“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” –Edward Abbey
On the compass of life most of us have been conditioned to think that happiness is True North. Many of us go through life thinking happiness is the be-all, end-all; the ultimate prize. If I only had this, I’d be happy. If I only did that I’d be happy. “Happy” is the constant carrot forever dangling in front of us, just out of reach.
But what happens when we aim beyond happiness? When we think outside the box of happiness? When we dare to go north of happiness? If we merely shoot for the moon, do we not forsake the stars? It’s like the “foot in the door technique” applied to happiness. The interesting thing is that you are more likely to achieve a state of happiness by aiming north of happiness than by merely shooting for happiness alone.
“Creativity-like life itself-begins in darkness.” – Julia Cameron
There is perhaps no other state better at launching you past happiness than achieving a flow state. When you are in the creative throes of a flow state, you are beyond place and time, beyond sadness or happiness, beyond good and evil. Time stops. Interconnectedness consumes you. It is the only state that subsumes all the other states on this list.
Being in a flow state is similar to being “in the zone.” Everything flows. Everything lines up. Infinity abounds in the here and now. There’s no wavering. There’s no hesitation. Anything keeping you away from being fully present in the moment falls away. Creativity emanates. Imagination gushes, full-frontal, tidal. All you can do is surf it into timelessness. In this state, you’re not just a drop in the ocean; you are the entire ocean in a drop.
And when you come up for air, not only are you happy, you are triumphant. You are overwhelmed with the joy of creation, tantamount to jouissance. You have surfed the wave of your flow state straight over happiness and landed into providence. Happiness becomes merely a side effect of doing something you love. Happiness is the residue of falling in love with the moment so completely that you lose your attachment to happiness. You have surrendered your egos attachment to happiness, and love stands triumphant.
“Be melting snow. Wash yourself of yourself.” –Rumi
Speaking of surrendering your ego’s attachment to happiness, non-attachment launches you past happiness by burying your ego, before it can sink in its claws, or at least by transforming your egocentric view into a soul-centric one. Non-attachment puts the cart of the ego behind the horse of being fully present. Selflessness is key. When you’re not married to a particular outcome, you are more open to whatever the outcome might be. When you’re not attached to a particular expectation, you are more likely to be able to adapt and overcome the vicissitudes of life. In a selfless state, in a non-attached state, emotions come and go, washing over the state of human experience like tidal forces on a beach.
In a non-attached state, you are always north of happiness. You’re north of any emotion, really. Emotions are neither here nor there. They are merely passing storms or momentary sunshine. Nothing lasts forever. There is no permanence. The only thing that never changes is the fact that everything changes. Your defeats won’t last, but neither will your triumphs.
“Truth is a staff rejected.” –unknown
No-mind is that rare state, usually achieved through deep meditation, where thoughts melt away and you are completely present in the moment. All previous conditioning, indoctrination and brainwashing falls away, and sheds like too-heavy, outdated skin. All that remains is the infinite void, Indra’s net, the interconnectedness of all things. You are able to see with “over-eyes”, perceiving the big picture despite the usual small picture perspective held up by your ego. Indeed, no-mind is the place where the ego goes to die- at least temporarily.
In this state you are a fountainhead to the cosmos. Your crown chakra is in full flutter. You are in a state of absolute non-bias and non-judgment, completely open to the vital information being downloaded by the universe. All thought is put on hold. Your mind is a sponge soaking in truth. It’s only after the meditation, when no-mind is replaced with mindfulness, where the potential for happiness manifests itself. And the potential is great, heightened by the experience in no-mind.
For no-mind has already launched you past happiness, into a state of absolute vulnerability, where the judgment, bias, and close mindedness of your thoughts were torn down to allow for beauty, truth, and wisdom to sneak in. All three of which can lead to eudemonia, happiness beyond happiness, a flourishing of the human condition, a mind-body-soul creative expression and a deep sense of purpose.
Beyond codependence, beyond even independence, here is the holistic state of interdependence. When you are codependent you expect happiness to come to you. When you’re independent you expect to find happiness. When you’re interdependent however, you have already subsumed happiness because happiness, like sadness, grief, joy, guilt, anger, love, and other emotions, are simply a small aspect of the interconnected whole. Happiness is merely a small side effect of living a full life, just as all other emotions are.
Achieving a state of interdependence is no small feat, but the little bursts of happiness discovered along the way make the pain of growth well worth it. The pain of passing through the many thresholds of cognitive dissonance, dark nights of the soul, ego death, comfort zone stretching, and the trials and tribulations of taking an independent leap of courage out of codependent cowardice, will lead to the absolute joy of self-improvement, self-overcoming, and the personal transformation into your own version of heroism.
Working toward a state of interdependence, day in and day out, makes happiness itself a process, an inherent aspect of the overall method. Because you are always aiming for personal growth, self-improvement and self-overcoming, you are always north of happiness. The process itself trumps the happiness gained, but it is also within the process where the most happiness is obtained.
“Happy is the man who discovers wisdom. For the merchandise of it is better than silver, and the gain better than gold. Length of days in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor. She is a tree of life to them that hold her; and happy is everyone that retains her.” –Proverbs 13-18
Meaning trumps happiness, yet most happiness comes from meaning. As such, the creation of meaning is the ultimate trump card, and perhaps even the ultimate True North. When you’re creating meaning, you are the perennial artist, a self-inflicted mythologist transforming the mundane infinity that surrounds you into the meaningful art that defines you. As a creator of meaning, you hold courage in one hand and audacity in the other, defying the inherently meaningless universe by creating your own meaning despite.
The meaning you create becomes a trophy, a symbol of your imagination and creativity, a magic elixir that can be shared with the tribe, and a legacy that can be passed down to your progeny. It becomes your life’s purpose, an immortality project that transcends happiness. At the end of the day, searching for happiness is old hat. Better to go north of happiness. Better to experience flow states. Better to practice non-attachment and no-mind. Better to strive for Interdependence through self-improvement and self-overcoming. Better to create your own meaning despite meaninglessness and happiness. Better to simply revel in the little moments of happiness that come and go from living a life well lived.