LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS
LOOKING FOR HAPPINESS
I was always on a journey to find happiness in my life. It has taken me over half a century to find happiness. It is all because as a normal human being I have been displaying some specific peculiarities in life. For the majority of my work and family life I was continuously working to find people, things and events that would make me happy.
Unfortunately none of my efforts worked to my disadvantage for a very long time. I had hordes of people around me who had acquired lots of things but they were unable to make themselves happy. So I decided to go on a journey to look for happiness and found out that happiness can be acquired with little effort and I could become happy for no reason at all.
So without changing anything in my life my happiness just appeared from nowhere when I began to think of my childhood days. As a child I was the happy go lucky individual with no baggage and no worries at all. This was all because as a child happiness just existed for me.
As I aged I seem to lose touch with my childhood happiness for no reason at all. I began to see a world where everyone was striving for a variety of things; education, popularity, wealth, health and God knows what else. Just striving, striving and striving when the natural fountain of happiness I once enjoyed as a child just began disappearing as I joined the queue of strivers.
I knew inside me that the natural happiness had not gone but I only lost my connection to it. Therefore I tried to recover that connection when I lost the most precious person of my family life, my beloved wife. This essay is about recovering that connection.
We all grow up believing that if we work hard, and if we are good people, we will enjoy good relationships with others, good health, success and consequently a long life. However, after my late wife advised me, I understood that obviously this was not all true.
There are a lot of rich old people who are not happy, she said. What we have, what we do and the other circumstances of our lives do not provide authentic happiness. Instead, happiness comes from inside of us, and all by itself it enables us to have secure relationships, good health, more success and longer lives.
So, my beloved wife had to pass away to inspire me as to what was the secret of being happy. After her passing away I led myself on a search for more truth, beauty and goodness around me through research, reading and reshuffling my thoughts. My scriptures, my ancestry thoughts, my social, economic and physical compositions made me wake up and be counted.
For me being happy was a little like flipping a switch on and off. When it’s on you are happy and when it’s off you are not. It’s so easy. How else can you explain being happy for no reason. What you need to do is learn to turn that vital switch on, and remember to keep it turned on.
I wish to discuss some workable practices that helped me do that. A lot of wisdom was available to me in the thoughts of wise people like Dalai Lama, Buddha, Gandhi Chanakye. Kennedy, Churchill, Clinton, Mandela and Lenin. Many other literary figures in the likes of Shakespeare, Tennyson, Tulsidas, Kabir, Rahim, Surdas and Keats also filled me with the needed inspiration. I also had access to many scriptures in the Bible, Quran and the Bhagvad Gita about how to be happy. Most of these wise words are thousands of years old, but many can be seen as quite new. I was even compelled to look at the negative thoughts of people to convert them to my way of positive thinking.
Some of the practices that I wish to look at incorporate this wisdom to help me learn how to turn on the switch or fountain of happiness in my life. The kind of happiness I am talking about does not require changing anything in my life. All I have to do is learn to turn that switch or fountain of joy on. These valuable ideas and thoughts enabled me to find the needed switch of happiness.
I came of age as far as my happiness was concerned in the nineties, in and around Brisbane, which was a center for many new activities at the Detention Centre for Youths. It was then that I had my first important experiences of a new way of being in the world. It was a different way of being than anything I had previously experienced. The young people I was teaching were all a reject of the society and they were starving for human emotions such as love, care and consideration.
Many times, I noticed that my waking mind had stilled. As we used to say, the inner dialog had stopped. And when it stopped, it left a kind of excitement, peace and happiness that I had not previously known. I learnt to give without any wish to receive. I gave the needed compassionate requirements to my students and in return received their undivided attention and instinctual consideration.
These were memorable experiences for me because my ordinary way of going about the world used to involve a constant stream of thoughts involving doubts, dissatisfaction, fear, and anger. The sense I had of myself during these remarkable times shook my internal faculties and stayed with me. It kept telling me that I had to find ways to repeat them. So I started spreading my joy to everyone around me. This brought happiness to me. I began sharing my thoughts, views and ideas with everyone around me. This gave me a second birth, an awakening and the most powerful tool called new knowledge.
