Sustainable happiness

A Christian Science perspective.

Happiness. It’s a beautiful ideal – a state of joy, contentment, inner peace.

Is happiness elusive by nature, a state that we might attain one day but is somehow always in the future?

Lots of great writers have shared wise ideas about the pathways to happiness. Many speak about developing and using your talents, looking for the positive, and helping others. Research has shown that people who do volunteer work tend to report higher levels of well-being.

There is a growing global awareness that happiness is a basic human need and is a fundamental component in sustainable development. March 20 was the second annual International Day of Happiness, initiated in 2012 by the United Nations after its meeting on “Happiness and Well-Being,” which brought together representatives of governments, academia, civil society, and religious organizations. The meeting was initiated by Bhutan, a tiny, predominantly Buddhist country in South Asia that favors the goal of gross national happiness over gross national product.

In his message for this year’s International Day of Happiness, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said that happiness is a deep-seated yearning shared by all members of the human family, and should be available to all. He then called on the nations of the world to promote peace, justice, human rights, and social progress for all.

A common thread in ideas about happiness is that it is related to connecting with something greater than oneself. What is this “something greater,” and how can you make that connection in a practical way?

In my own search for happiness, I’ve taken various paths. Some ended up being dead ends. Others brought temporary elation but left me craving for something more. Eventually, the many issues I was facing in my life nudged me to seek something deeper.

I started reading books on spirituality and exploring the contemplative practices of meditation and prayer. Then an acquaintance introduced me to Christian Science. In studying the textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” by Mary Baker Eddy, I’ve come to understand God as unconditional divine Love, and I increasingly feel the gentle presence of spiritual love in my life as I spend time in prayer every day and strive to express unconditional love and support to others. I’ve increasingly felt the tangible expression of God’s promise to us all: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you” (Jeremiah 31:3, New Revised Standard Version).

I’ve also come to know God as infinite Mind, abundant Life, all-governing Principle, creative Soul. I’ve learned to draw on the resources of this infinite force for good in every aspect of my life. This helps me live with confidence and enthusiasm.

Another thing I’ve learned is to see myself and others as the reflection of divine qualities, such as wisdom, kindness, patience, creativity, and perseverance. It’s a joy to experience oneself and others in this way, and each day brings new opportunities to demonstrate this.

I’ve come to feel that happiness is mostly about seeking to know and carry out the spiritual purpose that God has for me – and, of course, God has a unique purpose for each of us. I’m happiest when I focus on how I can be useful to others because contributing to other people’s well-being simply feels good. And I’ve realized that I can’t separate my own good from the well-being of those around me because we’re all interconnected as part of the human family. As  Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Happiness is spiritual, born of Truth and Love. It is unselfish; therefore it cannot exist alone, but requires all mankind to share it” (Science and Health, p. 57).

Living this way has brought a profound sense of satisfaction. Sure, I have challenges like anyone else. But I feel purposeful and secure, knowing I’m on the right path.

Yes, happiness is something I see ahead of me. But it’s also the joy of placing my foot on each steppingstone along the path of happiness pointed out by our Father-Mother God.

I’m finding that happiness is a quiet path of unfoldment. It isn’t like a big bang. It’s more like a serene, starry night, glittering with the presence and promise of the infinite.

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