The "H" Word
Happiness . . .
By Vaishâli, author of "You Are What You Love"
Happiness. It is the No. 1 thing we all want. The constitution of the United States institutionalizes our protected right to pursue it. But what exactly is it? Someone once told me they had found happiness. I honestly didn't know it was ever lost.
Is happiness attainable by discovery? Is it at a geographic location? Maybe it's a state. Yes, people often dream of living in a state of happiness. But no one seems to permanently reside there. Sounds a lot like Florida, but I know it is not one of the 50. So maybe it's more like Guam or Puerto Rico. I sure hope it's got a tropical climate, complete with frou-frou drinks adorned with cute colorful little umbrellas. Oh, and no income tax.
Maybe, as many imply, happiness can be bought. Or, it's a pharmaceutical. Nope, that's ecstasy. And in the "other" drug world, the H word is already taken by heroin. Of course, that happiness has a pretty short shelf-life and an extremely expensive price tag - your soul.
But like shopping, it seems to make some people happy, at least until the high wears off. Hmm, makes someone happy? Isn't that forcing something on someone? Babies are happy; no one seems to be forcing anything on them. They just simply appear to embody happiness.
I hate to admit it, but I think we failed to even define "happiness." If we don't know what it is, maybe we should see what it isn't. Happiness is not what you think it is.
No. Literally, happiness is not a mental function; it is not what you think.
People experiencing severe forms of mental-developmental challenges are mostly happy, playful and in the present moment. Proof positive that what you think will not ensure happiness.
If intellectual prowess equated to happiness, every rocket scientist and brain surgeon would be deliriously ecstatic. And it would follow that the greater one excelled in the mental thought process, the happier one became; the world's eggheads would be known Universally for their mirth and happy-go-lucky contagious personalities.
Thinking has very little to do with happiness... that you can be thinking about how you have to lose weight, pick up your children from school, organize your tax records and still be happy! Impossible you say? Not really.
Vedic psychology says that happiness and enlightenment have something in common: being in the present moment with an open heart, and not having a problem with it. Being with "what is" and not judging it, not resisting it; dwelling in it from an open-hearted place, not from intellectual posturing.
Let's go back for a moment to people severely challenged due to mental developmental issues. A friend was recently sharing about his daughter who is sixteen. At the time of her birth, doctors told him that she would not live long. A severe medical complication wouldn't allow her to develop any mental capacity beyond that of a three- or four-month-old baby.
My friend is always telling me about how incredibly happy his daughter is - always smiling, laughing, just in the moment. She never projects off into the future or gets stuck in a past event, unable to experience the present moment freely. She never has an attachment to any outcome.
She does not experience life through the "should have," "could have," "would have" or "better have" filter. My friend tells me without his daughter, he would never have seen the face of genuine happiness. She is the ultimate happiness teacher, and unconditional in her relationship with it.
Does what we give our attention to affect our emotions? Absolutely! That is clear and self-evident by anyone with a nervous system. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes worrying about anything can vouch for that. So how can one be giving their attention to the reality that they need to lose weight, find a better paying job, organize their tax records and still be happy?
If you are aware of all these things while being in the present moment with an open heart, you have discovered the pivotal element. When in the present moment with an open heart, you are accepting of the place where you presently find yourself standing. There is no judgment, flogging or rejection of yourself for how you got there, merely an acceptance of "what is" that frees you to now respond to what is in your best interest because there is no other agenda or dysfunctional focus.
I was in a car accident, and it took me nearly a decade to fully recover. For years I could not work, make money or think as clearly as I had before. Now, every time I sit down to organize my tax records, I am just happy to be working again.
I am thrilled to be able to carry out simple tasks without anguishing frustration. And I am grateful beyond measure to be able to make enough income that I have to now file a 1040. What I have learned from my friends, and from my own life, is that happiness can be unconditional.
Imagine how different your life would feel if you practiced not having a problem with the present moment to the same degree you have practiced blaming the present moment for delivering something with which you are dissatisfied.
The added perk to being in the present moment with an open heart is that the tyranny of the ego loses its power in that state. The ego needs some source of unhappiness in order to maintain its hold over the human mind. The ego likes to be the master of our lives, pushing us around emotionally.
The ego strives to makes us the servant, training us to serve it by constantly surrendering our attention to things in the present moment with which we can find fault. When we practice accepting the present moment as it is, we are in actuality cutting the ego off from its biggest food source, and forcing it back into the servant role it is designed to have.
There is an old saying that the longest journey one will ever make is the eighteen inches from the frontal lobe into the heart.
Vaishali is the author of "Wisdom Rising" and "You Are What You Love" Purple Haze Press). She is also national health and wellness speaker, radio host on KTLK 1150am 11-noon Sundays (greater Los Angeles) and KEST (San Francisco). She is a certified practitioner of Chinese Medicine and East Indian Ayurveda medicine, and a faculty member of The Omega institute and The Kripalu Center. Visit www.purplev.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.