If you're like me, curious and contemplative about deep existential questions and what makes us happy and content then read on!
Many years ago, my answer to what happiness is would have been related to achievements and success as the key factors that make up that elusive state. Nonetheless I have always known that such things are only means to an end. While realizing on a subconscious level that the real answer is the small pleasure in life I have been aware that some order and discipline is necessary for the pursuit of happiness. My answer now is that happiness is the peace with ourselves and the world around us. It is in the gratitude that we practice and express and the acts of kindness that we extend to others and receive from the people who we care about and love. It is music and rain, and the laughter of a child.
When asked about happiness, the Buddha answered that “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”
I believe this sums it eloquently and wisely. Maintaining a life of order and contentment that celebrates everything and everyone in this enormous cosmos is the gate to life satisfaction. Every second spent enjoying our connectedness with awareness generates loads of happiness and positivity. This is possible despite the prevalent ignorance of greed and insatiable fear, anger and desire to more status and power.
I was walking down a trail the other day enjoying the peaceful squirrels bouncing from one fallen branch to another. They seemed so happy and content. No drama, or quarreling over their food or space. Observing them gave me hope and serenity while it made me think of the human condition and the complexities that we have willingly created in our lives and are so eagerly trapping ourselves in. Comparing ourselves to others, and trying to be better or stronger or wealthier! The weird thing is that most of us are well aware that the capacity to enjoy happiness from gathering material possessions is in fact dependent on satisfying less obvious needs.
Our emotional and psychological needs for connection, validation, expression and love are what really matters. This has been repeatedly confirmed by doctors and nurses who ask their patients on their death beds about the things they regret not doing. None of these people had ever mentioned gathering more money, or buying more real-estate. Almost everyone says something along the lines of spending more time with loved ones, enjoying life, and working less.
With such awareness, how can we consciously practice self compassion and allow ourselves to be happy for no reason other than celebrating a sunny day in the forest or by the beach or even from behind the window.
How can we practice gratitude more, spend more time with the people we love and care about, and be generous with acts of kindness. How can we open our minds and hearts to life, love more, and laugh more and remind ourselves that we can only recognize happiness as we experience sadness just the same way as we enjoy the light by experiencing the darkness.
I wish you all happiness and love.
Ola is a Registered Clinical Counsellor offering a holistic approach to healthy relationships, life transformation and fulfillment.