“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” ~ Aristotle

LESSON #1: WHAT HAPPINESS IS NOT…

Happiness is not a choice – contrary to what many of us on the spiritual path may tell you. I acknowledge that happiness may at some point be on the menu of choice, but you cannot flip a switch and suddenly be happy. To suggest that to someone who is unhappy is ignorant and unhelpful, at best.

Happiness is an inside job, we can all agree with that. Practicing compassion, allowing time for new perspectives, awareness, growth, and most importantly, love of self is essential personal work when you are in the grips of hopelessness and despair, which is par for the course especially when your life seems to be falling apart.

Rediscovering your joy while you are in the midst of chaos is not as simple as many would have you believe.

You have a big range of emotions. If you are not willing to embrace all of them, you remain trapped in your stories of self-judgment, “I’m not good enough,” and, “There must be something wrong with me,” which does not allow you to feel what you feel, or you punish yourself for what you do feel, which creates more shame.

I have found that people who are the first to tell you that “Happiness is a Choice” have adopted this philosophy as a form of spiritual elitism (“I am more spiritual than you”), or use spiritual bypassing (“rather than diving deep into what is really bothering me, I prefer to use ‘spiritual truisms’ to avoid what needs to be looked at.”)

“Happiness is not a choice. Even if attaining a state of happiness was as simple as making a choice, telling someone who isn’t happy that “happiness is a choice” is about as helpful as teaching someone how to fish by telling them there are fish in the sea.” – Zero Dean, Author of “Lessons from the Path Less Traveled”

The false representation that happiness is a choice is dismissive to someone in pain, and that someone oftentimes is you! If you believe that you can just decide to be happy and you are not, that leaves so much room for feelings of “I am less then,” and “there is something wrong with me.” Choosing compassion and allowing forgiveness is the most self–loving thing you can do.

“NOT EVERYONE WILL UNDERSTAND YOUR JOURNEY. THAT‘S FINE. IT‘S NOT THEIR JOURNEY TO MAKE SENSE OF. IT‘S YOURS.” – Zero Dean

Why would you want to deny your feelings? …because the truth scares you. It may mean making necessary changes to your life. You dislike being uncomfortable (it doesn’t feel good), so you avoid listening to your heart – at much cost to your sense of aliveness, and to the possibility of having new, beneficial experiences in your life.

As humans, we cling to that which makes us feel secure – the known and the familiar. Most people do not like the feeling of free-falling with no clear direction or plan, so it is avoided at all costs. So, when events shake up our life, we respond with fear and anxiety, which casts a big shadow on our happiness.

LESSON #2: LEARNING TO ACCEPT LIFE KNOWING THAT YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL IS ESSENTIAL TO HAPPINESS

In my world, it is not kind, loving, nor compassionate to yourself, or anyone else for that matter, to suggest happiness is as simple as a choice. It takes time, patience, and a committed willingness to embrace your fears (which is very difficult… as you just want your fear to go away) when you are experiencing dark times in your life. Acceptance that you are not happy without self–judgment and guilt are two very important components to emotional well–being.

You have a unique journey. Your soul knows what it needs to grow and evolve, and sometimes that requires you to experience less than happy times as you rediscover your evolving needs and values, which is crucial to your happiness. Allowing life to take you where you need to go, surrendering and accepting the mystery, not fighting with reality, and knowing that you are not in control are big components to rediscovering happiness.

What does it mean to not be in control? Life has a way of shaping you to where your soul is calling for growth. Outer events in the world and your response to them is crucial to your sense of joy.

Shit happens and sudden changes shake up our lives, but if you can allow the idea that life is working for you, not against you, it will free you up to allow new awakenings and greater faith in your life. Accepting that you are not in control is so very important in dealing with life’s challenges. This doesn’t mean it is fun, only necessary.

LESSON #3: ATTITUDE MATTERS

Bear with me as I repeat myself in an effort to make this really clear…

The idea that happiness is a choice is spiritual rhetoric. Quite frankly, it really annoys me! The concept that I can just choose happiness is a big one in the spiritual circles, and encourages a holier than thou attitude that just reeks of “I have got all the answers.”

What is spirituality if not compassion, love, and the ability to support those who have lost their joy? Life is not in our control (we have already established that), but we can decide to surrender to the flow of events in our life with trust and faith… choosing to have the best attitude possible to invite happiness to return. That takes time to develop within yourself after you have been thrown into the pits of hell.

“WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RELIGIOUS PEOPLE AND SPIRITUAL PEOPLE? RELIGIOUS PEOPLE ARE TRYING NOT TO GO TO HELL, SPIRITUAL PEOPLE HAVE ALREADY BEEN THERE.” – Rev. Michael Beckwith (spiritual leader of the Agape Spiritual Community in California)

HAPPY PEOPLE IN ECUADOR – I CAN LEARN MUCH FROM THESE PEOPLE

Please indulge me by allowing me to share a bit of back story first as to why I am writing this story at this time. I have recently relocated for the Winter to Ayampe, Ecuador from Southern California.

It has been an unexpectedly challenging time for me as I become accustomed to an entirely new way of living.

Things like no hot water in the kitchen, noisy parties that go to the wee hours of the morning, dog shit in the streets, roads that turn into pure mud after it rains (one misstep and you are on your ass), toilet paper that cannot go into the toilet, loud obnoxious music playing without any consideration about how it might be inconsiderate to others, and the dilapidated, half-finished homes are all part of the charm here. And some days are not so charming, at least for me.

