The key to happiness in life — so many of us say we want to be “happy” but what exactly does that mean?
2.3 kids and a white picket fence?
Do these things TRULY make us happy? Perhaps in the short-term they do, or they APPEAR to bring us happiness.
In the long-term not so much for many, many individuals.
When I hear many people speak in my own everyday life or in the media with what I see on the Internet, television, movies, et al. I see a society that is rarely ever satisfied. Whenever we get something we want something more. Competing with coworkers, neighbors, even friends and family it’s always more, more, more, more, MORE.
In a capitalistic society this is enforced non-stop. Buy, buy, buy, buy, BUY to achieve happiness, to achieve some nonexistent “goal” or “destination” in life.
Someone else’s child does something great in school; we need to share stories about how great OUR kids are.
Someone goes on vacation we need to share our own stories and many times people have to explain why theirs was SO amazing. For most it might not be trying to say they are better, but for some that is EXACTLY what they are trying to sell to anyone who will listen.
Things work the same way when it comes to negative stories as it does with the positive. Instead of saying how much better someone is they have to have MORE by telling you how much WORSE off they are. One person has a headache and the other person will tell you about how much more inferior they have things health-wise than you.
Always competing, always wanting more, always searching.
Endlessly the cycle repeats and repeats and repeats.
When it’s not the case of competing with others, for many it’s living in the past. We as humans can do so many wonderful things, create so many amazing technologies, cure so many maladies, but we have a terrible tendency to focus on the BAD things in life instead of the good. We keep pictures of the positive experiences and we certainly remember the good in our lives but it’s the negative memories, decisions, and events that seem to stand out for so many. Even for those that have had a life which has had limited bumps in the road, it seems for many of those individuals they choose to focus on those blemishes in the pavement, always wanting there to be smooth asphalt to drive on.
Life doesn’t work that way.
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” — John Lennon, Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy), 1981
The good news is that there is a SOLUTION to this endless cycle of dissatisfaction and it is not a revolutionary one or something that you can’t read/hear about in a myriad of places. The message has taken form ever since humans could begin to put down the written word on papyrus long ago and I am sure philosophers knew the secret recipe to true happiness long before such words could be stored for posterity.
Happiness comes from NOW.
Happiness comes from enjoying every day for what it is, every moment and wringing that sponge of life as hard as you possibly can. Getting every drop out and enjoying every moment as it is TO-DAY.
Not tomorrow, not last week, not last year, not whenever your brain is traveling to, but RIGHT. NOW.
Sounds simple doesn’t it?
Sometimes the simplest-sounding things in life can be very difficult.
A definition for mindfulness that I found online was “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
A definition that I would use for mindfulness is much simpler, much more basic.
Mindfulness is PEACE.
Peace from the endless cycle of more more more more MORE.
Peace from worrying about things you can’t control.
Peace from continually not LIVING your life.
I used to be that person. I used to live everything written here and more. I used to compare myself to others continuously, compete with others, focus on the bad or the “what ifs” in life that plague people like a disease.
I had my moments where I was happy but they were usually fleeting. I would find myself happy for a short time but then go back to my cave of misery and consciously it was a place I did NOT enjoy residing.
But subconsciously I would return time after time after time.
Presented with one of the most challenging moments of my life I was broken open and had no choice but to either write a new chapter of my life and walk a new path or go down even further in the pit I was trapped in.
When one has reached rock bottom how much further can you go?
I said that I was going to use this opportunity to do some good, not just for myself but for others and I would FIND. A. WAY.
Sometimes the most important journeys start with an incredible amount of pain and suffering. When things are good we don’t have a need to make major changes because we think when things are copacetic that nothing needs to change in our lives. The problem is that sometimes what we think of in our life as “good enough” could be so much MORE.
“Happiness takes work” — Venerable Robina Courtin, Tibetan Buddhist nun
Enlightenment is a term that is thrown around far too often. Some attribute magical powers to this event but I prefer to focus on the synonyms of it:
When I started to apply mindfulness practice in my life I truly felt like I had reached a state of enlightenment. I stopped worrying so much about the past or the “what ifs” and I instead put my feet on the ground and said to myself that I was going to make TODAY a good day. That I would enjoy the day or the moment to the best of my ability because it finally dawned on me that doing so was a personal choice that I make, and I alone.
This truly was one of the most amazing moments of clarity in my life. While I was busy focusing on what others had or what I didn’t have or what decisions I should have made or mistakes that I made, I could instead be spending my precious moments on things that would be a positive in my life.
We make our OWN choices, our OWN happiness, our OWN path.
If you have a pile of garbage next to you that is 10 feet high and a rose beside it not even 3 inches in size, you can say to yourself “there’s a pile of crap next to me” or you can focus on the beauty staring right back at you.
YOU make the choice on how to live your life.
I noticed at first that this way of thinking was hard for me. It was so foreign, so unlike how I used to think that I had a difficult time following this but like with any other practice in life, I found it was easier to execute the more I did it, the more I “faked it until I made it.” As the days went on I practiced this mindfulness way of thinking and enjoyed the present moment and like with any other practice it became easier and easier and it still gets easier today.
As I took the study and practice further I stopped worrying so much about the basic goings-on of life and later about one of the things that scares countless people on this planet every single day: the fear of death. With the knowledge that we will all die some day, why should we spend any energy on something that we have no control over, something that is going to happen no matter what? Instead of focusing that energy and concern on such a foregone conclusion, that time would be better spent on the here and NOW.
Wake up every morning and set the mindset that you will make the best of this day no matter what.
Wake up every morning and remind yourself that even if today is your last day on this planet you can enjoy the good that comes out of being alive no matter what your physical or mental state is.
Wake up every morning and strive to be a better, wiser person than you were the previous day.
For me, true happiness, TRUE happiness comes from peace. It’s a personal choice if you want that peace or not.
If you do, the key is being happy NOW.