Post number 1 of 33 in The Ganymede Progression.

Happiness is something we all want in our lives. Happiness is the state of contentment and peace with things “as they are”, and can be momentary, fleeting, but still profound. The feeling of happiness is a kind of heaven, a moment of bliss, which lets us forget our troubles and enjoy our situation. Happiness is, for many of us, the goal of our lives.

But happiness is elusive. Many of us spend our lives striving to achieve lasting happiness, even to the extent of ignoring or down-playing temporary moments of joy as, in our minds, they do not make us “happy people”. To be a happy person, we reason, we must never be sad. Our lives must be limitless oceans of joy, endless days of bliss. And as Jedi, we must understand this is not the case.

Happiness is one extreme of a dichotomy, the other side being sadness. Sadness is dissatisfaction with the way things are, a desire for our situation or perhaps our selves to be different from however we find them. Some seek happiness in money, or fame, or power, because we feel that an absence of these things is making us unhappy. But as Jedi we recognise that dichotomies are false in both directions; that it is only in our perception that things are good or bad, that it’s only in our own minds that the qualities of “happy” and “sad” exist. And as Jedi, we understand that an abundance of happiness is a kind of imbalance.

Without up there can be no down. Likewise, without sadness, there can be no true happiness.

So how then do we become happy people? How do we cultivate happiness in our own lives, if to be happy implies being sad in equal measure? Is it enough to simply have as much happiness as sadness, and strike a balance in that way? The truth goes a little deeper. We can learn to be “happy” in a smaller, more simple way. We can find peace with what is, both the “bad” and the “good”. Contentment in this sense is an understanding that “This too shall pass” – both the good times and the bad.

Many people focus on the negative aspects of their lives. They feel as though they are “unhappy people” because they have a lot of sadness. But these same people can enjoy the smile of a friend, the laugh of a good joke, the intimate touch of a loved one. They can be free from their sorrow in moments, even if they feel their default mode is one of misery. And here is the trick – it is our focus which defines our reality. Yes, it is easy to focus on the negative. To feel life is cheating us out of happiness which we deserve. But another way of looking at our situation is we are blessed with many hundreds of moments of happiness, even between great traumas. It’s so simple to look at what we don’t have, and feel an absence. But it’s still possible to look at what we do have, and find an abundance.

It’s clear we can choose to count our blessings, or our curses. But the list contains the same things, looked at in different ways.

I myself haven’t always been a positive person. Happiness is something I’ve struggled to find over the last few years, between the end of my marriage and the place I am now. But I have come to realise the universe, indeed the Force, owes me nothing. My happiness is my responsibility, no-one else’s. Oh sure, my children make me happy. My girlfriend makes me ecstatic almost every day. But it’s not their job to “do happy”. It’s mine. They could be exactly the same, but were I not to entertain the idea of “being happy”, I’d never be it.

Beyond that, I’m learning to notice happiness. It sounds so silly when as I mentioned, people strive for happiness all their lives. But how many people stop to notice it when they have it? I’ve had many times in the past year where I’ve actively thought to myself how happy I am. How at a given moment, nothing is wrong. Everything is OK. Again, it’s so, so easy to focus on the bad times; the dark moments, the low ebbs. And it’s actually just as easy to see our lives are peppered with perfect moments, yes the joyful occasions like birthdays and weddings, but also simple smiles, moments of peace and contentment.

Yesterday I went walking in the woods. I climbed a tree. And despite my apartment being under threat, not having a job, and yes still working through the ramifications of my marriage ending a few months ago… the sun shone down, a gentle breeze lifted the leaves in the trees, a distant buzzard circled far to the west, echoing cries across the valley, and I was happy.