Zen and the Pursuit of Happiness

Why are we always trying to make happiness out to be more complicated than it has to be? This isn’t a diatribe into classic dead ends that extol that “the less you have, the more you have”, and that “materialism is an endless journey with a fruitless, unreachable goal”: these are tired arguments and easily met with a familiar eye roll.

Let’s move past all this and focus on something more positive. Happiness isn’t found in the future. It’s found in the now. And it’s always now.

I was watching the winner for best short in the Banff Film Festival this week.. A Norwegian vehicle about two young lads that build a cabin out of flotsam so they can live the winter on a remote northern beach, hoping to surf as much as possible, just to see if they can do it.  Near the end of the short film, it features them standing on the beach, seeing the sun for the first time in almost 3 months (the beach is so far north that during the winter, the sun doesn’t ever reach the sandy shores) As they stand motionless in the sun, arms outstretched, and eyes closed, one says to the other “What shall we do today?” to which the other replies, simply, “Just stand here.”


As you’d expect (or, for me, perhaps hope), a number of these films contained heavy inspirational themes anchored in timelessness, a meditative inner reflection that is based in a feeling of immense calm and an immediate, automatic humbleness.

I had a flash of inspiration, a breakthrough, as I watched these two Norwegians standing on that beach. This is the same sun that warms us all, fills our faces with light and our hearts with joy. And with my eyes closed, that beach can exist anywhere: their joy and happiness of living in that moment can be replicated by anyone, anywhere, anytime. You just have to fully surrender yourself to that moment.

And that’s the amazing thing. It’s *always* that moment.

You can always experience that giddiness, that inner calm, that happiness. Even right now. No matter what is troubling you, occupying your mind, distracting you from feeling at peace, none of it matters. For right now, just take a deep breath, close your eyes, and stand in the sun.


On the Brink..

It’s really easy to live on the edge of waiting for something to happen. It’s in human nature to hope, or to sort of “expect” that something great will happen to us almost effortlessly, that we’ll fall into some amazing situation of what we perceive to be an ideal state of happiness: Something where we are barely working, or where we get paid for something that’s as easy and enjoyable as sleeping or lazing in a hammock all day, where we enjoy the simple luxury of living worry free.

It’s easy to exist like we’ll live forever. We all think we’re the one human who’ll cheat death. Living from paycheck to paycheck, reaping the short straw rewards of short term gratification. Whether we procrastinate publicly or privately, it’s such an easy task to justify “kicking back and doing nothing”. Unwinding after a long day with the guilty pleasures of a beer or wine in hand, and a few hours of our favorite show on the DVR, everyone does it, so no excuses are required


Then one day, you wake up. You realize that the only higher power you really have to answer to is yourself, and you’re unhappy with the result. You’re an adult, in the prime of your life, and you have nothing to show for it. You go on a diet, you join a gym, you make resolutions.. you try to change everything, at once… and inevitably start failing almost right away. It starts slipping away in one area.. maybe you have a couple chocolate bars, maybe you skip a workout because you’re tired and want to catch up on Breaking Bad.. Before you know it, you’re right back where you started, and wallowing in all the behaviours that drove you to want to change in the first place.

Well I have news for you. It’s all about baby steps. Take one bad habit, and replace it with a healthy one. Just one. Do this for 30 days, without fail, every day, and it’ll become your new norm. Think of this as a brick in the foundation of your new life. Then spread a bit of concrete on this brick and add another one. Just one.

There's a light inside everyone. Warm yourself by it, and you'll share that warmth with everyone around you

There’s a light inside everyone. Warm yourself by it, and you’ll share that warmth with everyone around you

Rinse and repeat, and you’ll be on your way. Sure, it sounds easy doesn’t it? That’s because it is. But don’t beat yourself up. If you slip up, thats ok. Don’t immediately feel guilty and give up. You’re a beautiful person, in and out. Remind yourself of this every day. Extol in all the good you’ve accomplished in your life. Remember the First Noble Truth: Life is suffering.. You’ve survived up until now, that’s an amazing accomplishment! Being human, being able to make choices.. this is hard stuff! But also don’t make excuses. Once you catch yourself not happy with how you’re spending your time, don’t wallow. Roll over, get up, and change. Every passing moment you’re different to the last. Embrace that potential, because it’s all you have: improving yourself to be the person you want to be is your responsibility alone. Don’t pass the buck: you can do this.

Just get started. Right now.

Change yourself, and be content

Sticking to a new path, or to the direction we want to go can be a difficult task, especially when it comes to involving others in our lives. Humans are, (for the most part) social animals, and we thrive in the company of others.  Sure, this is a bit generalistic.. We don’t necessarily grow when paired with any other random human being (though anyone can teach you a lesson about something:  you just need to open your mind)

why-compare-yourself-to-others-quoteWhat this post deals with is the acceptance and feeling of contentedness that we need to stay mindful of when we are changing ourselves for the better. As we begin to feel happier, more spiritually connected, and more in touch with ourselves, that internal resonance can start to alienate us from the lives of others in close proximity that are not on the same journey. I hesitated at the end of that last sentence: it’s very easy to see others who are not being accountable as needing guidance or feedback/help to start to evolve.

But they are not in the same place as any other human on the planet. They should not feel any less about themselves, nor feel the burning desire to join our path, unless they specifically resonate at a similar frequency: only then should one open up and share similar experiences that help both parties grow.


As I’ve begun to tread down the current path I am on, I have found myself becoming easily frustrated with the lives of those around me who have no desire to open their eyes, to fill themselves with a similar spiritual energy. This especially applies to my closest friends and family: I suppose I am eager to have them reap the same rewards and quite inner peace that meditation provides..Yet as we get caught up in bringing others along with us, our own path is sullied.. the smooth water’s surface disturbed, as this becomes all encompassing. It’s easy to judge and think less of people who we think are stuck, who we think are in a rut, who we think want and need help.

They might, they might not.. but it’s not for us to treat them with any less respect as we would at be treated ourselves.. If they want help, they’ll ask for it. If they choose to enlist the support of someone else, that’s also ok. Their path is not our path. We cannot ever know what is going on in anyone else’s head.

Ultimately, if they see the need to change, (which they might not: it’s perfectly ok for anyone to be content with their lives as they are!) they need to manifest their own energy and effort in the process for it to have any effect.

So as you get out there from day to day, share your enthusiasm, and your happiness, but do not preach to those you have pigeon-holed into needing a push in a similar direction to your own. Just observe every fellow human being as on their own path, nod to them with human kinship, and press on. By being yourself, and changing who you are for the better as you see it, you’ll in turn provide positive energy into the world, making it better for everyone sharing it with you