If someone told me that one day I would wake up and just be happy, I wouldn’t used to believe it.
Then I woke up one morning happy. Like really happy. A pouring-out-of-my-heart kind of happiness. An extraordinary happiness that lasted for days and days, and the extraordinary thing about it was that nothing extraordinary happened that caused my happiness. I couldn’t pinpoint any reason for why I was happy. In fact, my body still had the flu, I had deadlines to meet, and had nothing particularly exciting to look forward to.
In fact, I was actually surprised that I was happy. Then I was surprised at being surprised I was happy.
I realised my incredulity of being happy was because I had come to see happiness as an unattainable goal that may or may not happen one day in the distant future, and which comes after much hard work. Happiness was something I was striving for, something people wrote about in self-help books, and talked about in counseling sessions. Happiness happens when something good happens – like winning the lotto, falling in love, getting that promotion – and then happiness goes when the lotto money runs out, the love falls into normality and that promotion just meant more responsibility at work. Happiness was what I assured to people who were feeling down would happen to them, and they would shrug and say, “You don’t understand, I’ll never be happy”.
I used to be like that. I was skeptical of those people who were happy all the time, who wrote blogs like this one declaring they found happiness, and walked around like they had no worries in the world. I used to be one of those people who would say, “There’s more to life than just being happy,” when I really wanted that happiness more than anything in life.
So you can imagine my surprise when I woke up being exactly like those people who I thought didn’t exist or were just pretending to be happy when they really weren’t.
I’ve since retraced my steps to figure out how I got here. So many things could have caused this and this didn’t just happen overnight. My baseline used to be filled with nervousness and tension, highly-strung with stress, and ready to explode in anger if pushed the wrong way. Getting angry and frustrated was the automatic reaction – that was my baseline. Happiness only came when something good happened to me. Slowly, by being mindful of that negativity and its causes, my baseline became less reactive and more neutral. That neutrality allowed me to pause before reacting, and with lots of practice (and failures) gave me more chances to pause and choose how I wanted to respond.
As anger and frustration became further from the baseline, they surfaced less frequently. In their place, joy and calmness visited me more often. Eventually, my baseline became more inclined towards ease and happiness.
Despite this new-found happiness, I still believe it is in its early stages of maturity. It is still unstable and susceptible to change. I still have worldly problems and irritating moments throughout the day, and lose my mindfulness to stress and harshness. However, this experience has given me hope that the happiness we strive for is possible, and that baseline of reactivity can be turned to one of deep equanimity and an enduring freedom from suffering.