What does happiness mean?
Our founding fathers made a point of saying that a basic human right was to be able to pursue happiness, but what does that look like? Is happiness getting everything you want? Having a job that you are excited to wake up to every single day? Having a family that you never fight with? Does happiness look like an episode of Leave It To Beaver?
What is happiness and how do we even pursue something that we can’t fully grasp?
Maybe happiness isn’t the destination. Maybe it’s just a guide on the map to where we really want to go. To a place of wholeness.
Join me as we walk through this world of wholeness vs. happiness and which is the right fit for you……..
What is Happiness?
The dictionary defines happiness as “feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.” Contentment. Is that really how you want to feel every second of every day? I don’t know about you, but I want more than contentment. I want the full scale of emotions. Imagine watching a movie for 2 hours where everything was content. You’d be watching grass grow. So then why do we expect our lives to always be filled with happiness and no struggle? The best stories in life don’t come from contentment they come from problems being overcome. From you getting out of your comfort zone and trying something new.
The question then doesn’t become “are you happy”, the better question, as Hugh Mackay asked, is “are you whole“?
The pursuit of happiness seems to me a really dangerous idea and has led to a contemporary disease in Western society, which is fear of sadness. It’s a really odd thing that we’re now seeing people saying “write down three things that made you happy today before you go to sleep” and “cheer up” and “happiness is our birthright” and so on. We’re kind of teaching our kids that happiness is the default position. It’s rubbish. Wholeness is what we ought to be striving for and part of that is sadness, disappointment, frustration, failure; all of those things which make us who we are. Happiness and victory and fulfillment are nice little things that also happen to us, but they don’t teach us much. Everyone says we grow through pain and then as soon as they experience pain they say, “Quick! Move on! Cheer up!” I’d like just for a year to have a moratorium on the word “happiness” and to replace it with the word “wholeness.” Ask yourself, “Is this contributing to my wholeness?” and if you’re having a bad day, it is.
What is Wholeness?
Defined as “a thing that is complete in itself” is really what we’re all searching for. There are still days you’ll want to cry, or yell, or laugh. There are days that will feel like they will never end and days that will go so fast you don’t know where the time went. Wholeness is getting the complete spectrum. But even better, wholeness is being complete in yourself. It isn’t looking to the outside for joy or peace. The shopping spree or perfect family won’t make a difference. Wholeness is spent looking inside yourself and finding that you needed was with you all along. Just like Dorothy and the ruby red slippers.
How to Add Wholeness to Your life
So this journey we’re on to coming home to our spaces and ourselves isn’t about finding happiness. Happiness is an emotion that comes and goes like the tides. This journey is about finding wholeness. Where do you feel most whole? How do you come back home to yourself and find wholeness? What things are you holding onto because you think they will make you happy but in the end aren’t making you whole–Other people’s opinions might be a great place to start.
Rupi Kaur, Poet of the book Milk + Honey says it best, “it was when I stopped searching for home within others and lifted the foundations of home within myself I found there were no roots more intimate than those between a mind and body that have decided to be whole.”
A few ways to start your journey to wholeness:
- Start a meditation or journaling practice. Spend time alone with yourself
- Get out into nature once a week – garden, park, hike, etc.
- Find a therapist or life coach to help you break through negative cycles and discover what wholeness looks like for you
- Grab a Modern Magic painting to hang on your walls and remind you of the magic that’s all around you.
- Get lost in community– volunteer, host a dinner party, sign up for a meetup group. All of the best healing happens when we’re in connection with others.
Find What Makes You Whole
A life of happiness is what we’ve been taught to want. But to me, that’s not reaching high enough. That’s a life of mediocrity. What I’m searching for, and hoping for you too, is a life of wholeness. A life where your actions and your values align. Where adventure and risk are part of your daily routine. And when you get to the end you can proudly say “I did it all, I really lived,” without the regret of overworking and not spending time with your loved ones.
That, my friends, is what a life of wholeness (not happiness) looks like. And so, I leave you with this poem by Fernando Pessoa on finding your own wholeness.
“To be great, be whole;
Exclude nothing, exaggerate nothing that is not you.
Be whole in everything. Put all you are
Into the smallest thing you do.
So, in each lake, the moon shines with splendor
Because it blooms up above.”
About the Cover Art
The artwork for this episode is based off a photograph from my friend Jane. She’s an amazing flower photographer in North Carolina with a garden that has me drooling every time she posts. Her images remind me of what it’s means to feel whole. Something about getting away from the city and reconnecting with nature. To be with flowers and open fields where there is enough room to breath. Without even leaving my home just outside of Denver, Colorado (aka the city) I felt whole painting this piece. I felt like a could breath again.
Don’t get me wrong, as with every painting I had my own struggles with this one. Getting the texture in the grass and tree just right. Making the lighting and coloring of her skin feel just right. Even deciding what flowers to pain in the bucket sitting next to her (the original photo was of sunflowers). All these things added to the challenge of living up to this photo but in breaking through the struggle, in appreciating the process and admiring the beauty, I got the whole spectrum of emotions and in the end felt a level of wholeness in painting this. To me, it was a guide into what it is that I love to paint, that feeling of coming home–to self and space. And that’s more than what I could ask for from this painting.