Feb 3, 2009

What Is Your Happiness?

My friend, Dal Raiford, who was a stellar golf professional, now retired and donning the mantle of thinker and question-asker, who is also utterly unafraid to delve into the thorniest issues, brought up the subject of happiness. Now, I, like a lot of other people, do have opinions about happiness. But, in a deeper sense, I am not sure what “happiness” is really. I suspect happiness has to be in-the-moment or not at all. I don’t think you can look at a larger frame of time and go, “Oh, I was happy then.” Were you really? For the entire period—every bit of it? And was that happiness dependent on circumstances or other people? Then it likely wasn’t really happiness—or was it?

Probably the happiness of Zen Buddhists or of Eckhart Tolle is the most we humans can achieve: detachment from expectations of the future or delusions from the past and perfect presence in the moment, responsive to and utterly aware, right now. Are we happy right now?

I think I’ve felt those moments of right-now happiness the most when I have been outside rather than inside. And they occur often when I am dancing (it’s hard to be grumpy while dancing—just try it!). I also have many happy moments while eating. And those happy moments occur a lot when I am with others, although they also occur alone. A perfect event for happiness would involve food and dancing outdoors among people, but with opportunities to be alone.

But that's just silly speculation. Of course, happy moments could be anywhere under any conditions.

Here's what Dal later said, "I suggest: Happiness exists only as memory. In any moment we may feel joy, which I consider a higher state than feeling happy. In my mind, recalling those moments is real happiness. Is that a semantics challenge?"

Under what conditions do you find yourself being most happy? What does happiness feel like to you?

The Happiness Project at Slate.com

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