Over the next twenty years I learned how to regularly let my awareness settle into a place of simple happiness and joy. I usually did this in meditation. However, I also learned to bring this way of being back into my normal world of living and working. My beloved wife was my greatest asset in my search for happiness but when she passed away I was left with her multiple fond memories as my saviour and search for happiness. I did lament her loss for a while but as she had advised me prior to her death that physical separation should never be an excuse for our worries, sadness and sorrows.
We began to act within our own family first. When our elder daughter faced problems we asked her small family to come and live with us. We intervened with tender loving care and experienced great joy in making her life take a turn for the better. She was a fighter always and as such she quickly learnt to recover and believed in her talents and skills to stand on her own feet. We left her to fly away in her own world of happiness. She became our Guru of Joy.
When our youngest son faced difficulties in his work and family life we brought him under our wings and began to guide him to come out of his predicaments. We found out that he was unsure of the future direction he should take.
As he and we talked and talked and talked, I began considering everything I had learned in a new light. I had found my path to happiness by giving without any wish for receiving. He in turn became my closest friend and confidante.
This selfless activity enriched me, my ailing wife and our son in need of better future. We began to share the life we had learnt to live. He began to listen to a lot of our guidance in a silent mood because I told him that the word listen has silent inbuilt into it. So our child just started on that path and he has tried not to look back. He found happiness in his work and renewed family life by giving his best and putting his best foot forward.
Our first bit of advice to our people and others was obvious. ‘You should do what you are good at and what you like to do. It was the liking what you do part that was the stickler.’
What does one really like to do? We thought, if we can find our right purpose in life, then we would probably like doing what it takes to accomplish that purpose.
Then, together we all began to realize that, underlying all purposes was our deep-seated desire for happiness. We began to see that if we could find happiness, the rest of our life would pretty much sorts itself out.
If happiness is the purpose, then how do we “get happy?” This was obviously the most important question for all of us and after this we began to seek myriad opinions. Still, together we set it as our goal to find out what others have said about finding happiness in life. The more we searched the greater were our findings. The more we found the greater were our happiness.
All human beings I believe have the power to be happy. Despite anything that has happened to us, or anything that may happen to us, I think we have the power to be happy. I am not saying we will be happy every second of our life. Bad stuff happens, and we will react with pain, grief, or anger. In fact we should do these in order to be happy. These are immediate but temporary responses that come with being human. Luckily, they usually occupy little time in our life. The rest of the time we can and should be happy.
The maxim I developed as a result of all these was to “press on regardless”. That is what I do now when I am faced with any calamity in my life and living.
Nobody should be a victim of this God given and short life. Nobody’s happiness should be hostage to what happens in life. We all are a free being with the power to choose the way we feel. Therefore we can be happy regardless of anything that happens or does not happen to us, and regardless of the chaos that is in the world or in and around our life.
Ours is the power to choose what we think about, what we look at, and what we feel. We have the power to choose how we experience life. This power enables us to find happiness inside us, instead of waiting for life to be perfect. With a little help from us all my children as well as many that we have guided have found joy in their respective lives. In simple terms, we have the power to control our mind, and with this power we can choose to be happy. With all this power at our disposal, our life could easily be Heaven on Earth. I became happier and richer in spirit after all these presentations and givings.
Many of our disciples keep saying “If I have this power, why am I not happy? I have been slogging through life for a long time, and I am tired, bored, and unhappy doing it. Why can’t I be happy?” I began looking for answers for these disgruntled people and got some ideas to share with them.
The simple reason is that it takes practice. It takes practice to learn to search inside us for happiness instead of constantly chasing after it in the world. We need to do nothing to bring joy into our life.We just need to know what it is and how to stop doing what prevents us from experiencing the happiness that is our birthright. We should be able to inculcate and replant that God given feeling of joy through various channels of humanity.
