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Abandoning the Pursuit of Happiness by Michael Neill

Internationally renowned transformative coach Michael Neill explains how there is a space within you where you are already perfect, whole, and complete. To find it we just have to let go.

Michael Neill is the best-selling author of five books, including The Inside-Out Revolution and The Space Within. He has spent over 25 years as a coach, mentor, and creative spark plug to celebrities, CEOs, royalty, and people who want to get more out of themselves and their lives.

When I first began studying psychology and spirituality, I did it for completely selfish reasons. I was emotionally unstable, deeply depressed, and felt victimised by my brain chemistry. Anything that looked as though it would give me the edge against such a fearsome enemy within was something I wanted to know about.


Over the ensuing 18 years, I studied multiple disciplines, receiving nine separate certifications in fields ranging from positive psychology to Thought Field Therapy to neuro-linguistic programming. I also experimented with various ‘medicines,’ from drugs and alcohol to rituals and practices I came to call my ‘behavioural Prozac.’

But despite the rich variety of theories, practices, and methodologies, my goal was always the same: to get more control over my emotional experience and move in the direction of 24/7 happiness – a life of only positive feelings without any anger, sadness, insecurity, or fear.


And there’s no question that my life got better. I was less unhappy more of the time, and capable of functioning at a much higher level when the black dog of misery had me in its grip.

So when I came across the principles behind the inside-out understanding, I did so in search of yet another weapon for my arsenal in the war against my darker nature. What I found, however, wasn’t what I’d gone looking for. Instead of discovering an even better way to manage my moods, I discovered that my emotions weren’t reflecting my nature – that they were in fact simply surface fluctuations atop a deep core of well-being.

Tell a typical therapist or self-help guru that you’re upset about your childhood, argumentative with your partner or children, and struggling with financial insecurity, and they’ll quickly reframe your problems in a positive light, affirm your greatness, and offer up seven simple steps to a happier childhood, better marriage, and financial abundance.

Say the same thing to someone who’s insightfully seen that we live in the feeling of our thinking, not the feeling of the world, and they’ll most likely say, ‘Me too – welcome to the human condition.’ They’ll then point you inside, toward a fresh experience of your deeper nature – the innate well-being, peace of mind, and inner wisdom that allow us to navigate our lives with ease and grace in spite of the insecure thinking and bizarrely counter-productive behaviour we all engage in from time to time.


So I can experience my natural ups and downs without so much of the accompanying story and drama. I’m less hypnotised by my highs and frightened by my lows. I can sob without suffering and feel fear without being afraid. My divinity can inform my humanity. My heart can break open without breaking apart.

For me, the unexpected gift of this deeper understanding is that I’ve never been more willing to feel my frailty – and I’ve never felt stronger or more whole in my entire life.

Abandoning the pursuit of happiness has revealed a deeper truth and an even more magical possibility: the timeless presence of the space within, a river of wisdom and well-being that is no less present when we’re down than where we’re up, and no less powerful when we feel weak than when we feel on top of the world.

This timeless presence is our true nature – the essential well of our being – and the true source of peace in our life. So while I may still find myself in a crappy mood from time to time, it hardly seems worth thinking about, let alone trying to fix by figuring it out, tapping it away, or medicating it into oblivion. This too will pass, and remembrance of the river is never more than a thought away.



This is an extract from The Space Within by Michael Neill, out now. For more information visit


Michael says: Every problem we have in life is the result of losing our bearings and getting caught up in the content of our own thinking; the solution to every one of those problems is to find our way back home.


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