I went to a Buddhist lecture last night, and although I am certainly not an expert or reached a level of mastery by any stretch (as my teacher says it is a constant practice that even he is yet to achieve) I wanted to share with you the very profound words he spoke on happiness and peace. I hope I can do justice to his beautiful lesson.
What brings you happiness?
Is it your partner, your job, your kids, your home?
What is the future you want from this time on?
Would you think... "In my future I want to be able to reach a certain level of achievement in my profession, find my perfect partner, take that vacation I have always dreamed of, afford the house I have always desired in my ideal neighbourhood, have the family life I strive for where everything is harmonious?"
In having these things will you finally be at peace and happy?
Many of these experiences are all about HAVING, whereas true happiness is actually about a state of BEING.
When we want these things it is not necessarily the situation or person that will bring us contentment, it is the feelings that we believe they will bring us that we actually desire.
Security, Peace, Love, Happiness, Confidence, Self Esteem might be some of the feelings we are yearning for and be our underlying need when seeking the 'perfect life', however often we are looking for these outside of ourselves.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with desiring, wanting and having, experiences, people or material things in life. And they may definitely bring you some happiness for a period, however it is the expectation of them to make you consistently happy over time where the problem can often lie.
Maybe we find the perfect job, but when you start the job description is not what you thought, or you find your dream partner, but then they decide that you are not the one for them, or you move to the area you wanted only to find out your neighbour is noisy and a bit of a nightmare.
And even if these scenarios are going perfectly change is inevitable, and often our fear of this can bring us to some distress rather than a deeper contentment. Much of our anxiety comes from fear of the future.
Life is out of our control many times and the funny thing is everyone is always wondering, "Is this working out for everyone else?" But unless they are a Zen master the answer is probably "no".
So... What is the source of happiness?
Happiness is maintaining a peaceful mind and reaching a deep inner contentedness regardless of the circumstances.
Ah yes that is where the tricky part comes in.... how do we achieve this?
What we were taught last night is to do our best to gain some experience of what is possible. Centring ourselves through meditation and breath to find the smallest moment of peace within our hearts and body, then aiming to cultivate that peace throughout the day no matter what it may bring.
He used a great example of feeling centred within yourself if you have started your morning purposefully, feeling great, but then you walk out the door and immediately someone yells at you. And hey it happens .... it's life! All of a sudden all the great work we have done for ourselves seemingly disappears. What do we do in those moments?
The best thing we can do is to accept that it has happened rather than fight against it and do our best to come back to the peacefulness within our hearts, checking within ourselves to see if we can find that tiny little bit of calm that is still in there.
This is only a practice that of course we can develop over time with constant mindfulness and doing our best to keep our thoughts in the present moment.
He suggested that every time something is bothering us this week to do our best to "drop it". And a friend of mine today told me she is going to have a day of observation and write down every debilitating, negative thought or action that arises, with the ambition of coming back to peace, and over time having a blank page.
I am the first to say these practices are challenging. None of us are immune to the feelings that come up of fear, insecurity, sadness or not feeling enough, however the more we are mindful to attempt to cultivate a balanced state, the more natural it can become to experience a growing peace without the constant commentary in our heads.
So to come full circle... Who do we want to be tomorrow?
We can start by asking, "Who do we want to be today?" We shape the future by taking care of the present with mindfulness to create a more joyful way of being.
It doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive for the best, to aim high for our dreams and goals. Rather it is about accepting and adapting to the challenges, and endeavouring to keep a peaceful mind in the process. By even having small experiences of peace we can centre ourselves in our potential for a truly happy life.
So look for that potential, cultivate it whenever you can and enjoy the growing presence of BEING happy.