One of my teachers told me the other day when I was struggling with life, “Kimberlee, if you want to be happy, just be happy.”

The problem with these Buddhist teachings is that they can be, well, enraging.

I had all kinds of internal responses to that statement. “REALLY?!?” was the first one (I hope the angry tone comes through). I had a litany of responses I did not say out loud knowing that my teacher was right.

All kinds of reasons I should not be happy started to crop up. If you know me, you know I have a lot of reasons not to be happy (seven kids with lots of issues is one, and poor health is another). However, everyone has lots of reasons not to be happy. I am not all that special in the grand scheme of unhappiness. There are starving people. People living in less than wonderful places. Very poor people. People in jail. So, I am kind of near the end of the line when it comes to reasons why I should not be happy.

And yet, many of us, like me, are not happy enough and want to be happier. Why is it so hard? Many of us could list 100 things to be happy about. It’s those “but…” things that mess up our ability to stay focused on all that is good. It seems the few things we don’t have outweigh the many things we do have. And sometimes when we get one of the things we really desire (e.g. a bunch of money), our happiness does not last. There is research on people who have won the lottery. A year after they won the lottery they were no more happy than they were before they won. Apparently money really does not buy happiness.

Seems a bit bleak doesn’t it?

Most people, including me, cannot just decide one day to be happy. The reason is because we are using the same mind that created the problem to find a solution to the very same problem (Einstein). If my mind has decided I should be unhappy because I do not have the relationship I desire or the lifestyle or the whatever, then no matter what I try to do or say to myself, I will end up right back where I started. This is not an issue that thinking and problem solving will resolve.

Goodness! A problem that cannot be solved by the brain? Try it. I dare you. I have been at it for almost 50 years. I am pretty clever. I haven’t succeeded and don’t know anyone who has.

Happiness is a feeling not a thought. So, let’s dig into the realm of emotions to see if the answer lies there (spoiler alert – it doesn’t). If I feel happy because I just got promoted at work, I will enjoy that feeling for a period of time. Typically, it lasts until the pressure of the new promotion (new responsibilities and more stress) rises. Then, I go back to my status quo. It is almost as if we have a preprogrammed happiness meter in our bodies when we are born, and no matter what does or doesn’t happen, we return to that level over and over again.

Some people are born very happy. No matter what they face, they see the positive in everything. This person has typically been dealt a really great hand of genes and positive attachment (good nature and nurture). I envy these people. These people are awesome to be around. Interestingly, they are not common.

The rest of us who are on our quest to increase the joy in our lives are now in quite the quandry. If I can’t think my way to happiness, and I cannot hold on to happy feelings when they come along, then was my teacher wrong to tell me to just “be” happy?

No. She knew I knew something important and was not applying it.

We all have stress and chaotic moments in our lives. It is a given. How we allow people and events affect us is really our choice. I do not have to be upset by someone who cuts me off in traffic, who is inconsiderate, or who is generally unpleasant. I do not even need to be affected by the behavior of my children or parents (eeek!!!). I can be completely Zen despite how crazy everyone is around me. Me adding to the drama does not help anyone, especially me.

I love this line from the movie Bridge of Spies: “Aren’t you worried?” Then the man replies, “Would it help?”

The answer is no every time.

To be able to choose not to engage in drama or to worry is powerful and requires us to be at our absolute best all of the time. The only way to do so is to utilize our connection to spirit, also known as our higher self. Spirit isn’t out there. It is within us. To connect with our spirit we must know and embrace all of our strengths and wonderful attributes. We must bypass our ego and get to the core of who we really are. If I am creative, I must believe it and own it. If I am loving, I must step into my loving self like it was my skin. If I am loyal, I must remember until I no longer have to remind myself. My positive attributes then become autonomic like breathing instead of only appearing when I am in a really good mood.

The “I AM” really becomes our reality.

Being connected to spirit also allows us to recharge our batteries and manifest our deepest desires. This is true because, in part, I am drawing energy from the universe, and, in part, because I am not being drained by my own negativity. If I want to manifest a book, I go internal. I see the book, feel the book, and know the book as if it already exists. I do not energize all the reasons why writing the book might be difficult for me. Then actually writing and creating the book does not seem so ominous, because I really believe it already exists in all its glory. I actually regularly imagined holding my last book in my hands and feeling incredibly satisfied with it. It worked. I once believed I could never write a book, and then I got out of my way, embraced my abilities, and manifested the book.

Part of the key to manifesting our desires is not just to imagine them but to also get out of our own way. If I imagine writing a great book and secretly believe I am unworthy of praise, how do you think that book will be received? I must believe I am worthy of everything this life has to offer for the book to have any chance.

Many people want to manifest abundance in their lives. Too often people equate abundance with having money. Here is how we get in our way. Either we seek to create abundance and miss all of the abundance of love, time, freedom, food, etc., we experience every day. We may have an enormous amount of abundance in our lives, and, yet, because it didn’t come in the form of money, we miss it. The other error people make when actually trying to manifest money is they have issues that conflict with actually having money. They may judge wealthy people. They may exude feelings of fear, jealousy, or unworthiness when they think about money. Those unworthy feelings send out conflicting messages to the universe. You are saying you want money but deep down you don’t feel you deserve it. The positive energy of your desire is negated by the energy of the shame or judgment. This is one example of many that could interfere with your ability to manifest anything.

Basically, my teacher was telling me that I have worked very hard to know myself and love myself to the point that I have no reason to not just be happy. I am letting the experiences of my life get to me. I have no reason to be victimized by my experience. I know better. She was just reminding me that I really do have all the tools in place to just choose to be happy. I just needed the reminder that my external experience is a reflection of what is going on inside of me (your external world should never dictate your inner experience).

The notion that we create our own reality is very true. This does not mean that we will not have challenges and trials in life. It is how we choose to react and perceive those hard moments that creates the experience. I’ll give a simple example.

I can drive in heavy traffic on the highway with little to no agitation. I don’t even think about it. It is just traffic and has nothing to do with me. All I can do is keep driving. I can even enjoy the time in the car if I choose. I know people who freak out in heavy traffic on the highway. They take every person who comes close to them as a personal insult and react with anger and aggression. They obsess over being late or what they could be doing instead of being stuck in traffic. They are negatively impacted by the experience and tend to dwell on it even after it is over by sharing their awful experience with everyone. Ultimately this could lead to having a rotten day and may even negatively impact their health.

It truly is a choice. Choose happy.