I believe that everyone just wants to be happy and so they are eagerly looking for practices that could help them be happy. It is a fact – a natural fact of life – that each one of us has an innate desire to seek happiness and to overcome suffering, so says Dalai Lama and I agree with him absolutely.
Our need for happiness is so great that, once we remove the pursuits that aim to give us food, clothe and shelter as well as caring for our children, we do most of what we do to be happy. Many wise people have told us that if we have true happiness, we do not need anything else. This fact is hard to swallow but once we do we find joy easily. Money, material and matter cannot help us find joy but free mind, liberated self and peaceful soul definitely can help.
So the wish for happiness is basic to us and we all want it because being happy makes an enormous positive contribution to our life. The benefits are so great that we may find that aiming for happiness is a lot more important than many of the other things we do in life.
Many people have found that good relationships can make people happy. However, evidence also suggests that happy people are better at establishing good relationships. In my own working life I found that happy people are more successful in life but success does not always make us happy, whereas happiness can make us successful indeed.
Then evidence also shows that happy people are healthier, both physically and emotionally. We have seen that happy people live longer, eat together, talk together and enjoy life together. Happy people are more creative. Whereas the people who worry excessively about what they do, it often narrows their focus, while happiness leads to an expansive creative mood. Happiness, by itself, improves nearly every aspect of life. It is the glue that holds a good life together.
That glue is not found in any market but within us.
I lost many precious things in my life but I did not brood over those losses. Instead I used my creative skills to get out of jail free. I began writing poems, short stories and professional as well as innovative essays to find an outlet for my emotions. These gave me extreme joy when people made their appropriate comments and appreciated my art.
In addition to all that I have said and others have confirmed, happiness may be “adaptive” and this adaptive behavior helps us perform better in the world. In other words, happy people may be better able to cope with whatever life throws at them. I am now happy because I follow some simple practices in my life.
The first thing I have found that deep inside me is an unending element of lasting happiness which is real. This happiness is deep down, satisfying, lasting, and unconditional. This unconditional happiness is not a feeling I get from taking a big bite of something sweet, or enjoying a few drinks with friends and it is definitely not the joy of sex or the thrill of victory. These are mere sensations and can hardly be classed as happiness in life. For me now my happiness is the opportunity to talk to someone who appreciates and understands my feelings and cares for me. This new found company has given me a unique happiness that I have begun to treasure and appreciate.
Therefore it is not the temporary rush of feeling when something good happens to me that make me happy. I have discovered that unconditional happiness is not a sensation, and it is not temporary. It does not relate to how I feel right now, or how I feel about something in particular. If I allow it to be, it is my emotional ground of being. This is my first practical endeavour to seek happiness in life.
Secondly I have found that unconditional happiness is now natural to me. Whether I experience it or not, it is my ground of being, and the unconditional happiness I feel arises from deep within my unconsciousness. Such happiness does not result from anything I do or am unable to do in life. I have realized that I was born with this happiness. It is my birthright. I now am able to experience it as real happiness. The more I interact positively with family, friends and colleagues, the greater is my happiness.
Though it is natural to me, I seem to continue living and growing up believing that lasting happiness comes from what I give to my people around me and not what I do to earn my living. I have begun to experience unconditional happiness by letting go of my self-centered fixation on what I think will make me happy, but this is not easy! I have to train my mind to start looking inward for happiness, not outward. For the most part, what you do in life and what you receive in life provide only conditional happiness and sense pleasures. The real happiness is how we perceive it for our own good and the betterment of the community.
Thirdly I have gradually learnt to turn my attention away from my desires for conditional happiness and sense pleasures, and turn it towards unconditional happiness. So now the unconditional happiness seems to lie deep within the unconscious, and must be invited into awareness for me to continually experience it. This is how I control my switch of ultimate joy. I am able to differentiate between my wants and needs.
My most pressing desires demand my full attention and prevent me from bringing real happiness into consciousness. To experience unconditional happiness, I needed to learn to turn my attention away from these desires. When I finally achieved this then my attention naturally turned towards unconditional happiness.
