Our group was in Nepal, building another school. And we always stay with families there. Never a hotel. And this family, the conditions were so poor. Their floor was cow dung. They had one piece of furniture – a bench in the kitchen so they could keep some things off the floor. The beds were off the floor, but they were hand built, hell on your back. Thin mattresses.
And when we were getting ready to go, I asked our interpreter what they might need. I wanted to get them something to thank them.
And all I could see was this big grin on his face, and I thought, oh hell. What have I done now… And I said What?
And he said the family came to him that morning and asked what they could do for us, because we all seemed to be missing something.
Vernon Wells, actor, Road Warrier
Here in our Western culture we equate happiness with ‘having.’ Yet ‘having’ clearly doesn’t actually lead to happiness. Look at Bernie Madoff, who stole 65 billion dollars. He confesses that even before he was caught, he was not happy. Driving through the streets of Beverly Hills one is never struck by the happiness quotient there, or any apparent desire of the citizens there to share what happiness they may have.
There are people who are happy and who have money. Clearly, almost anyone reading this has more money than the family Vernon speaks about above. Still, with all of our money and possessions, there is something lacking that, at least to the Nepalese, is apparent.
The United Nations report [on happiness] found that Americans have gotten less happy even as the United States has grown in wealth.
Megan Trimble, The World’s 10 Happiest Countries,
U.S. News & World Report, March 14, 2018
We humans instinctually seek happiness. We look for the finest fabric, the purest color, the sweetest strawberry. We look to fulfill what is missing. It is our nature – like a sunflower following the sun or male and female woodpeckers incubating her eggs. It’s what we do.
Our culture, our economic model, the billions spent on advertising each year tell us that this missing something will be found by getting and achieving. In spite of the fact that, even if it works, even if we get a new car, it makes us happy only for a few weeks. Then it’s just transportation. If we start making a thousand dollars a day, within a year, perhaps less, we will be wishing for more – to take us to the next level, or to return us to the feeling we got when we first landed the job.
We are looking for happiness in the wrong place. For the only place true happiness lives is within. And within is where we must learn to find it. In the place of pure Being that lies just there, beneath our thoughts. This place of Being also is the place of pure bliss, and to align ourselves with it is to experience the feeling of supreme rightness that the sunflower feels when it is fulfilling its place in the world.
This is what we are here for. We are meant to find happiness. We are meant to enjoy our lives. We do not need to get rid of what we have in order to find this happiness, but we must begin looking for it where it exists. We must turn our eyes inward, at least for a while.
Today I will be sure to find time to meditate, 15 to 20 minutes morning, and again in the evening. And throughout the day I will look outward to see where I might radiate this happiness I find within, rather than looking to take what I think I need.