Absolute Happiness: It’s not a destination, it’s a choice.

{The View by Catrin Welz Stein}

{The View by Catrin Welz Stein / Via RedBubble}

“Happiness is something that comes into our lives through doors we don’t even remember leaving open.” ~ Rose Lane
I recently watched a wonderful documentary called Happy. It was a perfect reminder to focus on what is important in life.

So much of what Westerners think of as happiness has to do with material success. However, some of the happiest people on earth have relatively limited material belongings. Instead, they find happiness in relationships, experiences, and in living in the moment.

Being present to life as it unfolds can bring tremendous joy. In fact, it can be freeing to embrace the notion that this moment — the present — is the only one in which we can live.  Although we often dwell on the past and daydream about the future, we cannot actually live in either place.

Now is all there is.

And many of us waste experiences that might otherwise leave us quite content, by turning our focus to things that aren’t here yet. We imagine we can be happy once we’ve gotten married to the ethereal, perfect, un-slob-like spouse of our dreams.

You know, the one who listens to us, wants sex only when we do, fixes our plumbing, gladly cleans up the dog’s vomit, and, without complaint, makes us a meal that would make a professional chef jealous. Once we get the job, promotion, car, house — fill in the blank – then, and only then, we can be happy.

What we forget is that our lives are a series of moments. Present moments strung together.

We cannot forge any sort of lasting happiness by daydreaming about what we want, or wishing we’d acted differently (or others had acted differently) in the past.

If only.

If only we’d taken a different road.

If only we’d tenderly risked our hearts.

If only we’d tried something that scared us to death; something that we wanted desperately to do, but were too cowardly, too completely lily-livered to even attempt.

However, if we live in the burning, bright aliveness of the present moment, we will have fewer feelings of  ‘if only.’ We will naturally have fewer regrets.

Happiness in this world.

One of the tenets of the Buddhism I practice is the notion of absolute happiness. We are told that by embracing Buddhism and practicing diligently, we can become absolutely happy.

Absolute happiness is not the same as the warm rapture we feel as we fall in love with someone new. It is not the thrill of a victory after a brutal struggle.

Absolute happiness is a state of being that allows us to be happy no matter what is going on in our daily lives. Whether we are sick, broke, or jobless — or the opposite of those conditions — no longer matters. We ride the big waves instead of drown in them.

Happiness is an inner state of life. It is not a destination one can find on a map.

It is a choice we must make every single day.

Every day, we choose to be thankful for the blessings we have. We remain present to our many challenges and our equally plentiful joys. We find happiness in the act of being human, in the profound fortune of just being alive.

We are happy because we are still here. We have another day.

In this way, we are truly blessed.

“We share our good fortune. We open our hearts to those who might be suffering. We begin from the recognition that all beings cherish happiness and do not want suffering. It then becomes both morally wrong and pragmatically unwise to pursue only one’s own happiness oblivious to the feelings and aspirations of all others who surround us as members of the same human family. The wiser course is to think of others when pursuing our own happiness.” ~ The Dalai Lama

Burdens that are shared are half what they might have been.

Every day, I realize that I can choose to live in joy or I can choose not to.

So many of our experiences are colored by the way we choose to interpret our circumstances. Perception = reality.

So, even in these troubled times, where half the world is convinced the world’s about to end, we can still be happy. We can still spread joy and gladness. We can still foster change and support those whose difficulties are making their lives challenging.

We can hold someone’s hand. We can walk their dog or bake a cake or wash some dishes. We can get on our knees and pray for sweet relief.

“Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.” ~ Helen Keller

When we are in pain, we can and should turn our attention to someone else’s suffering. We can help them grocery shop, weed, or clean. We can talk them down from the metaphorical ledges they may have staked out inside their minds.

