I will be happy when...
I will be happy when... I will be happy if... It is so easy to think in these terms. We are so used to thinking this way. We imagine that our happiness will be complete only when and if we reach a certain chosen condition. “When I reach this goal, when I achieve this result, when I finally gain, when I stop working hard and/or suffering, then…”
In this, however, the possibility of true serenity, true satisfaction or true joy is subject to a parameter and in thinking this way you project yourself forward towards something you do not yet have. Having goals and objectives gives you direction, but unfortunately it prevents you from giving continuity and depth to positive emotions. If your happiness is conditioned to a point of arrival, the journey will only be hard work. We live just like this: short moments of satisfaction and joy, before sinking into another long interminable struggle or effort towards the next goal. Our lives are made of pressure and stress, rushing from one achievement to the next, tasting the sweetness of it for one second and then heading down again.
But what if you shift the process? What if you choose to be happy at every step of the path that takes you to the new goal? What if you choose to discover the joy in every moment that connects you to it? If you succeed you will have finally caught the famous "here and now" that all the most enlightened masters speak about.
The “here and now” is the day you live today and also tomorrow and the day after tomorrow. If the present is a rich and complete experience in itself, your life is a happy life. And how do you do this? You choose happiness as a starting point and not as a destination. You get up in the morning and choose to be happy, whatever happens in your next 24 hours of life. The challenge is in learning to choose your emotional state. But be careful: your emotional state does not match what you generally identify with your emotions. Your emotions are generally reactions to the circumstances of your life. Emotional states are a chosen state of being.
If you simply react to what happens to you, you go through serenity, stress, dissatisfaction, frustration, anger, fatigue in a succession of emotions triggered by what is happening around you. But when you are attentive and aware of the emotional state you want to be in, you choose your reactions based on the state you want to be. Do you want to be happy today? How do you react to the queue on the highway, to the person who is harsh on you, to the irritation of your husband/wife?
This is a complete reversal of perspective. It means moving from a re-active life to an intentional life, from reaction to choice, from mere survival to evolution. Becoming the architect of your emotional states means going back to being free. It's not important what happens outside; you know how to be inside. Nothing and no one can have power over you because you have become indifferent to circumstances.
Try to experience the difference this makes. I do it habitually and I immediately realise on a physical level how much value it has. When I am able to choose and maintain my emotional state, my life flows with incredible ease, when I become a "victim" of the circumstances, life weighs on me and crushes me.
I did this yesterday: first, I let my impatience about a queue at the airport checkpoints dampen my mood. I began to get nervous and to criticise the length of the process; every single minute of waiting became a boulder. While I simmered with rage, I noticed a guy who spent all the time laughing and exchanging jokes with another couple... he did not even realise when his turn came. In the meantime, I got a headache.
Every experience is an opportunity to master yourself (or not)!
(pic courtesy of Alexandra Kirr for Unsplash)