I have found that most of the time, my self-centered desires remain unfulfilled and my need to keep what I have is never satisfied because nothing lasts. Focusing on my unfulfilled desires was a great source of unhappiness for me and in addition, the attention that I paid to them robbed me of the ability to move my attention to unconditional happiness. I found the thief that was stealing my happiness.
I am not saying that you should not experience sense pleasures and conditional happiness. You should enjoy them throughout your life. However, when you are finished enjoying them, you should not continue to focus on them. When they are here, enjoy them; when they are not here, do not allow your need for them to make you unhappy.
My fourth practice was hard but manageable. I learnt to see the truth of happiness in myself through mindfulness and meditation. To shift my attention from self-centered desire toward unconditional happiness, I first learnt to see the truth of happiness in myself. The way to see the truth of happiness inside of me was through the practice of mindfulness and meditation that I have been taught by my new found love. We try to do our normal exercises and then practice our Yoga.
The truth of happiness involves knowing that unconditional happiness is natural to you. This truth also involves knowing that if you let go of your attachment to self-centered desires for sense pleasures and the conditional happiness of favorable circumstances, unconditional happiness can enter your life. Our Yoga sessions help us get out of these attachments.
To see the truth of happiness in yourself, you need to practice both mindfulness and meditation. These are perhaps the most important practices in finding joy in life. Seeing weakens the hold that your self-centered desires have on your attention. It also shows you where to focus your attention to experience happiness.
Then gradually I learnt to let go of my attachment to self-centered desires through a variety of practices such as acceptance, non-attachment, selflessness, charity, compassion and forgiveness.
- I began to accept the world as it is;
- I began not to attach myself emotionally to my wants;
- I learnt that the qualities of selflessness, charity, compassion and forgiveness are human qualities that place more importance on the needs of others rather than my own. Etc
My next practice was to learn to live ethically, which reduced the power of self-centered desires as well as the guilt and regret that precluded my happiness. For me to live ethically was good for me personally. I developed a very deep belief in the powers of the Supreme Being. God Almighty, who is the only true symbol of love, hope, peace, prosperity and progress, has never let me down. I am with Him and He dwells in me. This is another cause for my happiness.
I believed that this situation made me behave and conduct my daily affairs peacefully and ethically and this promoted happiness for me. When I began acting ethically I stopped suffering from all types of disapproval of society, or the self-loathing and stress that came from all types of guilt.
Finally I began to choose activities or work that promoted happiness. I believed that my work and family life could either support my efforts to find true happiness or it could prevent me from achieving my objectives in life. Previously too often, what I did at work negatively affected my openness to happiness. When I reacted negatively to what I did on the job, at school or at home, I had to spend much of my leisure time undoing those things. Now I have learnt to let go.
However, what I am doing in life cannot and would not be able to give me lastingly happiness but my reactions to what I do could be so overwhelming that they would get in the way of meditation or other practices aimed at finding true happiness. Therefore, I needed to choose work that made space for me to be free and adaptive.
Consequently, I realized that I needed work that did not crowd my awareness with so much stress and worry that it prevented me from being happy. So my conclusions while I was an active HR professional were:
• That my work did not harm anyone, least of all me;
• That my work met my basic psychological needs
for feelings of competence, relatedness to
others and my autonomy;
• That my work focused on goals that were intrinsically
meaningful to me;
• I began to love the work that I did;
• I began to feel that my work represented a purpose or
calling in my life;
• My work enabled me to serve other people well;
and above all
• My work began to facilitate flow on experiences.
Of course, through all these endeavours and practices I naturally had found happiness at last for myself. I do not profess that these ideas of mine would work for anyone looking for happiness without serious concern to find it and treasure it for life. My ideas are for those enlightened seekers of joy who are prepared to shed those long held prejudices and useless baggage.
One thing that promoted me to search for this great and needed human feeling was my strong belief in the power, love and blessings of the Supreme Being. I am now a happy human being, no more and no less, fully retired and enjoying what is left of my life. Ganga and I are trying our best to seek and find what true joy is in our residual living. So help us God.
Dr Ram Lakhan Prasad, 03.01.2017