I recently helped my mom program phone numbers into her cell phone, clean out her email account, and download books to her Kindle. All of these things seem relatively simple to me, but to someone nearing 80, my help allowed her to relax, to settle into her day, and to stop worrying about things that had frustrated her for months. Doing these small things for her took me very little time, and it made her so happy.

I guess the message is to remember that we are fragile. We all need each other.

We are ephemeral, mortal beings.

The time to be happy is now.






{Happiness = Make the choice & take action}




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Shavawn M. Berry
Shavawn M. Berry’s work has appeared in The Huffington Post, elephant journal, The Good Men Project, The Anjana Network, Be You Media Group, Journey of the Heart: Women's Spiritual Poetry, Olentangy Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Vagina - The Zine, Rebelle Society, The Cancer Poetry Project 2, Kinema Poetics, Kalliope, Poet Lore, Westview – A Journal of Western Oklahoma, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Concho River Review, North Atlantic Review, Synapse, Living Buddhism, Blue Mountain Arts/SPS, and Poetry Seattle. She's been writing about spiritual topics for more than twenty years, and has been a practicing Buddhist for the past 30 years. In addition to her blog and Rebelle Society, she regularly writes for Be You Media Group. Her technique essay on the dramatic monologue/persona poem is featured in a poetry database published in 2013 by Ebsco Publishing. In 1998, she received her MPW in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where she specialized in Creative Nonfiction and Memoir. Ms. Berry teaches writing at Arizona State University where she received a Lincoln Ethics Teaching Fellowship in 2013 and has been honored for curriculum design and innovative pedagogy. She is one of just two teachers at ASU involved with Prison Education and The Pen Project, a unique writing and editing internship that allows undergraduate students the opportunity to critique the writing of maximum security inmates in New Mexico and Arizona, while learning about the need for better educational opportunities for prisoners throughout the US. You can follow her on Facebook or read more of her work on her blog. Her website featuring a selection of her essays, blog postings, and prose is available at shavawnmberry.com.


  • Amani Omejer
    metaphoricalmarathons commented on September 11, 2013 Reply
    This is amazing. Every sentence, I resonated with. The last three weeks I’ve been basically bed bound, and many of the weeks previous too, with a slipped disc in my back. I’ve noticed how all the dialogue of how I ‘shouldn’t’ be happy considering what’s going on…considering how shitty this is and how scary the unknown feels, and is. Yet I’ve bizarrely felt so happy too! It’s almost as though when things are so acute, so flared up and so very fragile, it’s in those moments the LITTLE THINGS really are the business. The friends helping out in incredible ways, daily. The feeling of human connection and being part of a greater family. The two minute connections with nature in the garden before having to lie back down again, or just the connection through the bedroom window. Tea. Hot water bottles. Shitty tv. When you’re up and about, I think it’s easy to think it has to be the exciting, thrilling, outside the box things that being happiness, yet when you’re restricted to literally getting through each day survival style, perspective sits there right in your face. My critic has a song and dance about it, bringing guilt that I am ‘settling’ for this – I deserve better! Or all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’t’ stories of how my life should be and so I can’t be happy with this, woman! And fear, FEAR. It takes courage to allow yourself to be happy in the moment. So much courage to allow yourself to give up fighting all the bullshit your head and society tells you. All in all, I loved every word of this piece. Thank you! x
    • Shavawn M. Berry
      shavawnb commented on September 12, 2013 Reply
      Thank you for writing and telling me this. Your comment really made my day! It’s so true, the way we psyche ourselves out of enjoying the present moment simply because it isn’t perfect. Be here now. Now is all there is…There’s a saying in Buddhism that I love (paraphrasing here): “Suffer what there is to suffer. Enjoy what there is to enjoy. Regard both suffering and joy as facts of life and continue to pray no matter what. If you do, you will no doubt experience the boundless joy of the law.” Blessings to you as you are healing. Continue to enjoy your “tea, hot water bottles (aren’t they great?!) and shitty TV.” I will be sending you lots of good vibes. :-) Shavawn

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