Bathing In How To Happiness

Bathed In How To Happiness

Happiness Inside, an ambitious effort to promote how to happiness, started by Tracy Brown and Gordon Simmons, is shutting down. The couple’s sweet ideas about the pursuit of happiness will be plowed under the coming deluge of recipes from experts in the field of happiness. The death of Happiness Inside came because the how to of happiness has been taken over by experts who, like doctors and health, think you can’t have it without their expertise.

A happy-go-lucky website like the one created, then maintained, by Tracy and Gordon just makes it seem too easy, a grave sin in a culture awash in excess expertise.

Those experts remind of something that happened decades ago. At a friends bachelor party, someone had tuned into the, then, fresh Playboy channel, and after we’d watched for a few minutes, one guy stood up to leave with this complaint: ‘There’s one thing in the world I really like, and they make it boring.’

Pretty much how I feel about happiness gurus.

But not Tracy Brown and Gordon Simmons. They seemed to want to build a foundation where happy people and would-be happy people could get together and casually talk about it. As of September 14th, the walls of that foundation will be allowed to collapse with no future building replacing it.

My Life As A How To Happiness Guru

Confession time. After reading my book, A Million Different Things: Meditations of The World’s Happiest Man, Gordon Simmons invited me to be a guest blogger on the Happiness Inside website. When I consented, I became the thing that filled me with boredom and angst: a happiness guru, a how to happiness expert.

The things an overly ripe ego and a desire to sell more books will drive a man to do!

By the time it was done, though, guilt had driven me to an anti-guru persecutive. I even enlivened my pending entry with a requested bio that listed all of my lifetime vocations, from salve salesman through technology account manager, painting myself as insanely unstable and unable to stick with anything. If nothing else, my image was at least different than anyone else’s.

So, now, with the collapse of the most kicked back of how to happiness websites and their promise that, in less than two weeks, my happiness guru entry will be plowed under in the Internet graveyard, I’m giving you, absolutely free but slightly re-edited, my year old effusion of the moment on how to happiness.

Here is my anti-expertise of the day:

Anna Flores
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Happiness is not possible without an immersion in living, by David Stone

Gordon Simmons made a blunder when he invited me to be Happiness Inside’s August Guest Blogger. He asked me too soon.

I immediately knew what I wanted to write and started the process of gathering the article in my thoughts, but being in no hurry, I stewed on it for a couple of months. In that time, I lost track of my original idea and came up with a couple more.

I was set to talk about the elusiveness of the meaning of happiness, about a couple of ideas that first captured my attention as a young man–Reality Therapy: A New Approach to Psychiatry (Colophon Books) and, of course, Maslow’s comprehensive Hierarchy of Needs. I thought I’d touch on the features of Martin Seligman’s Penn State research that seem annoyingly New Age and unscientific, even borderline religious.

Then, last week, I saw a poster in the subway that stopped me in my tracks:

“This poster can make your life happier than any other in the subway.”

It was put up by Manhattan’s School of Practical Philosophy and struck me as so profoundly foolish I was astonished that smart people would post it publicly. Maybe it was just a matter of sloppy copywriting by an ad group and what they may have intended was to suggest that their courses might lead riders to increased happiness, but it did remind me that happiness is a naturally occurring condition that we chose but are not taught.

It’s only experts who want us to imagine that happiness takes work and, of course, gurus.

A Pioneer of How To Happiness

I admire Martin Seligman’s work. Seligman, the Director of University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center, was the first, to my knowledge, to try to objectively identify happiness, attempt to describe and, then, measure it. Each one of these objectives is the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest without equipment. Never has there been a slipperier slope or one easier to get lost on.

Happiness is often mistaken for gaiety, but deep happiness, as anyone who has experienced an intimate contact with nature knows, can be silent and sublimely subdued. It can be mistaken for the burst of emotion we call love, but that’s love, isn’t it? Happiness, although infectious, is solitary and highly personal.

Like the masterpiece some of us try to build from our lives, happiness has a unique recipe, some of it given to us at birth, some of it learned–and always changing. Happiness is not joy, but joy as well as sorrow can be important ingredients. It’s terribly hard to explain, but I can compare the joy of seeing my son’s head first crown near the moment of birth and the penetrating sadness of a dear friend’s death and acknowledge that having the opportunities to feel both so intensely were crucial to any integrated personal happiness.

Few rules are universal, but one that can’t be denied is that happiness isn’t possible without an immersion in living. Experience is the only reason for which we walk the earth. The identity of the experience is unimportant, but the fullness of it is the only measure worth taking.

And that’s the only truth I really know about how to happiness.

Some of my readers may tire of my bringing up Maslow and William Glasser (Reality Therapy), but what I learned from both was that the key to contentment (a less active way of saying, “happiness,”) is having deliberate, integrated experiences in our own behalf. Deliberate experience demands self-awareness and simultaneously acts as the nourishment for even more.

Without self-awareness, happiness is only possible by accident because anything else requires driving through a strange countryside without maps. You may hit the Garden of Eden, but you might also hit those short-tempered trees Dorothy fought with on her way to Oz.

In my novel, The Garden of What Was and Was Not, I wrote that people do everything for only one reason: they want to and nothing substantial enough is in the way to stop them. The key to fulfillment, happiness, then is to want you want strongly enough that nothing can stop you. The way of how to happiness is knowing ourselves, well, inside, and making a commitment to go as close as we can to wherever that insight leads us.


There Is No Way to Happiness
There Is No Way to Happiness

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How to happiness is losing one of several million essential websites, and this particular how to happiness guru has gone into reverse.