I've always been a fan of case studies in personal development books. Reading someone else's story and learning how they practice helps me to better understand and appreciate the theory behind a program like this. However, there was one case study in this chapter, David's story, that left me a little off balance.

On page 225, the authors discuss how David reaches a point of clarity and decides that he will no longer actively pursue happiness as a state of being:
It came to him that what he was experiencing was "craving" --a longing for things to be other than they are. Over and over again, he became aware of just how unhappy this was making him. Eventually, he knew deep in his bones, not just in his head, that he was creating this suffering himself. And, with that insight came a compassionate response: why not do yourself a favor and let it go?
The authors go on to explain that by letting go of happiness as a goal, David is able to make space for it to enter on its own. 

Now the concept of letting go of the pursuit of happiness so you don't feel like a failure for not being "happy enough" makes sense. It's along the same lines as accepting that where you are right now is perfectly okay.  Still, I think this concept got me reeling because it's the opposite of everything I've ever been taught. After all, isn't happiness life's ultimate goal? And aren't goals meant to be worked at? Strived for? 

My suspicion is that the authors are trying to illustrate the dangers of attachment. (A concept that I'm exploring in my own life with the help of my fabulous coach Michelle.) David spent so much time being attached to the idea of becoming happier, that every little setback transformed into a bright red flag that Team Failure would wave in his face. So by releasing his attachment to happiness as a goal to be reached, he was able to let go of his expectations and accept his current moment whatever it might be. The disappearance of this self-inflicted stress made space for awareness, compassion and eventually, you guessed it, happiness. YAY David!
David continues to work at the same job--he still does not experience the same clarity and peace there that he knows is available to him in his wider life, but he can sit more lightly with his work situation…He knows now, deep down, that mindfulness is much more than paying closer attention to the color of the trees or the sounds of the birds, delightful as these are. He knows that mindfulness also provides a way to discern those patterns of mind that serve us and those patterns of mind that create and perpetuate suffering.
So how do you feel about setting aside your attachment to happiness? Does it make your belly rumble to think about relinquishing control of such a desired emotion? Or are you ready to dive in and give it a try?
Image Credit:  BK Symphony of Love / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Original Image Credit: Manuela de Pretis / CC BY 2.0 

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