Trying to be happy? Stop. Right now. For just a second take the pressure off all the parts of you that are currently making you miserable. It’s exhausting trying to be something you’re not. Happy isn’t a club you get into and take up permanent residence in just like that. Instead of trying to find ten ways to be happy via some Facebook ad, feel what is present right now. Give yourself permission to be exactly as you are. Underneath what is real for you is what you are looking for. Rumi said, “Seek not for love, but instead seek and find all the barriers you have built against it.”
It is remarkable how terrified of emotion I was. I spent seven years “keeping my shit together,” bypassing as many emotions as possible for the sake of productivity… and then I got depressed. That’s the thing about emotions, they have to be felt. Cognitive Anthropologist Dr. Bob Deutsche says, “Many people— too many people— are living on autopilot because they are so overcommitted, over-scheduled, over-extended— in work and in play. Their feeling life is stultified.” Trying to make up happiness becomes a new task for our mind to tackle. The trick is to recognize that happiness, like sadness, joy, pleasure, and pain, are all feelings that are felt in the body, not in the strategy of mind. We need to stay open to all of it, knowing that it’s all going to come and go, and when it does, let it pass through.
We are emotional creatures, (just listen to Eve Ensler’s TED talk about it), yet we spend an enormous amount of energy trying to tap into the one particular emotion we want to feel (happiness) and instead end up feeling just the opposite. It is a nonsense cycle that keeps the mind in the illusion of control. If we can learn how to feel our feelings completely and without censorship for just 90 seconds the results can be amazing.
Emotions are as fluid as water. Just look at a baby’s face and watch the emotional weather cycle through all seasons in seconds. Slow everything down and just feel. Are you sad? Be sad. Angry? Be angry. Be open and let yourself be ravished by the emotion that is present without any thoughts. Not so easy? No shit. Going over the mind’s thoughts and beliefs over and over again is what makes an emotion get stuck. As you let yourself feel, see what thought keeps the emotion coming back again and again. Once you learn how to inquire into your thoughts, question and let them go– you will be free.
To acknowledge what is, feel and wake up to the spectrum of human emotion. The experience beyond the primal fears that motivate us is true freedom. Become a player in this video game called Earth rather than being played by it. Eventually the bypassing of what is here to be felt in pursuit of so-called happiness is what brings us to our knees as we discover we are missing the point. Joseph Campbell writes, “People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances with our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive.” Rapture is a feeling– a firework concoction of mind, body, and spirit.
Be the mushy, emotional, creature that you are. The unconscious action as a result of unfelt emotion is the wizard behind the curtain creating the world we live in. Once we take responsibility for that bit, I believe anything is possible.
Bristol Baughan is an Emmy-winning and Oscar-Nominated filmmaker, author, and private coach. She is a TED Fellow and Founder of Inner Astronauts, a custom experience and private coaching company supporting people in coming more fully alive in service to the world. Bristol holds a B.A. in International Studies from the American University School of International Service and an M.A. in Spiritual Psychology from the University of Santa Monica.
Artwork by Michelle Favin of Whys LA for Poppy & Seed. Connect with her @whyslosangeles.