“Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it. What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside.”
Sri Ramana Maharshi
I must admit, I love happiness. I’m not one of those people who seeks out drama or thrives on conflict. It has simply been my quest in life to be happy. And it has sometimes been a rocky road.
Is Happiness Here?
A quest to be happy? Let’s investigate to see what that really means. If I am searching to become happy, then I am assuming that happiness isn’t present now. In a certain sense, this is a logical conclusion. Sometimes I don’t feel happy, so happiness must be elsewhere. Right?
Wanting happiness that I don’t seem to have feeds a tremendous longing in me. This longing motivates a search to find the missing piece that will fill up the feeling of lack or need.
I imagine I’m not the only one. For you, it might be success or fulfillment or love more than happiness. But who among us doesn’t feel that they need something they don’t have?
Where to Look for Happiness
If there appears to be a hole inside, then where to look for the perfectly shaped plug that will make everything complete? Since the hole is inside us, we reason that the answer must be outside. We couldn’t possibly already have the solution, or we would be applying it.
Most of us look out into the world to find the ideal relationship, living situation, career, or passion that will fill us up and finally end the desperation we feel. We try to change our thoughts, manage our feelings, reduce our stress.
We are putting tons of effort into improving ourselves and our lives so we will be happy at some point in the future. And it is exhausting.
The Most Intelligent Move
But here is the problem – and the solution: we’re looking in the wrong place.
Somehow we get tricked into believing that we aren’t already whole, that happiness isn’t here, that eternal peace is not possible. We strive for something better, and we settle for good enough.
The most intelligent thing you could ever do is turn your attention inside.
When you turn your attention inside:
- you stop waiting for the right circumstances to show up in your life;
- you stop hoping other people will treat you differently;
- you stop waging a war with your feelings;
- you stop letting your thoughts make you believe you are incomplete.
You stop resisting your actual life as it appears to you in every moment. You are aware and awake.
When you place your attention on the ultimate – awareness itself – you discover stillness, silence, expansion. And in that still space, everything arises.
Where Is the Problem?
When we look outside for solutions, all we find are more problems. Happily, we see that in experiencing life from the inside out, from the still space of awareness, we can be at peace with whatever arises. This is a radical shift: we let go of doing something to achieve an outcome, and we simply notice, from the stillness, the arising and passing of all experiences.
By now you may be asking, “But what about all those needs?” Actually, what we think of as needs are thoughts about needs. Problems are actually thoughts about problems. Say you feel that you need more love. If you investigate that experience, you won’t find a need. It doesn’t exist anywhere. You might feel a sensation in your chest or tell yourself in your thoughts that you need more love, but there is no thing called a need.
Try it right now and see. Look inside to find the wound or lack or deficiency. All you will see are thoughts and physical sensations.
So if you believe you have a need, and you look outside yourself to fulfill it, you are stepping onto the hamster wheel of endless searching. You are spending your precious energy looking for the answer to a problem that doesn’t actually exist.
Sounds a little crazy, right? Well, that’s how 99.9% of the world operates. Only a tiny fraction of people – and you are one of them – has the opportunity to contemplate true and lasting happiness.
Be with Things as They Are
Turning your attention inside means letting go of thoughts and simply being with your pure experience – allowing it, embracing it, welcoming it – as it is.
Now, I’m not suggesting that you pretend you have no problems or needs. This is just adding another layer of thought to an already complicated situation. Simply let go of trying to figure things out, of repeating stories and drawing erroneous conclusions. Just for a moment, turn your attention away from thinking and into that which is aware of everything. You will discover life happening – delicious, real, and alive in you. Just allow things to be.
When we make the most intelligent move we can make – turning our attention inward to investigate the reality of our experience – we open ourselves to the possibility of experiencing life in a new way. We relinquish control, we admit we don’t know what is going to happen, we actually live the life that is happening right now.
When we keep our attention inside, on silence, on life as it is unfolding, the appropriate action to take or not take becomes clear. We plan, but hold the plans lightly, as we are available to respond to the truth of the moment.