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Happy

Happy

The following is a reflection from Jane Lee Wolfe, St. James, Woodstock parishioner and Director of Bog Chapel, Inc. an educational not-for-profit organization that focuses on the spiritual health and spiritual fitness of human beings, from youth through old age.

Everyone wants to be happy. Whether or not any of us have any real definition of happy, it’s what lots of us human beings want to be. We kind of know when we’re happy, and we are often sure when we’re unhappy. We are less sure on how to achieve happiness, maintain it, or restore it when it whips away and we find ourselves unhappy.

Some of us are raised to believe happiness is a secondary goal. Is my being happy going to help solve any of the world’s problems like violence, poverty, injustice and global degradation? Is it going to help solve personal and cultural problems like arrogance, materialism, denial and indifference? The answer: Maybe.
This “maybe” rests on an understanding that most of us need to be aware of and many of us are not: That there are two types of happiness, external and internal, and these need to be in balance in our lives. When one or the other becomes our single source of happiness, the fullness of being happy is compromised and despair sets in. We hurt others; others hurt us. And the spin into further imbalance sets in.
External happiness is what most of us know, appreciate and seek. This is the happiness of great weather, great friends, great security of external survival needs such as food, water, and air. This is the happiness of possibility, choice, and access to this or that in the outside world. It is wonderful to be happy in this way. We love it, we seek it, we bathe in it, we need it.

But it is not enough; and that is what we fail to understand. We fail to understand that in addition to all the external happiness in the world, internal happiness is necessary for human balance and fulfillment.

It is easy to see why we don’t understand this: the people we recognize as having great internal peace are often the ones we perceive as poor, with little choice about this or that externally. We are confused when we recognize them as happy, because clearly their happiness has a source that is different from ours.

This is scary to us who rely heavily on external happiness. How can people who have nothing or little and no external security be happy? My observation is that they have internal happiness. It is generally well developed because this is the only happiness they can access, and happiness is an essential part of being human for everyone. Theirs is the happiness of inner peace, transcendent joy, steadfast love. They know justice even though it is not theirs, kindness even though they receive little, and humility because they are comfortable with themselves and who they are.

Would they like some external happiness? Sure. Would externally happy people like some internal happiness? Sure.

How to begin developing and expanding inner happiness? Take some quiet time regularly. The “regularly” is most important. Do nothing but breathe in and out for a while. Be still. Let your mind take a rest, zone out. Take this quiet time every day, rain or shine, chaos or calm. A few minutes doing nothing, just being and breathing. Every day for the rest of your life. This is you; without a role, responsible only for your own internal peace. Don’t rush. Will it change the world? Just maybe.

That’s for the world to know. You keep on breathing, being you.

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