I was asked recently if I’m happy. The person asking commented I’d once stated I was sure one day I would be happy and was wondering whether I’d achieved that goal. I can’t remember making the statement, but the question prompted me to re-visit the concept of happiness and think about whether or not I’m currently happy.
Several years ago I’d been thinking about “happiness” and what it actually is. I wasn’t thinking about the happy feeling we experience when we get a new “thing” in our lives like that monster flat panel 3D smart television we’d coveted for so long or the happiness we experience when we laugh at a funny movie. I was thinking more about what I regard as “core happiness”, overall happiness with our selves and our circumstances. I realised that such happiness must be tied in with being able not to worry too much and when my research led me to read Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power Of Now” I discovered over-thinking could be a cause of unhappiness. If we let our minds control us and think of negative issues from the past or, even more insanely, dwell on negative issues that may crop up in the future, (and isn’t it truly an insanity to worry about things that may never happen?), then we aren’t living in the present moment and we’re bound to be unhappy because of it.
Reading “The Power of Now” was one of my first steps towards discovering “awareness” and listening to the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh taught me about”mindfulness”. “Awareness” means being fully present in each and every moment and “mindfulness” means taking care that in our thoughts and words and actions we are careful, considerate and fully aware. Being fully “aware” isn’t easy. For example, try taking a long drive in a car somewhere without having your mind drift off on all sorts of weird tangents. It’s difficult and bordering on impossible if you haven’t had practice at staying alert, being constantly present and aware. As another example, try meditating for the first time and not have your mind run riot in a thousand different directions, when all you are trying to do is focus on the air going in and out of your nostrils. Without practice at meditating our minds are bound to wander, but the thing is to recognise this is happening, don’t berate ourselves for it and bring our wayward thinking back into focus. In other words, be “aware” of what is happening, “accept” it, don’t fight it. That’s a form of awareness in itself and with practice we can learn to focus.
While studying Buddhism I discovered that “desire” is a major cause of unhappiness and this makes sense to me. If we desire that monster flat screen TV but don’t have enough money to buy it, or it could be we desire to be with another person who doesn’t seem to know we even exist and so on. These things, if not kept in proper perspective can make us unhappy. You may have seen the story about the man who spoke to the Buddha saying “I want happiness”, and the Buddha replied, “Remove the “I’ which is ego, remove the “want” which is desire and you find you are left with “happiness”.
My research has led me down far too many paths to mention in this brief article but I felt I needed something concise to keep in front of me and help me focus on what being happy is about. Then recently a FaceBook friend, Helen Ong posted this to her news feed. I think it’s good and thought I’d like to share it, so here goes, I hope it’s as meaningful to you as it’s been to me.
7 Steps to Happiness
The purpose of life is to experience happiness. Relationships are for sharing happiness. Happiness is the eternal nature of the soul. It is not something that I have to earn but something I discover within the self.
The secrets to happiness:
- Take advantage of every opportunity to give happiness to others through kindness in your thoughts, words and actions.
- Live in the present moment and make the most of what you have now.
- Let the past be the past. It cannot be changed no matter how much I re-think it.
- Never hold on to anything or anyone. Change is a part of life, it can never remain the same.
- Check your intentions. If I have a needy nature and always want to gain something from a situation or person, then I will never be able to hold on to happiness.
- Don’t waste time looking at the weaknesses and mistakes of others. They are not in your control.
- Appreciate and care for yourself. Remember that at the core you are a really lovely person.
Take another step towards happiness today!