the best of friends… that’s a happy story.

Tara Brach, one of my favourite teachers, has a book called Trusting The Gold, which I highly recommend.  One of her chapters is called Happy For No Reason  It’s easy to be happy when everything is going our way, the weather is fine, the path is clear, the right team wins, the friends are kind, our health is good, the world seems to be getting better… We all know such times and we all know this easy kind of happiness.

But what if the weather’s crummy, people are not friendly, we’re disappointed by it all, the world seems to be crashing around our ears… The miracle is that it is still possible to be awake, alive, yes, content and calm…in the present moment with full attention…and to make choices and engage from this grounded place.  Happiness, contentment, wellbeing are not to be found on the outside, even though our materialistic world and all the ads are trying to make us believe that they are. Happiness is an inside job, deeply and truly.  The implications are huge.

I am fresh back on a cycling trip with my daughter, one of our great pleasures together, but not everything went all that smoothly. We had car trouble getting to our launch place, the headwinds were crazy at times and the trail wound along a very loud freeway now and then. And still, I was able to consciously switch from feeling grumpy, needing the outside to be right, or at least better! to being happy for no reason.  

What about you?  What is your experience of happiness being an inside job, and how do you tap into it when the outside is not helping? I’d love to hear your experience. We are in this together. 

PS Here’s Roger Miller’s take on the theme: You can’t roller skate in a buffalo herd, but you can be happy if you’ve a mind to 🙂

PPS You might also be interested in Jeffery Martin’s approach to “fundamental wellbeing”, another name for “happy for no reason”.  

In closing, here’s John O’ Donahue on the topic. “One of the lovely things about us as individuals is the incommensurable in us…This is fascinating and frightening. It means that we cannot continue to seek outside ourselves for the things we need from within.  The blessings for which we hunger are not to be found in other places or people. Theses gifts can only be given to you by yourself.  They are at home at the hearth of your soul.”

Jill Schroder is the author of BECOMING: Journeying Toward Authenticity.  BECOMING is an invitation for self-reflection, and to mine our memorable moments for insights, meaning, and growth.  Check the website for a sample chapter, or see the reviews to get a flavor for the volume.  Follow me on Twitter, let’s be friends on Facebook

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