But what if happiness weren't something that had to be pursued? What if it were innate? Indistinguishable from who you are? How would this change your life?
Happiness is Already Here
The wisdom traditions as practiced by traditional cultures all over the world shed light on these questions. Here, for example, is a quote from Kaiten Nukajaria the Zen tradition:
"The land of bliss exists above us, beneath us, around us, and within us... if we open our eyes to see."
Could it be that simple? Is it possible that happiness, or bliss, is everywhere... above, beneath, around within just like the quote says?
You may be thinking, "Yes, but you don't understand my situation ... You see, my boss, my spouse, my financial situation, my kids, etc. As soon as I don't have a troublesome person or situation to deal with I'll definitely be happy. Please tell me what to do to get rid of these problems so I, too, can be blissful."
Before we go that route, suppose for a moment that the quote is correct. After all it reflects thousands of years of experience and the collected wisdom of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time. So stay with me on this, because if it is true, happiness isn't something you have to achieve or "do," it is your essential nature and you only need to open your eyes, or your awareness to experience it.
And the other good news is that the true definition of bliss goes way beyond happiness to something more akin to euphoria. The ancients refer to "consciousness ecstatically delighting in itself as one; as all and everything." And, consciousness is everything from rocks and trees to animals and human beings, all of us and everything that exists. So if we are consciousness, and it is ecstatically delighting in itself, then by definition that must be our essential nature as well.
Balance Is the Key
How do we open to the awareness of our essential happiness even in spite of the inevitable stresses of daily life?
First look at your experience and notice that we don't live in a world where everything is the same, but rather in one where contrast rules. For example, we can only appreciate cold if we experience hot; wet is only meaningful in relation to dry; and silence only makes sense in relation to noise. In other words, at their extremes, these experiences are poles apart, and too much emphasis on either one makes for an unbalanced situation. You may remember the old adage about too much work makes Jack a dull boy? What is the remedy? Jack needs to go out and have some fun... which in turn will bring balance to his life... unless he overdoes it. It's all about balance.
The good news is that achieving balance is simple once you realize that most of the time your default position on things is negative rather than positive. If you doubt this look around and notice how our interest is captured by negative events. It's rare that positive news makes the headlines, so if you ran a newspaper and wanted to present a balanced picture you would have to focus on reporting positive events to balance out the negative.
This concept works at the personal level as well. If you could look inside the head of an average person and see their thoughts, chances are the negative thoughts would greatly outweigh the positive. Similarly, and probably as a result, negative emotions hold sway as well.
Of course at the base of our thoughts and emotions is a physical body which will also be out of balance if it absorbs junk food (at the negative end of the spectrum) and not enough exercise.
If you are someone whose head is full of negative thoughts, your heart full of negative emotions, and you feed junk food to your body it is easy to see why you miss the essential happiness that is the real you. It gets lost in the imbalance.
So the key is balance and the solution is focus. Focus on the positive since our default position is most often negative.Four Steps to Achieving Balance in Your Life
- Start achieving balance by focusing on a healthy physical body. This means choosing healthy foods, taking supplements to right nutritional imbalances, getting enough sleep and exercising daily. A more balanced physical body makes it easier to think and feel positively.
- Maintain positive emotions.
To do this pick a positive emotion like love or gratitude and find a way to express it. You could start a gratitude journal where you keep track of all the really wonderful things that happen every day. Or you could go for a daily walk and really notice all the beauty around you. Or you could just take a few minutes, close your eyes and imagine love flowing through your heart. Choose whatever works to bring your emotions into greater balance.
- Keep your thoughts positive by taking time to say or write affirmations daily.
Choose simple positive and believable statements and put them in the present tense. Start by saying "Here and now in this moment I am "____", and then fill in the blank. For example, "Here and now in this moment I am grateful, or I am calm and centered, or I am loving or loved." Again, keep it real and brief and positive. When you feel yourself thinking negative thoughts or experiencing negative emotions, stop, pull out one of your affirmations and say it to yourself with positive feeling.
- Meditate daily. The great sages teach us that meditation is the foremost balancing tool. When you meditate you turn your focus from the outside world, the objective or negative polarity, to the inside world, the subjective or positive polarity. For most people, sleep is the only time they turn inward. When you consider the hours you spend awake compared to those in sleep, you can begin to see just how serious an imbalance this is. There are many approaches to meditation. Find one that works for you and start slowly working your way up to an hour a day. The payoff is enormous.
With your new focus on balance, your life will begin to shift and so will your awareness of yourself as an essentially happy being. Over time you will also gain a sense of objectivity from the events of your daily life so that you no longer react but rather just observe them happening. With this greater awareness you will experience more joy, more contentment and more fulfillment. More and more you are recognizing your true nature as happiness. Getting to this place is an investment, and the payoff is well worth the time and effort it takes to achieve it.