If you would like to listen to this post, just hit the ‘play’ button…
“To live happily is an inward power of the soul.”
But this isn’t where most of us are looking.
We want to get all the cool stuff the world has to offer… because that will make us happy…
We want to set powerful and efficient goals, because achieving our goals will lead to all the positive feelings we desire… or will it?
What is real satisfaction in life… and how do we ‘get’ it?
Because it is what we are all trying to get anyway. There are a lot of delusions on this planet about what happiness is, where it resides, and how to ‘achieve’ it. If ‘happiness’ isn’t a term that resonates with you, there are plenty of others: satisfaction, self-actualization, peace, joy, and loving life.
We all want this on some level… we just have some confusion about what it is… and how to make it more likely to happen.
If this isn’t reason enough for you, here’s some wisdom from a philosopher who struggled quite a bit with happiness:
“The world of those who are happy is different from the world of those who are not.”
This is very true, and we all know it from experience.
The difference between a ‘nice guy’ and an ‘asshole’ is often little more than how we are feeling at the moment.
Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world with only ‘nice guys’?
Is this possible?
Let me share something with you from my own life… I’ve been spending a lot of time with my cousin’s four-year-old daughter… which I hope is preparing me a little for my own daughter who will be arriving next month … and I notice certain things about her. First, she is an amazing, beautiful, little girl. Second, she sometimes follows the rules that have been set out for her… and sometimes she doesn’t. Yet she never stops being that amazing, beautiful, little girl. Sometimes people get angry. Sometimes I get angry. And though I am not always in the space where I can appreciate the amazing, beautiful, little girl… that incredibly beautiful being never ceases to be.
This isn’t just my cousin’s daughter.
This is you.
This is me.
Sometimes we ‘break the rules’… sometimes we behave in a way that is less than constructive. Yet the behavior isn’t who we are. Beneath whatever behavior arises… we are all incredibly beautiful beings… it is only the attachment to narrow perceptions that keeps us from recognizing this… from dwelling in this beautiful place of Power… every moment of every day.
Is it good to ‘change behavior’?
There is nothing wrong with changing behavior… but no long term healthy change in behavior will take place (in yourself or others) without the recognition of this beautiful core of being.
I encourage you to forgive yourself and others the same way you would ‘forgive’ a baby learning how to walk.
When a baby is learning to walk and falls down… there is no need to yell… there is no need to get upset… the typical (and appropriate) response is an incredible amount of praise for the smallest achievement, complete and instant forgiveness for any mistake, and a real sense of excitement about taking the next step!
Let’s say you own one of the most profound pieces of art in the world… it could be music, a painting, a sculpture… whatever floats your boat. I hope that you would take the time to enjoy this profound piece of art… at least for a few minutes every day.
True Happiness… real satisfaction… is one of the most profound things that can be experienced. You could consider it the ‘art of God’… or simply the ‘art of being’. Why not take a few minutes every day to bask in the majesty of this breathtaking work of art?
Two very simple ways of doing this are:
- Recognize and enjoy your incredible inner beauty
- Bask in the amazing beauty of the world around you (it is usually easiest to start with that which is commonly considered beautiful: works of art, flowers, the moon, a sunset, etc. Then work your way into appreciation of less customary beauty: dirty alleys, hurricanes, trash cans, etc.)
So What’s The Basic Problem?
When we place happiness outside of ourselves (assume it will come when we accomplish something or get something)… we strengthen the basic illusion of existence.
You can be as happy as you want right now… consciousness is all you need!
Happiness is always there. You might call it the joy of presence. It is the background hum of existence. Beneath all the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ events of your life… is the deeper truth of happiness. Sometimes we forget it. Sometimes we get really out of touch with it… but it is always there.
The best advice for happiness always depends on the person…
But for many people, it is “Shut up, and get out of the way!”
Getting out of our own way can be one of the quickest routes back into the recognition of happiness.
But it is also useful to identify some different ‘flavors’ of happiness… to look at the broader spectrum of sincere satisfaction.
5 Flavors of True Happiness
1) Gratitude – Gratitude might be described as an Acceptance and appreciation of all the gifts that you have been given. This is the easiest and quickest method for me. I can really step into a powerful place of happiness just by being thankful for life, breath, thoughts, feelings, challenges, etc. throughout the day. As they come up, I say “Thank You” and notice the feelings of gratitude in and around my body.
