Happiness, a word which 99% have no clue, where or how to find it or even what direction it occupies, or inhabits.
Happy is not the cessation of suffering, the elimination of the current crisis, the misfortune of an arch enemy. It is neither achievement, victory or defeat. Happy can not appear as long as crisis, worry and doubt hound us. We must endure, stay present, let go, take action to find happiness.
Happiness then, the pursuit of happiness, lies in our ability to let go of what scares us, enough to experience this present moment, unencumbered by judgment. When we worry, we suffer and never find peace of mind, tranquility, or happiness. Here are a few descriptions of happy and how to pursue her.
Matthew Ricard describes it this way:
“It is therefore always better to familiarize ourselves with and prepare ourselves for the kind of suffering we are likely to encounter, some of which will be unavoidable, such as illness, old age, and death, rather than to be caught off guard and sink into anguish. A physical or moral pain can be intense without destroying our positive outlook on life. Once we have acquired inner well-being, it is easier to maintain our fortitude or to recover it quickly, even when we are confronted externally by difficult circumstances. Does such peace of mind come simply because we wish it to? Hardly. We don’t earn our living just by wishing to. Likewise, peace is a treasure of the mind that is not acquired without effort.”
“If, conversely, happiness is a state that depends on inner conditions, each of us must recognize those conditions with awareness and then bring them together. Happiness is not given to us, nor is misery imposed. At every moment
we are at a crossroads and must choose the direction we will take.”
Happiness is a choice. We must create a space, an empty, aware space, where judgments and emotions can flow freely without impact. Thoughts are air without action, harmless creations of the cognitive machine. Helpless unless attended to, honoured, invested.
In the “The Undefeated Mind” by Alex Lickerman , he opines on happy like this:
“Perhaps for at least two reasons. First, because merely desiring happiness more than anything else doesn’t itself teach us how to achieve it. And as we’re all capable of believing things without evidence, many of our beliefs about what makes us happy will simply turn out to be wrong. How many of us, for example, consider happiness to lie in the unmitigated pursuit of pleasure? Certainly pleasure plays an important role in contributing to happiness, but to appreciate how an existence can be overflowing with pleasure and still be miserable we only need look at people for whom certain pleasures (sex, gambling, drugs, and so on) send all other considerations spinning off into the distance and often cause the collapse of the very lives they delight. Further, too much pleasure can be paradoxically unpleasant (a few jelly beans are delicious, but too many make us sick), something happiness, by definition, can never be.
“Which brings us to the second reason happiness is difficult to achieve: it requires not only the presence of joy (meaning a positive emotional state), but also the absence of suffering. Unfortunately, we often fail to appreciate these things as separate and focus most of our efforts on finding things that bring us joy rather than on preparing ourselves to withstand hardship.”
We must endure, withstand the school yard bully to have a chance of experiencing happiness. We must not be consumed to the point where we dissociate continually. Constant fear and worry eliminate a chance at a fulfilling life.
Now, on to the pursuit of happiness. After we endure, where is happiness hiding?
Sheila Catherine in “Focused and Fearless” describes happy this way. Non attachment.
“What is true happiness?
To begin to explore this, notice the mind that grasps at perceptions, and notice when there is no grasping in the mind. When you feel the mind without grasping, even for a moment, let yourself fully experience that quality of ease, from head to toe.
There is happiness in the expression of non-attachment. Can you find it? Rest into that state of ease beyond attraction and repulsion. Try it in fairly neutral encounters, with physical pleasure, or in the face of pain.
The joy of pure detachment is discovered whenever you are not struggling against the fact of things.”
Happiness seems to come out to play when the ego goes dormant. Just an early observation. When desires, “I” need things, approval, reward, possession, power, or status, appear, happiness has left the building. What is happiness then?
Non attachment, surely this is the space where happines seems to be plentiful. When we let go, become aware, present, life opens up and some happy enters. Let us explore some other ideas on happiness.
Matthew Ricard in his book “Happiness” gives a roadmap:
“Our approach has to be twofold: we work with what gets in the way of happiness and we cultivate its natural roots. Being present is one of the essential roots of true contentment.
The present moment is emphasized in almost every spiritual tradition; it is talked and written about extensively; phrases like “live in the moment” and “be here now” have become common parlance.
But why do we want to experience our life in the present moment?
How does being present to life-as-it-is relate to the experience of genuine happiness, especially if what is happening isn’t to our liking?
One clear answer to that question is this: being present allows us to shift from the narrow, self-centered world of I-as-a-Me to an open and increasingly awake sense of who we truly are.
As we bring attention to whatever arises in the present moment—our pretenses, our protections, our deeply held beliefs, our fears—we slowly begin to see through the seeming solidity of these self-imposed boundaries, boundaries that prevent us from seeing, and living from, what is real in each moment.”
Acceptance, awareness, letting go seems like the road less traveled for sure. Our mental illness professionals, therapists etc. deal with disorders, mental illness. I found happy not from therapists but from Buddhists and neuroscientists.
One of the blessings we have experienced so far, some of these neuroscientists have been dedicated meditators. Exploring the benefits and experiences of meditating interested them. The studies on the twenty monks during meditation followed.
Twenty monks with a minimal of 10,000 hours of contemplative meditation and a maximum nearly 60,000 hours of practice were studied using functional MRI’s. These monks showed incredible focus skills and activity in the left prefrontal cortex not thought possible. These minds were different, not anatomically, but much, much calmer.
“Most people think happiness is about gaining something, but it’s not. It’s all about getting rid of the darkness, you accumulate.”
In America, our psychological discipline deals with disorders and mental illness, finding a way of being happy is not a priority. Happiness or being mentally healthy is the absence of mental illness, or the lack of a mental disorder.
Matthew Ricard -in “Happy” again paints a landscape of our current psychological slant on mental health and happiness.
“An analysis in Psychological Abstracts of the books and articles published on psychology since 1887 finds 136,728 titles referring to anger, anxiety, or depression, but only 9,510 referring to joy, satisfaction, or happiness!
In stark contrast is the study of these twenty monks, the incredible level of gamma activity they generated while practicing compassion meditation.
Richard Davidson opines; “The most astonishing was the spike of so-called gamma activity in the left middle frontal gyrus.
“As they began meditating on compassion, an extraordinary increase of left prefrontal activity was registered. Compassion, the very act of feeling concern for other people’s well-being, appears to be one of the positive emotions, like joy and enthusiasm.”
“Using fMRI, Lutz, Davidson, and their colleagues also found that the brain activity of the practitioners meditating on compassion was especially high in the left prefrontal cortex. Activity in the left prefrontal cortex swamped activity in the right prefrontal (site of negative emotions and anxiety), something never before seen from purely mental activity.”
Happiness then has no geographical origin or location.
Happiness can not be chased or pursued. If we go searching for happiness, our journey will be in vain.
In conclusion, happy emotions are contained in the left prefrontal cortex, negative ones in the right prefrontal cortex. Working backwards then, the parasympathetic nervous system is engaged, our brakes applied, when we experience happiness. Our minds are not racing when happiness is around.
We use the breath to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, bringing awareness to this moment. If we are to experience any happiness, we need to be present and empty of the distractions, worry, doubt, thought, anxiety, or fear. The ability to let go and be present is a prerequisite for living fully, finding some happiness.
Happiness is simple, unassuming and hidden from complexity and cognition. Happiness is a pure emotion and evil intent destroys it. Happiness is found in small quantities at first.
Happiness, in my opinion, is something we carry with us. Happiness endures between moments. It endures when loss and sadness enter our space. True happiness is more like the peace of mind experienced when present awareness dominates and thought has faded.