To be happy when you have everything you desire seems easy. But is that really happiness?
What to do when fear of the unknown creeps in?
When you don’t love your job? When you are not pleased with your appearance or personality? When your health suffers and you experience unpleasant symptoms? When your financial situation is unstable and stressful? When your relationships are broken or you feel alone?
If there is something you cannot control or change, is it also possible to be happy in these situations?
Does happiness depend on your circumstances at all? Or is it something much deeper?
What if you could be happy while experiencing deep pain and sadness? To feel inner peace when surrounded by all kinds of problems and challenges?
How wonderful would life be in that case, especially if everything is going well? How deeply could you appreciate every moment of your life in that state of mind?
Part I: Awakening
What to improve or optimize to be happy? There is an endless amount of study material to learn about this in a field called self-development.
There will always be things to change in the outer world and also on a mental level. The need to strive towards something will never disappear. It is an endless journey.
But this time we will focus on how to be happy right here and now. Because every change made at the external level is OK, but it will never guarantee permanent satisfaction. A person can achieve all he or she desires, but still feel empty.
Life is meant to be enjoyed, so let’s dive deep into our souls to discover the natural state of happiness which is accessible in every situation.
How we deal with pain and stress surrounding us on a daily basis is closely related to the topic.
Pain x Resistance = Suffering
Pain is inevitable. We all experience it in one way or another, be it physical, emotional or mental pain.
Stress is often a result of certain choices, so it is possible to improve here and there, but we cannot control everything. Life is naturally chaotic and ever-changing – it just happens.
If happiness meant permanent ideal conditions of life or positive emotions, it would be an utopia. The only way to live in peace is to become friends with pain and accept life as it is.
Suffering begins at the exact moment when a person resists what is happening. It consists of negative judgements, reactions and expectations. When there is something you don’t want to accept.
When I experienced phantom pain as a teenager and couldn’t fall asleep, I was sometimes so angry at my legs that I beat them with my fists. This amplified my stress even more, although it felt like the only way to react in that helpless situation.
When we resist reality and think negative thoughts, this will create negative emotions which feed another set of negative thoughts. This vicious cycle can continue until a person has depleted all energy stores and/or is distracted temporarily.
Some people escape from their negative emotions with the use of alcohol, drugs or watching TV. This is also a temporary solution that creates dependence of these strategies while the inner suffering continues.
What suffering consists of?
- Unpleasantness or pain
- Story about that pain
The Buddhists have pictured this using a metaphor of arrows. The first arrow that hits us is inevitable. But if we resist the experience of pain, we also get hit by the second arrow.
At one point I began to curiously ponder on where my suffering comes from.
It seemed that first there is an emptiness where nothing is happening. As I open my eyes and start to experience something in the physical realm, I will start to judge and react, which creates certain feelings inside me. We experience and give a meaning to this experience sooner or later.
A brilliant example of resistance inspired by “The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” (Feedback Loop From Hell)
You get angry at the most absurd and meaningless stuff, and you don’t even know why. And the fact that you get angered so easily pisses you off even more. And then you think about how shit of a person it makes you and how it also hurts other people, and you hate it. You hate it so much that you are angry with yourself. Now look at you: you are angry because you get angry about your angriness.
How can it get crazier? When you realize that this is an endless chain of reactions, and you don’t want to experience that. You want to be a rational spiritual person. But if you stay trapped in your mind, you will do it again: “Oh my God, I’m such a loser for doing it. I should stop. Fuck, I feel like such a loser for calling myself a loser. I should stop it. Damn! I’m doing it again! See? I’m a loser. Argh!”
It doesn’t help that we get pressured by the society which doesn’t accept negative emotions, reactions or behaviours. We want to suppress the negativity and strive towards perfection. And that’s why we look at all the cheerful pictures on someone’s Facebook wall and feel like the only person who is unhappy. We ask: “What is wrong with me?” This creates guilt, frustration, anger and anxiety.
As we can see, a simple experience can start a very dramatic life. To resist something is to swim upstream – it just doesn’t flow.
Whatever is happening, suffering can only exist when we add something to the experience. When we say: “It is not okay” – a judgement we make.
Now the pain (or a messenger) becomes an enemy. And our physical body can also become an enemy. We abandon it to avoid pain and end up killing ourselves.
The mind takes over and resists the body which main purpose becomes to carry the head. This is a path of losing the heart connection, which is unfortunately very common in our society.
Pain x Acceptance = Freedom
When a person has lost the connection with the heart and tries to control life, his or her obsessions become:
- How to avoid pain?
- How to fix everything?
- Who to blame?
The need to control means the absence of presence. Isolation from life. In this state of consciousness we feel unhappy and helpless because life seems unfair.
