As a starting point, I think it's safe to say everyone is seeking happiness. But what exactly will bring us lasting happiness or as I would call "joy" ? How do we go about finding it? That's where the views start diverging.
What I find troubling about some LOA (Law of attraction) perspectives is the advice to pursue whatever "feels good." I was re-reading my own book "The Point Of Power" and I noticed that I used a similar descriptive. I now realize how this wording can be severely misconstrued inaccurately. The wildly popular movie "The Secret" goes so far as to say anything we think will make us feel good is fair game -- a million dollars, a dream house, a sexy red sports car. It goes on to imply that each of us has some sort of supernatural power to make the world do our bidding, suggesting that we each are the center of the universe. It also implies that spiritual growth is all about fun, lightness, and pleasure as we jump from one blissful experience to the next.
Let's bring this all back down to earth. In my experience, what "feels good" is a pretty faulty indicator of what's in our best interest. All we need to do is remember the last time we indulged in a gallon of ice cream or six shots of Don Julio Anejo tequila to know that. And I'm sure we've all experienced what usually happens after we get that one thing we wanted so much. The grass quickly starts looking greener on the other side.
Lau Tzu (founder of Taoism) posits that self-discipline is the back bone of self respect. I have run 3-5 miles per day followed by a swim and weight workout beginning at the age of 14 through today. There is nothing more joyful then feeling great about your body's condition yet the path does not necessarily feel all that great some days. Having built several companies from scratch myself; I have felt the exhilaration of seeing quantifiable success from one's effort. In music, writing my books and art (painting in oil), I have achieved a level of flow where time is no longer a part of my existence and the purest form of joy can be found. I write about flow in some detail in my book, "The Point of Power," citing the life long research of Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
The Buddha's advice
So how do we go about pursuing happiness? The Buddha gave us another of his famous lists to help us with this. He advised us to look for things that are conducive to dispassion, detachment, a decrease in worldly goods, frugality, contentment, solitude, energy, and delight in good.
So let me unpack this a bit. In the context of LOA, I would very loosely interpret his criteria to mean something like this:
Dispassion and detachment: Does the thing we want fan our small-minded emotions and self-centered desires? If so, it won't lead to happiness. This isn't a matter of good or bad, right or wrong. It's simply because we aren't the center of the universe, and living with that incorrect assumption will inevitably smack the unhappy truth right into our faces.
Decrease in worldly goods and frugality: Are we expecting worldly goods and money to create happiness for us? If so, think again. As above, this isn't so much a moral issue, but the simple truth that everything changes. What was once a source of happiness will inevitably fade away, again smacking the truth in our faces.
Contentment and solitude: Does it lead to superficiality and distraction? If so, look elsewhere. What's implied by the advice to turn away from these genres of life experience is the truth that nothing outside ourselves is a reliable source of happiness. We need to find the courage and quietude to look within. When we abide in the stillness of the present moment, we're at our place of greatest potential and creativity. Free of self-indulgent thoughts, free of fear or wanting. Completely aware of and open to what is. Think about it. It's the only place from which we can move forward productively. And that open-mindedness is the most pragmatically positive frame of mind with which to do it. Our point of power is the most direct link we have with the same energy that creates worlds. The point of power is in the present moment. We have to clear all thoughts of past or future to get to our point of power and harness the same source energy that creates worlds from nothingness.
Energy and delight in good: Does it energize us and give rise to a deep sense of goodness in our innermost heart? This is really the ultimate test. Looking forward, if we put our energy and intentions into being a positive influence in the world, our positive energy will reflect back to us and snowball. We'll know we're on the right track because our happiness grows.
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"The Point of Power", available now on Amazon. He is also the author of "It's None of My Business What You Think of Me!: If You Want to Change Your Life ... Change the Way You Are Looking at It". His website is peterbaksa.com.
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