Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to
Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.
I’ve been thinking a lot about happiness, lately,
and also about the awesome power of words.
We already know that our words define our world—that
our entire experience of the (little “r”) reality is nothing but
words, and if we change the words, we change the world.
The challenge is to be fully aware of what the
words we choose actually mean. Words are slippery things and they
often lead double lives. Just because two words have similar meanings
does not mean that they mean the same thing. (Case in point: “similar”
is different from “same.”)
In order to manifest the kinds of experiences we
truly desire, we have to pay close attention to semantics, and
investigate the hidden life of even the most innocuous words.
For example, lets consider “happiness.” Most of
us can agree that we would like to be more happy. Happiness is
something that we usually welcome in our lives. In fact, America
is even founded on (and defined by) the pursuit of happiness.
How could happiness be anything less than desirable?
Where is the harm in happy?
I first began to explore these questions when I
realized that “happiness” is not one of the eternal qualities
of All That Is. Joy is an eternal quality; so are Bliss and Delight.
Happiness, on the other hand, doesn’t make the cut.
The eternal qualities of All That Is are, well,
eternal. They’re always present, always available to us, and all
we need do is be open to experiencing them.
Happiness, on the other hand is notorious for its
fickleness. It shows up in brief flashes, and never seems to stick
around for very long. As soon as we begin to enjoy the fact that
we’re happy, a part of us (our ego, of course) starts to worry
about the fact that it can’t last, and at some point in the future
we won’t be happy any longer. This thought always turns out to
be a major buzz kill.
Happiness, in fact, is a creature of the ego. Think
about it. We’re never simply happy. We’re always happy about
something. Our happiness is always contingent on external circumstances.
We believe that when we get the things that we want, then
we’ll be happy.
Of course, the more attached we become to
getting the things that we want, the more that we believe that
our happiness depends on things outside of ourselves, the less
safe we feel. And the less safe we feel, the more likely we are
to create attachments and look outside of ourselves for salvation.
When you really think about it, happiness—and the
pursuit of happiness—only reinforces our belief in the illusion
of separation from the Source.
If you don’t think that creates problems, consider
Now, let me be clear: I love being an American.
I love this country, and I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else
in the world. Even so, America isn’t perfect. America was founded
on three core principles. The first two, Life and Liberty are
perfectly wonderful. Life and Liberty are admirable, positive
qualities that are responsible for all that is good and decent
and strong about America and Americans. The third principle, however,
“the Pursuit of Happiness” is responsible for everything that
is unfortunate about America and Americans.
I won’t go into the current American foreign policy
(although it is most definitely a symptom of the “Pursuit of Happiness”
run amok). Let’s simply consider some facts about the American
way of life.
Americans are 5% of the world’s population and
yet we consume 24% of the world’s energy. We consume 20% of the
world’s resources and produce 22% of the world’s carbon dioxide
emissions. We generate 75% of the world’s hazardous waste, and
every day, Americans collectively consume roughly 200 billion
more calories than we need—enough to feed 80 million people.
Americans do all of this in the pursuit of happiness.
Our entire culture is founded on the assumption that we must look
outside of ourselves for fulfillment. We may be the most affluent
society on the planet, but we also have the greatest poverty consciousness
on the planet. No matter how much we consume, it’s never enough.
The more we consume, the emptier we feel, and the emptier we feel,
the more we consume.
If happiness is the cause of so much suffering,
what’s the alternative?
I personally feel that happiness is a poor substitute
for Joy. Think about it. No one ever “jumped for happy.” Beethoven
never wrote an “Ode to Happy,” and neither has anyone else, for
Don’t get me wrong—happiness is a very pleasant
experience. I welcome being happy; however, I do my best not to
pursue it. When it shows up, I enjoy it, and when it goes, I let
it. Happiness isn’t worth the effort. Joy, on the other hand,
is worth pursuing.
The irony, of course, is that we don’t have to
pursue Joy. Joy, as one of the eternal qualities of All That Is,
is always present, always available to us. Joy bubbles up from
within us, spontaneously lifting our spirits, opening our hearts,
and filling us with so much love and lightness of being that we
can’t help but jump and shout and sing.
When we experience Joy, we never worry about how
long it will last because when we experience Joy, time has no
meaning. Joy, like so much else worth living for, only exists
in the now; in order to experience Joy, we must be completely
aware of the present moment.
Never underestimate the power of the present moment.
The “Present Moment Awareness” exercise on page 48 ofThe Relationship
Handbookis the single most powerful technique I’ve ever encountered.
This one simple exercise has the power to restore the balance
in our Safety Accounts, allow us to release all of our attachments,
reconnect with the truth of who we are, and experience all of
the eternal qualities, including Joy, Bliss and Delight.
Just imagine what America would be like if it were
founded on the principles of Life, Liberty and the Experience
of Joy. The world would be a very different place today, I know
I encourage you not to settle for happy.
Experience Joy instead. It’s cheaper, more durable, instantly
available to everyone, and it doesn’t harm the environment. Not
to mention that jumping is excellent exercise, and considering
how many excess calories Americans consume each day, we could
all use a little more Joy in our lives.
Kevin B. Burk is the author of
Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every
Relationship in Your Life.
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