Suffering stops at the exact moment when we accept reality as it is and fully embrace the present experience. When we trust or are at least open to the possibility that what is happening in this moment is okay.
Now we can reunite with life and remind ourselves who we truly are. This will bring forth surrendering and letting go so that life can flow freely.
If we look at this from a pure practical or rational viewpoint, it is clear that resistance doesn’t solve the problem, but only adds fuel to the fire and makes the situation even worse.
If a cooking pot falls over, it is not helpful to shout and use our fists. The only reasonable solution is to start cleaning, which is obvious to anyone, but is challenging to do in practice.
This requires consistent practice, but the more we do it, the weaker the resistance becomes. We experience that accepting life doesn’t kill us, but grants us freedom.
Accept, change or leave the situation – anything else is madness.
Observation As A Way To Overcome Resistance
The deepest spiritual truth is: we are not our experiences, thoughts, emotions, body or personality. We are pure consciousness who experiences reality.
Observation (or mindfulness) is a way to quiet your mind and become peaceful. The key to happiness is just experiencing – the ability to see things as they are without the mind’s filters.
When we recognize this truth, it will cause a shift in our consciousness, which is liberating. It might feel frightening at first if we have been used to identify with our mind, but once we cross this bridge, our life becomes a joyful ride.
Awareness is the first step towards healing. At first we end suffering, next we can also change the situation and create what is preferable to us.
Many people assume that if we don’t respond negatively to a situation, change is impossible. But we can also change without resistance – simply by deciding to change.
And it is amazing that no one can take the ability to observe from us, no matter how painful is the situation. Even when the feelings are so intense that it cripples us, we can always stay mindful.
We can be surrounded by whirlwinds. Even our inner world can be filled with chaos. But if we stay observant, we can notice the observer within us who just experiences. Like watching a movie.
The more we practice meditation and staying present, the more we connect to this observer. This inner peace has always been inside us, but the noise of our minds has been too loud to recognize it.
The easiest step is to start paying attention to your breathing, the sound of your surroundings or the sensations in your body.
If you feel pain without judgements, the pain dissolves or at least don’t cause any more suffering. This is the only thing that has helped me with my phantom pain. Mindfulness is more effective than any painkiller.
Additional things that can help to deal with unpleasantness:
- The calming truth that everything will pass. Every emotion will run out of energy, like there will always be a new day. This will help to live in the moment.
- “This is a state of consciousness” – words that have helped me to remain calm in an anxious situation and stay mindful that I’m dealing with a temporary state. Change your consciousness, change your reality.
- Write down your experiences and feelings. This will give you a bystander position and the worry doesn’t seem to be so personal anymore. It is a part of your experience, not you directly.
- Simply experience! The less you react, think or fidget, the sooner the peace arrives. Focus on the feelings.
Stay open and try new ways of being because suffering can only put to an end with new experiences that confirm that our state of consciousness is truly manageable by us. New choices will lead to new results.
What Is True Happiness?
Awareness. Peace of mind. Love for life and yourself.
Can a person be happy when it is impossible to direct his or her life?
Only when the experience is perceived like a movie. But this is already a form of self-management because we direct our attention in this case. We choose how we react to the situation. At least we can always stay aware of it. To stop identifying with it. To simply breathe and observe.
This is the first step before personal choices and playful exploration in the state of happiness.
True happiness is not to be positive and cheerful all the time, because happiness is not an emotion.
Emotions are temporary phenomenons in a dualistic world where every rise is followed by a fall, and every fall is followed by a rise. All days are not brothers. It is fruitless to find certainty in an unpredictable world that is constantly changing. Find what is eternal and timeless!
We don’t always have to be “happy,” even if it was possible. We can only experience deep happiness when we can also embrace difficult or unpleasant emotions.
Of course we can also make choices which are favorable to us, but we don’t need to control everything. And that is peace – to be free from rigid attachments and expectations. To be connected to what is truly important.
Happiness is our natural state of being
Isn’t it liberating to know that happiness has always been available to us? That we don’t have to look toward the future to find it?
If we don’t experience happiness, it means we are blocking it. Our mind is probably too noisy and distracting.
If happiness exists already here and now, it is impossible to reach it. You can experience it if you discover that it is already inside you.
That’s why I’d like to call this as a journey of letting go, not adding or achieving. Empty the glass and let go!
What we are searching for is eternal and continuous. All external conditions including positive emotions are temporary.
The question becomes: Do you EXPERIENCE and are IN CONTACT with it?
Therefore I would recommend to change your habitual words like: “I am not happy.” It is more truthful to say: “I am currently not in touch with myself.”
If you know that happiness has always been inside you and all you have to do is open yourself to it… GAME CHANGED!
And it is OK if you are not presently connected to it. Enlightenment is not to be enlightened all the time. It is knowing where your true home is.