After practicing gratitude for a while, I will occasionally feel myself ‘light up’… and it feels like my whole body has become a smile.
Gratitude is a blessing to yourself and others… and one of the additional benefits… people tend to do a lot more for someone who is truly grateful!
2) Compassion – This brings up an interesting quote by the Dalai Lama:
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
There is a reflective nature of consciousness. When you are really compassionate with yourself, you will automatically be more compassionate with others. When you are more compassionate with others, you will automatically become more compassionate with yourself.
Compassion might be described as an acceptance and appreciation of the Power of forgiveness… an instinctive forgiveness… feelings of joy and forgiveness arising as soon as there is any perception of wrong.
How compassionate are you with a newborn… or with your favorite pet? Can you extend this to yourself and the rest of mankind? You’ll be much happier when you do!
3) Love – Love can be described as an acceptance and appreciation of all the other beings on this planet as highly prized members of your family (if you don’t like your family, you can think of them as your favorite pets instead ).
You could also see love as a recognition of the wonder of all that is. Think about the last time you fell in love. Usually the feeling isn’t just around the new partner. The whole world tends to seem a little bit brighter. What if you could do that without finding a new partner/lover?
What if you were in love with existence itself?
I think the Beatles said it best:
“All you need is love, love, love is all you need.”
4) Kindness – Another popular quote from the Dalai Lama:
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
If you begin to just practice kindness religiously… feel as giving toward people as you can… you will very quickly ‘fall in love’ with your life.
Kindness might be described as an acceptance and appreciation of true giving… giving with no expectation of reward… giving for the sake of giving… just giving. ‘Giving’ need not be material possessions… in fact, giving material possessions can just bring up more challenges if you don’t understand how to be giving without need for ‘stuff’ to give.
You can also feel kindness by appreciating the kindness of another.
Can you get into the joy of giving?
5) Humor – the Bible says to
“Make a joyful noise unto the lord”
There are few things more joyful than sincere laughter. Humor can be found in all situations. It definitely will not be appreciated by all persons in all situations… but it can always be found.
Humor might be defined as an acceptance and appreciation of the temporary nature (or impermanence) of the world of form… the apparently ‘fixed’ objects and ideas we are surrounded by.
Much of the humor used by comedians is situational… there is a setup, and then a surprise comes up… it is as if we are lead one way to delightfully discover that the actual path is back over there.
We smile… we laugh!
It is a little bit more challenging to practice humor with the impermanence that arises in daily life… but it is infinitely more rewarding as well.
Any level of humor you can bring in to your daily life is invaluable!
You can’t put a price on a smile!
(please keep in mind these 5 flavors are just a few possibilities… if I haven’t listed your favorite, please continue to indulge in your own flavor of happiness to your heart’s content)
All of these flavors cross over quite a bit.
At times, it may be very challenging to distinguish them… and that’s fine. The point isn’t really differentiating… but giving you a few different angles from which you can re-enter happiness.
So after this reminder of a few ways of approaching happiness, I’d like to ask you a question.
How much of what you do is designed in a way that it can truly make you happy?
I’m going to say something that is likely to piss quite a few people off…
Goals will never make you truly happy!
Goal setting, achieving goals, getting all the stuff you think you want… will never really satisfy you.
Not for any length of time.
You may get a brief ‘feel good’ upon achieving or coming close to achieving a goal… but everytime you assume that something outside of you can make you happy… you push real happiness a little bit further away.
(Please understand… there is nothing wrong with having goals… I encourage people to have goals… the challenge is only in assuming that the goal will make you happy… when you recognize that you can be truly happy now, you will notice that you are now much more efficient at creating healthy goals and achieving them!)
After achieving a goal, most people only register the ‘I got what I want’ good feeling for a moment…
After this… it is on to the next goal… because without a new goal… without the desire to find something else outside yourself to make you happy… who are you?
Who are you really?
The person who did this really cool thing? The person who owns that really neat car/house/gizmo?
Some of my own confused desires (based off social status or what other people think I should want/have/be) that stood in the way of happiness include:
- Wanting to be the tough guy.
- Wanting to be the guy who is really knowledgeable (or well-read).
- Wanting to be the world’s greatest lover.
- Wanting to be the guy with a great job.
- Wanting to be the guy with a beautiful girlfriend/wife.
- Wanting to be the guy who never gives up.
