This question often arises during a time of turbulence or uncertainty, a time when the way things have been happening doesn’t seem like the way things can keep happening. What a gift! Tell me what resonates for you?
I was working with a client last week and he said “I’ve always worked on the basis that if home’s OK, then work’s OK. And home doesn’t feel OK just now.”
He said he felt like he was going through what might be called empty-nest syndrome — something I, and maybe you too, imagined was only something women experienced. Fundamentally he’s been feeling lost, confused, wondering what he’s doing, what he’s doing it for, and feeling confronted by the fact he might only have ten years before retirement…and of course then the mind extrapolates to death.
All of this has bubbled up over a long summer break when there’s been lots of time and not much to fill it, and he could see that the return to work looked like a welcome relief to fill his head again to quiet all these other thoughts down.
AND, something inside him also knew to talk to me about it. Something knew that there was something off with just getting back on the hamster wheel and numbing out from the discomfort in the same old way that he’s always done.
Is this it?
“Is this it?” he’s been asking himself. A very common phrase for people who reach the point when the normal paradigm they’ve been living within starts to break down and cracks in the veneer start to show.
I shared how there seem to be two routes we can take at this point:
- We can go back into the normal way and try harder, keep going, keep numbing (sometimes requiring increasingly strong numbing efforts to hide what’s trying to burst through).
- We can get curious about what is actually going on? We can listen to the knowing inside us that says ‘what you’ve been doing isn’t it’ and we can get into a conversation that returns us to what ‘it’ is.
The search for happiness
My client actually pointed to the confusion that’s kept ‘it’ hidden in the very first sentence — the false belief that as long as home’s OK then work will be OK.
If we believe this then of course the moment home’s not OK it looks like work isn’t OK. And this leads to alot of vigilance to try and keep home being OK, and alot of turbulence if it’s not.
All of it underpinned by the fundamental false belief that ‘my happiness relies on what’s happening out there’.
I’ll just say that again: it’s a false belief that your happiness relies on what’s happening out there.
When we believe that, we spend our lives in a constant search for happiness. Trying to line ourselves and the world up just perfectly so that happiness becomes the by-product.
But no. You’ve been looking in the wrong place (almost*) all your life. That’s why ‘is this it?’ arises — because the dream you’ve been sold hasn’t come to fruition. All the work and effort and doing the right thing hasn’t led to the happiness you expected at the end of that rainbow.
Instead now, you get to turn around and realise that happiness was never to be found in the world. It’s always been here, you. And, paradoxically, the more you see that, the more the world becomes the happiness that you’ve been looking for.
*Almost — because this isn’t new information for you. You knew this when you were born. You knew this when you were one. Some people, my client included, still knew this when they were 6, 7…even 8.
And then learning gets collected that points us away from it, that hides it and obscures our recognition of that which we essentially are.
It seems to be the inevitable journey we all go on (and very usefully for the experiences we collect along the way). And then there comes this point — ‘is this it?’ — when the cracks open and we get to start to unlearn our way back to the happiness we know ourselves to be.
The quiet, peaceful, contented happiness that is the essence of all and which — when remembered — returns us to our Self and what we’ve been looking for all our lives.
How do I do this?
Did that question pop up? The mind always wants a ‘how’. It always wants to ‘do’ something to fix this problem life I’m in now. Which is fine, it’s useful to start us on this exploration back to the recognition of our Self.
So two things, you can start by getting curious and noticing:.
- Has any thing or any person, job or possession ever made you consistently happy all the time? If not, then where does happiness come from? It certainly doesn’t seem to reliably come from those things.
- But what if it’s not those things making me happy? The mind envisions a nihilistic life with no happiness so instead, right now, take a quiet moment. In the absence of all thoughts and beliefs — just put them all down to the side for a moment — what remains?
With love, Helen
I’m running an interactive call about The Source of Happiness for the members of my community on Patreon on 24th September at 12.30pm UK (it will be recorded and shared in the community afterwards). Accessible to Tier 1 and above, have a look at the membership options here and join us to explore happiness in greater depth, bringing your own questions and observations with you.
I coach and guide smart, passionate, curious people who care about improving the lives of those around them. Often coaches and leaders, they’ve worked hard all their lives to be the ‘best’ them and it doesn’t seem to have delivered the happiness, security or freedom they expected. Now they’re wondering what else is available. I guide you back, prior to stories, to remember the real you because that’s what you, me and the whole world really wants! Find out more here.