He came to thank us. Wow! Aside from the “Thanks” I don’t remember much of what he said and he didn’t stay long. What I DO remember, is my impression that this man was truly happy. He didn’t speak of happiness that I remember, but he radiated it. I think he probably lives it, moment by moment. At the Nobel Museum, the quote offered representing the Dali Lama’s philosophy was “The purpose of life is to be happy”. So simple, uncluttered, direct and, I believe, true. We may pursue money, love, fame, power, health, intellectual accomplishment or whatever else draws our attention and effort, but what are we really after? Simple happiness. There are many paths to self-realization but don’t all true paths lead to the same place? And isn’t that place ultimately characterized by happiness?
When I was in my late twenties and being courted by my now husband of 35 years, he told me that his goal in life was to be happy. I was not impressed. I thought him naïve, unambitious, even lazy. I, on the other hand, wanted to be enlightened, save the world, become a therapist, overcome my anxiety etc. etc. etc. Oh, I had lists alright…lists upon lists. But happiness was not on them. Who was this man that I was so drawn to and yet, unlike me at the time, so uncomplicated? It turns out he was my life partner and teacher and fellow traveler who held the beacon of happiness out to me as I struggled with lesser and sometimes even “grander” goals. I’ve come to realize that any goal isn’t satisfying if it doesn’t make you happy. Even in those rare and brief moments of deep meditation when I realize for an instant life beyond delusion, feeling what Yogis call “bliss”, what I’ve come to understand is this is the ultimate form of happiness.
I treat people every day who are not happy. I/we label it as depression, dysthymia, anxiety, relationship problems, addiction and on and on. I/we work hard to eliminate those “symptoms” and sometimes we do. But even when we do, does happiness result? I maintain that happiness is not the mere absence of symptoms. I also believe that the symptoms are informative; a loud knock on the door of our consciousness that all is not well, that we are not happy. Minus “symptoms” millions suffer in quiet desperation, silent dissociation from themselves and life. I say “thank you” to symptoms because they are, if we chose to make them so, one of the gateways to our ultimate happiness. “Something has to change” they tell us. Yes, something DOES have to change. We need to become our authentic selves and we can turn our pathologies into a path toward our happiness. Kahil Gibran, in his book “The Prophet”, says this much more eloquently than I.