(what ideas are you clinging to that stand between you and happiness?)
Real happiness is the result of letting go of limiting views of self… of letting go of the need to cling to feelings you like… of letting go of the need to push away the feelings you don’t like.
There is nothing wrong with having ‘worldly’ things, wonderful experiences, useful skills, etc.
But if there is an attachment to them… the thing itself, the idea, or the goal of achieving it… you will have to let it go to return to true happiness.
Getting back to the question we asked at the beginning…
How do we get real satisfaction?
How can we design our activities so they are more likely to increase our happiness?
Recognize the completion!
When you let go of the assumption that you need lots of stuff (or your family needs lots of stuff)… you will recognize that the vast majority of ‘wants’ are based off illusion… and a lot of what we assume we ‘need’ is also illusory.
Once you begin to let go of the illusory wants and needs… you start to feel complete!
Once you feel complete, you will have a completely different perspective on what you ‘need’ and what you ‘want’
What about the Law of Attraction?
The Law of Attraction has probably been around in some shape or form for thousands of years. But recently it has been popularized by the movie “The Secret” and a flood of other products.
There are some valuable insights, and some real challenges with the LOA.
Valuable LOA insights:
Attitude of Gratitude – I think I’ve already expressed how valuable I find gratitude to be, and it is awesome that the majority of LOA products encourage it.
The Universe is Abundant – This is a powerful general attitude to hold when you approach life. When you look around the planet, it is pretty easy to see billions of people battling over different layers of the same illusion. How much could we reduce this if we all embraced the concept/attitude of abundance?
The Primary LOA illusion/challenge:
It’s important to ‘get stuff’ to live the life you want and be happy – again… when we place happiness outside of ourselves, we create an imaginary barrier to it. The more we re-enforce this illusion, the more real it seems. Almost all of the LOA products I have been exposed to are encouraging the reader/listener to build the life they want by getting more stuff.
(keep in mind I’m generalizing based off my own experience and study here. Your favorite LOA teacher might cover all of this very clearly… or they might not).
It seems that most people would rather have more skillful means of playing the no-win game, than finding a method that make true happiness a reality right now.
This brings to mind a quote from a song by Sheryl Crow:
“It’s not having what you want… it’s wanting what you’ve got!”
For a long time, I thought I got a Black Belt in Kenpo Karate because I had set a goal, and though I forgot about it, I eventually came back and completed it.
That’s Total Bullshit!
I got a Black Belt in Kenpo primarily because I love training in Kenpo. If you love training in Kenpo, and you do it regularly, the natural consequence is eventually getting a Black Belt.
If I find another martial art that I love and train in regularly, I’ll eventually get a Black Belt in it as well (assuming it is a belt-based system)… with absolutely no goal setting required.
The other side of the coin… several years back I also set goals to make lots of money investing in real estate. I didn’t achieve any of them. Why? Because I have no interest in real estate! I did my best to become interested… and it didn’t work.
If you don’t love the journey… what’s the point of the goal?
Is it worth doing something that doesn’t interest you in order to make lots of money? Or get lots of prestige?
Do you really want to put happiness on hold when you can enjoy it right now?
Where does it come from?
You could say that connecting with happiness is connecting you with your spirit… the deeper nature of the universe… which has an effect on your mind… which has an effect on your body… your physiology responds beautifully to authentic happiness
Happiness is its own reward!
There is no guarantee of a longer life (though many studies imply it is a strong possibility)
But when you are truly happy… you will absolutely love your life…
I would rather love my life for five years… than ‘deal’ with my life for 100 years!
Another thing I’ve learned about myself…
I used to want to do really big things.
I used to want to be a millionaire!
I used to want to change the world!
Now I’m much more easy to please.
I just want to be of service to humanity!
I just want to smile!
I just want to connect with happiness and share it…
I hope that you find this useful.
Let’s close with some thoughts on a quote from the Buddha:
“To live a pure unselfish life, one must count nothing as one’s own in the midst of abundance.”
We are immersed in abundance. Once you can accept that… you can also accept the fact that it isn’t necessary to cling to any of it.
There is no need to hoard.
There is no need to obsess.
It’s there for you. Make use of it as you need it. When you are done with it… let it go.
Notice that this attitude is possible for both the millionaire and the minimum wage employee…
Happiness is available to all!
P.S. Some related posts from a while back: