What is happiness? As some of you following my adventures may know, I recently paid a visit to Spain and Greece, the latter of which left me with a deep longing for the old continent. Besides returning with bags full of beach sand and fridge magnets to pass around, I came back richer in understanding of what it means to be a happier person and most importantly, how to achieve it. The Greeks showed me.
Besides savoring the obvious gift of Greece, with its ancient history, delightful dishes and gorgeous landscapes, I was affected by the zest and passion for life the people I met there exude. It began with a pronounced feeling that they can see right through me and waste no time on superficial pleasantries, getting straight to the point. Honesty is the word. I found that refreshing, the realness of humans in stark contrast with the constant judging and appraising I encounter daily by inhabiting one of the most competitive places in the world – the Silicon Valley.
Not that there is anything wrong with competition per se – it fuels innovation and progress – but as I came to realize too much of it can hinder some of the great joys in life, such as living life in an emotionally liberated way, where there is no need to put on a masks in moments of welled up anger or heart inflating joy. The Greeks have a great world for this “love of life.” It is Zontania.
Hence, the title of this post. Living in a rapidly progressive country such as the US has it’s great advantages but also a slew of complications. The most glaring one being a sense of “muffled happiness,” as Danielle LaPorte calls it, which my body immediately sensed upon stepping my foot on the California soil. But isn’t this what everyone wants – to be happy? Why do we walk around pretending and squandering our emotions? I think the crux of it is that people here have been conditioned and subsequently feel ashamed of showing the negative or dark side of the emotional spectrum. But as we all know, there can’t be a day without the night.
I have a very vivid and visceral memory of my last day in Athens. Walking through the narrow streets in Plaka, the old town, a thought dropped into my consciousness causing an uncontrollable explosion of laughter followed by a few sobs of sadness (a week in Greece was all it took to liberate me, see?). The reaction was spurred by the fact that back in the US, I’ve been chasing happiness by reading about it. Yes, reading about how to be happy. I looked around and the truth was obvious. Happiness in Greece is not a concept, a goal to attain. It is a way of life.