I just finished reading Dan Harris’ book, 10% Happier, in which he discusses his experience with meditation and mindfulness. It’s a fun read, which I can easily recommend to anyone who’s ever wondered about meditation, or felt a little skeptical of some of the “new age” players.

He asks the question, “Even if we were handed everything we wanted, would it really make us sustainably happy?” It’s an issue I’ve discussed here before…it’s easy to say yes, at first, that if we got everything we wanted, we would undoubtedly be deliriously happy. But one need only look at some high profile stories of celebrities to see that this is not the case.

Another point discussed in detail is the fantasy that “I’ll be happy when…” which I’ve also written about here. It’s a trick we play on ourselves – happiness is always just around the next bend in the road, after the next major life event. He observes, “The pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness.” This is because happiness is an inside job.

Two questions I’ve taken with me from the book that bear some reflection…

First: “Is this useful?” Which we can ask ourselves anytime we find that we are planning, ruminating, projecting, worrying, and the like. In other words, preparations are sometimes required, but to what extent? If we have passed the point of usefulness, it’s time to stop.

Second: “What matters most?” This is particularly helpful anytime we find ourselves worrying about the future. It’s useful for us to be aware of what we really want. We may not find that our life situations tick all the boxes, but when we can identify what’s most important, we can make decisions more easily, and can create a life that satisfies our most deeply held values.

Meditation is a different experience for everyone, and the results can be both subtle and profound at the same time. The beauty is that nothing much is required…only the willingness to inquire within.

A Sense of Purpose

I recently heard author Dan Buettner speak on the topic of longevity. He made two key points. One is that at least 20% of people don’t have 3 close friends: the lack of close friends is a significant health risk. The other is about the importance of having a sense of purpose in life: people with a sense of purpose live longer. It seems like isolation (sometimes increased by technology) and lack of purpose together constitute a lethal combination.

One of the things that surprises me when I talk to people is how many of them don’t have a strong sense of why they’re here, or what they want to accomplish. I wonder if retirement might be related to losing a sense a purpose: Buettner said the year you retire is the year you’re most likely to die, probably because so many of us rely on our jobs for a sense of identity and purpose.

No matter what your age, identifying (and living) your purpose is crucial to achieving a deeper sense of satisfaction in your life. Buettner spent a lot of time studying various groups around the world in places where people are living 100+ years. He noticed that they all had various things in common. I could list them here, but it’s more to the point to say that several major differences have to do with community and social structure. In other words, the centenarians in these populations had a sense of being useful. They had a purpose.

Buettner says that identifying your talent or skill area, and then finding an outlet for it, is what leads to a sense of purpose in life. I think a lot of people know where they excel, but the challenge can be finding an outlet for it. It often requires creative thinking. One of my favorite books for identifying and living your purpose is Mira Kirshenbaum’s The Gift of a Year. She says, “Knowing what you want and translating it into something doable is a better route to happiness than denying what you really want because it seems impossible in its purest form.” In other words, make your desires doable by taking one small step that brings you closer to what you want.

One of the most amazing trips you’ll ever take is the journey of self-discovery. Inquire within.

Inquire Within

“Nothing in the world can ever make you happy, because happiness comes from within.” – David Hawkins

I’ve been listening to Healing by Dr. David Hawkins on CD in my car. He presents a scenario: you are sitting in a chair, and someone comes in and hands you a bag of money. You immediately feel happier. But nothing in your life has really changed. You feel happier because you have a thought that reflects the belief that money can make you happy.

Likewise, your thoughts can make you unhappy. And they can be a reflection of limiting beliefs you hold about yourself and the world around you. So, thoughts generate feelings which create and color experiences in life.

Happiness is an inside job.


It may seem like it’s not true at first, but it is. Oh sure, life is easier (and arguably better) when you have good friends, a nice place to live, and a great job.

But true happiness isn’t a feeling state, it’s a being state.

Feelings are reactive, and transitory. If you spend your life chasing a happy feeling, you’re likely to be disappointed.

Think of some of the happiest people you know. I mean the ones who are always up. The ones you feel good just being around. Are they happy because of circumstances? Or because of an attitude and approach to life that reflects an unshakeable inner quality?

Want to start an inner journey towards greater happiness and well-being? Meditation is a good first step. Why? Because a meditation practice makes you more aware of your thoughts, and your thoughts shape your experience of the world. How do you change your thoughts? Start by watching them – the act of observation itself is powerful because it makes you less reactive.

The big picture? Change your thoughts, and you will change your life.

“When will you arrive?”

“At a size 6?

At one million dollars?

When Mr. Right marries you?

When you find your purpose?

Maybe when you arrive,

you will realize

the trip is over…” – Brooke Castillo

When we don’t achieve what we’d like in our external lives, it’s really easy to get caught in, “I’ll be happy when…” It’s a dangerous place to be though, because when we pin our happiness on the external world conforming to our personal wishes and preferences, we may be consigning ourselves to indefinite misery. Sometimes if we can’t let go, we get dragged kicking and screaming.

I’ll be happy when I get that promotion at work. I’ll be happy when the kids go off to school. I’ll be happy when I retire.

I’ve been reading this great little book by life coach Brooke Castillo called It was Always Meant to Happen that Way. In it she says, “Everything that is meant to happen does. Everything that isn’t meant to happen doesn’t. “

Imagine that you believe that…what does it feel like? When things happen, you just know it was meant to be. Likewise, when things don’t happen, is it easier to let it go?

It’s kind of like the Taoist story of the farmer. Let’s face it, we never really know what anything is for, do we? Sometimes things that happen seem so good, and then later we’re not so sure. To quote Hamlet… “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

If nothing is good or bad, and things and events just are (or aren’t, as the case may be), how much mental energy does that free up?

And if everything is truly in divine order right now, is it okay to exhale and just…be?

The Pursuit of Happiness

I recently read Jane Gruber’s article “Four Ways Happiness Can Hurt You” in which she discusses the downside of being up. Now, while it’s great to maintain a positive attitude, I think that Gruber makes a valid point when she states that “Happiness is not suited to every situation.” Many of the proponents of positive thinking and affirmations would have us believe that it’s never ok to feel bad: that by doing so we are energetically drawing toward ourselves all that we actually seek to avoid.

Try telling that to someone who has recently experienced a significant loss or major life challenge.

If we define happiness as an emotion that we experience, then it seems unlikely that we’d be able to experience just one end of the emotional spectrum at all times. We might realistically have to concede a little time to unhappiness, too. But the thing about that is, by contrast, the good times will seem that much better.

Perhaps it’s also true that happiness can make us just a little bit too comfortable. If we feel happy, we’re less likely to strive for something more in our lives. A little contentment goes a long way. Too much of it can be a dangerous thing, at least in terms of ambition and personal drive.

Of course, in all of this discussion we are focused on happiness as a feeling that is generated by external circumstances and experiences.

The Buddhists would say that it is a mistake to rely on external circumstances to generate our happiness. That such an attitude will leave us grasping for something we’ll never be able to hold onto or sustain. And this will only serve to make us more unhappy. It will also take away from our experience of the present moment.

There is a joy inherent in being present in each moment as it arises, knowing that nothing lasts; indeed the only constant is change. Each experience is precious for precisely that reason.

One of the greatest gifts of yoga, meditation, and other spiritual practices is that they awaken our ability to Be Here Now. There is beauty in every moment, if we are awake enough to experience it.