Monday, March 24, 2014

Finding Happiness

It was a Thursday night in July of 1996 when my quest for finding happiness began. I was sitting on the floor of my luxury apartment doing paperwork when it hit me that the path I was on was not the path for me.
I was twenty-five, wealthy (six figures in the bank) and had achieved every single material goal I ever wanted. I literally thought I had it all. My closets were filled with designer clothes and fancy shoes. My bathroom cabinets were filled with luxury cosmetics. Everything was great except for two things: I was miserable and I felt empty.

My childhood and teenage years were very tough and so I channeled all my pain into pursuing success. I thought, at the time, that if I achieved all my material goals, I would be in bliss. I worked very hard and was able to achieve every goal I set. But I started to notice that with each goal achieved, I was happy but it was temporary. I wanted ever lasting happiness and thought that the next goal would bring me that happiness. The irony is that with each goal achieved, I felt more and more miserable.
What made things even tougher was that to the outside world, I had it all so I could not express my pain to anyone out of fear that it would look like I was being ungrateful for my abundance. I was grateful but yet deep inside of me something just felt off.

The Start of My Journey to Happiness

So on that fateful July night, I decided that I would do whatever it would take to find happiness. The emptiness and the misery scared me and I did not want the rest of my life to be a continuation of that misery. Little did I know what life had in store for me.
A few months later, Buddhism entered my life and my world started to unravel. Discovering meditation was amazing and I felt that I had found the path that would help me to find what I was seeking. My hunch was correct because learning about meditation opened my eyes to a brand new way of looking at life.
I devoured spiritual books. I quit my job and started to travel the world. Within five years time, my luxury life was history. I no longer lived in a fancy apartment. My clothes and possessions were all donated. All I had was one suitcase with some clothes and some books along with a passport that proved I had circled the globe at least twice.
It was around this time that a wise monk crossed my path and gave me a chance to be initiated into one of the high Orders in India. I took the opportunity and fell in love with what I learned. My love for the teachings of Vedanta were so strong, I almost took final vows as a nun but decided not to because I was not ready to give up on the idea of sharing my life with a man. So I left the monastic path and re-entered the world. It was tough because the monastic world was just so beautiful and the modern world seemed to be full of pain. However, I continued on my quest for happiness.
A year later, I met my husband and that began the wonderful journey of marriage. I was still searching for happiness and one thing led to another and my husband and I found ourselves living in India for six months. It was one the best times of my life although it was a very emotional time for me because more and more of my family and friends were leaving my life.
When you go from being rich to being “poor”, not everyone gets that especially if you do it voluntarily. People think you are crazy and they think that eventually you will come to your senses. I apparently, to my friends and some relatives, did not come to my senses, so people started to leave and it was painful. My reputation was dragged through the mud. Numerous insults were hurled my way and even one uncle disowned me.
Despite the pain, I knew I was on the right path and was determined to find out all that I could about happiness. Once we were back home in America, my mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and we moved in with my parents so that I could take care of my mother during the last six months of her life.
I was by her side when she passed on and that was a huge teacher. It showed me that all we take with us when we go is how we lived our lives. All the material possessions stay behind. My mother’s passing just made me more determined to love life and to find happiness.

A Shift in Finding Happiness

In September of 2010, strange things began to happen and it all started with a question my husband asked me. We were talking about goals and I realized that I no longer had any. For a former “Type A” like myself, such a sentence is totally out of character. How can I not have goals? It was very weird to hear myself say those words.
Even though I am a very positive person, my immediate reaction was that I was on the verge of dying because how can you go through life without goals? Was something wrong with me?
To complicate matters, I found myself not enjoying the things I used to enjoy. I used to read spiritual books and found myself not really learning anything new in the books that I was reading. The books were great but it was like reading the same material over and over again. It was getting to be boring.
This only made me more concerned because for the last thirteen years, that is all that I read and loved. What was happening to me? I had no clue. All I knew is that I no longer felt the way that I used to feel and it scared me because it was so different. Blogging became boring because I had no desire to write about the same things that I used to write about because the subjects no longer interested me.
I was having a huge identity crisis but I had no idea why. All I knew was that I truly felt happy. There was no sense of longing for happiness and that one realization made me see that the quest I had been on since July of 1996 was finally over. You would think this would have made me even happier but all it did was scare me.
Why did it scare me? Well…when you spend every cent you have and so much time on a goal—Like finding happiness–you never really think about the time when you actually achieve that goal. In my quest for happiness, I never imagined what would happen if I found the answers that I was looking for because it seemed so far-fetched.
Even more interesting was the fact that happiness looked so different from what I thought it would look like. For example, I still have days where I am cranky and my ego is in full control of my senses. I have days where all I want to do is stay in bed and not deal with the world. I have days when I am so full of joy, I could explode from the immensity of it. I have days where I cry at the pain that I see. I have days where I wonder if my quest was worth it since I spent every cent I had.
Yet despite all of those days, deep in my heart I know what life is all about and that brings me peace. I no longer question what is the meaning and purpose of life. I know what my purpose as a human being is and I strive to meet that purpose every day. Some days I hit the mark and other days I don’t.
You see…you and I are here because sometime ago we forget who we truly are at our core. We get so caught up in the illusion of life, we forget our inherent Divinity. We all have the ability to have lives we love and to be happy; we just need to see the illusions for what they are.
Your worth as a human being has nothing to do with how much money you have or the degrees or any other material item you think you own. You don’t own anything except for how you live. When you pass on, the cars, the money and all the things you own will not go with you. They will stay behind.
Your worth is determined by one thing and one thing only: how much love have you given to life? Have you brought joy to others or just misery? I wish I could tell you that I have only brought joy to others but I have not. I have done things which have hurt people but I vowed to learn from my mistakes and not repeat them. Sometimes it is easy and other times it is hard.
As I realized that my quest had come to an end, I did not know how to proceed with my life and so I took a three month hiatus from being online. It was very apparent that I could not write anything since a new writing voice was starting to emerge. It hit me that I needed to just be present in what was happening and just be.
For an active person like myself, standing still is like pulling teeth. I don’t love it but I knew that I needed to stand still in order to figure out what to do next. So I spent those three months reading, watching movies, traveling and a whole lot of introspection.

Clarity, At Last

By the end of December, a goal began to reveal itself and it was unlike any other goal I ever had. Most of us have goals that are rooted in personal gain. Our goals reflect our desires. The irony about life is that we focus so much on the end result, we lose sight of the fact that the journey is what matters.
Your experience of life is dependent on how you are present in life. Here in the West, we focus so much on doing that we neglect being. Being present in the moment is what determines your life. Are you present? Are you having fun being you? Do you love yourself?
If you are not having fun and if you don’t love yourself, then something has got to change. It is like the old Buddhist joke about a monk who passes away and discovers that the ancient text did not say celibate as he thought but rather it said celebrate.
So celebrate being you and being alive. Enjoy the journey. If you have goals, go for them but realize that the goals do not define who you are. How you go about your day says more about you than what you achieve. How you treat a stranger says more about you than how much money you have in the bank.
Where am I now in my life? Well…with all of these realizations, I decided to shut down my business because it no longer reflects the person that I am now. So I find myself starting a whole new phase and chapter in my journey (Hint: Think Simple Now will be my new home to document this journey).
A new writing voice is emerging as well which I am still honing. All I know is that I am happy and that I just want to do what I can to make other people realize how awesome they truly are. Finding happiness, in the end lead me to a place of service and shifting focus away from myself—for when we give, we truly receive. Amazing.

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