I FIND THE ATTITUDES OF THE PEOPLE HERE QUITE INSPIRING

Life is simple and predictable here. The days seem to run into each other with nothing remarkable to report. I came here to reconnect with my heart and soul after finding it necessary to tune deeply into the depths of me once again. The people here radiate a genuinely authentic joy that transcends the day to day reality of life.

They are accepting of all the inconveniences, not allowing their ideas of what “should be” mess with their happiness. Now my old life seems so far away in the distance, weird and terrifying all at the same time… Away from the hustle of a predictable and conventional life, there is a lovely tranquil feeling of being connected to the land and a slower and more meaningful way of life.

The people and the problems of the world seem to not exist here. The people seem so happy and accepting of life no matter what it brings. I really admire that.

I am learning to relax, something I really stink at. I look at people sleeping on the beach, and I wonder, “What does it feel like to just surrender to the moment and allow the peace that comes with letting go in the moment?” Turning off my head requires surgery sometimes. 😉

What do I really want and need in my life? I am diving deep to find out. I know that more than anything, I seriously want to be happy and that means success to me.

I am also learning to be comfortable with myself in a new way. Honestly, I have never experienced long periods of really paying attention to my needs/values and what is most important for my happiness. My life was about taking care of everyone else as I felt I wouldn’t be a “good” daughter, wife, leader, or mother otherwise.

I am getting to know and learning to love the woman who courageously transformed everything in her life to live more authentically from her heart, to become a more awakened, loving, and conscious individual. And, to rediscover the happiness inside of me again after quite a few setbacks

On the outside, I had a great life as defined by many cultural standards.

So many areas of my life were working so well… I had a beautiful home, a prosperous and joyful business, interesting and fun outlets for creativity, opportunities to swim and bike ride at night (my favorite) for exercise, great kids to be proud of, mostly because of their kind and compassionate hearts (every mother’s dream), and an ability to create happiness for myself… like dancing in the morning while making breakfast and riding my bike under the stars.

But, I decided to change my entire life, getting a divorce after decades of marriage, selling my business of over 20 years that had become rote and boring to me, and moving across the country alone. I got what I wanted, so how could I still be unhappy? My life felt like it was in shambles, but what choice did I have if I wanted to be true to myself and most importantly, HAPPY?

I needed to live a more authentic life, and no longer could I live with my own lies… pretending I was happy. I even had myself fooled.

Sounds like a worthwhile venture to those of you who want to live an empowered, extraordinary life, right? “Sign me up,” you say. But, there are a few disclaimers that are important for you to be aware of. So, before you pack your bags for a new life, read on.

Where was the problem? I didn’t choose to be happy… was that my downfall? Maybe I wasn’t grateful enough… maybe that was it. I am not saying that it isn’t important to recognize and use spiritual tools in your life such as gratitude, trust, and surrender to life (to name a few).

However, when our current circumstances are such that our life has been turned upside down, there needs to be space to grow through it and feel into a new way of being in the world, and trust me that is a most difficult and painful path!

LESSON #4: WE CREATE OUR LIFE WITH SOURCE (GOD, SPIRIT, UNIVERSE… whatever word works for you) INTENTION, INTENTION, INTENTION… NOT TO SETTLE IS KEY

We can CREATE our happiness, but how do we do that? Create being the operative word here. We can, and hopefully will, take responsibility for our attitudes, intentions, and choose actions that will be supportive, which are essential to bringing forth a new life. Allow me to explain further.

I had no clue who I was anymore, like so many people before me that hurt. Leaving my entire life caused me to question everything I believed to be true. My entire life changed as I dissolved into nothingness (akin to the caterpillar turning into the butterfly), waiting for the hope of a good life to return.

I had no idea the journey would be so filled with self–doubt and disillusionment. I learned trust and faith (still learning), and decided that my life was a co–creation with my source. My heart and soul are leading me to a new life, and I feel I have NO CHOICE but to listen if I want to remain true to myself.

LESSON #5: INTENTION IS KEY TO DEVELOPING YOUR NEW LIFE OF HAPPINESS

When it is time to follow the calling of your soul, you can ask a lot of questions, but the answers are unclear and confusing… until they are not. You know in your heart that surrendering to the deep inner voice inside of you is the only way you can live once you have made the decision with intention to become more of who you truly are.

When happiness and self-love become your priority, the fear cannot live where there is a strong intention and commitment to truth.

Commitment to your path is a key element when you have made the decision to reinvent your life. Life responds in ways we cannot understand logically when we set our intentions to be more than we have been and rediscover our inner happiness genie… who is awaiting our decision to bring about a new life.

THE GOOD NEWS…

I have been asking myself what is now most important in my life. I have always been “in love” with being happy, and now I wish to embrace happiness as a way of being, not just a concept or ideal to be attained.

I want more than anything to be happy with who I am, recognizing my own self–worth and coming to a place of greater honesty with myself. This is love in action and nothing can bring about the kind of happiness that falling in love with yourself brings. That statement bears repeating “NOTHING CAN BRING ABOUT THE KIND OF HAPPINESS THAT FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOURSELF BRINGS!” Amen.

I am here to support and love you on your journey, RJ

To learn more about my personal journey, my memoir “Hugging Trees in the Dark… Finding the Courage to Free the Heart” is now available on Amazon. My past podcasts and blogs can be found at www.robinjillian.com and awakenradio.net. One-on-one personal coaching is available if you would like support with your intention to transform your life.