The Dalai Lama, when once asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered:
Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die and then dies having never really lived.
One phrase captured my attention: "never having really lived."
Most of us seek happiness to feel we've lived our lives. It's one of the most sought after states, most spoken about and still remains one of the vaguest ones.
What is happiness?
Recently, I attended an event where the "happiest man in the world," Matthieu Ricard, was to speak on the habits of happiness. Matthieu is a French Buddhist monk who resides at Shechen Tennyi Dargyeling Monastery in Nepal. Born in Aix-les-Bains, Savoie, France, he is the son of the late Jean-François Revel (born Jean-François Ricard), a renowned French philosopher, and grew up among the personalities and ideas of French intellectual circles. He first traveled to India in 1967. He worked for a Ph.D. degree in molecular genetics at the Institute Pasteur. After completing his doctoral thesis in 1972, Ricard decided to forsake his scientific career and concentrate on the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.
He has been dubbed the "happiest person in the world" by popular media. Matthieu Ricard was a volunteer subject in a study performed at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, on happiness, scoring significantly beyond the average obtained after testing hundreds of other volunteers.
This article outlines his ideas, amalgamated with mine.
Imagine a mirror. A smiling child comes and stands in front of it. The mirror reflects the child's face. If the same child, now with a frown, comes and stands in front of the mirror, the reflection is still true to its nature -- this time it's a frowning child.
Same is the case with our consciousness, which lies deep within other layers of the temporary states. The top layer, as I imagine, is of transient states like pleasure, pain, depression, jealousy, anger and so on. The lower-most layer is a static state which is really our consciousness, our mirror.
Most of us tend to confuse pleasure and happiness. Matthieu Ricard puts this point brilliantly. Imagine a piece of chocolate cake served to you. While taking the first bite of the first portion, you feel pleasure. Your senses are rejuvenated and you feel -- no matter how temporarily -- content. Next, you take another big bite. More content (although is there anything like more content? Content is just that, isn't it?).
What happens after you've had three or four portions? You start to feel disgust toward the same cake you earlier craved. This is the nature of all things temporary. The emotions, the states are transient. They pass on like a bird flying through the sky leaving no trail behind it.
This, in other words, is pleasure. Pleasure is temporary, happiness can be the platform on which pleasure, and other states both negative and positive, are based. In other words, our consciousness is that mirror which reflects all the passing feelings we experience, just like the face of the watcher in the mirror is ugly, happy, sad or beautiful.
This consciousness can be molded, with mind training, into that of happiness. But how do we do that? In my book "The Point of Power," I go into some detail and provide mental exercises to get to your point of power. To quiet your mind and become present. Once here I suggest that you observe your thoughts; set an intention, declare a behavior in alignment with said intention, and detach in order to manifest. I go into more detail why all three points must be achieved while the mind is in the present moment. Another objective for this mental exercise can be to transition mental and physical states by becoming present and simply noticing your state.
Observe the transient states. Look at anger, for example, and see it dissolve if you keep looking at it. Look at jealousy, and it will be gone once you practice this "looking."
Some call this meditation. Indeed, meditation is training the mind in new ways which were hidden from us. Those who meditate focused on loving kindness have shown to have their left pre-frontal cortex as more active. In other words, people with the right pre-frontal cortex as more active tend to stay depressed, melancholic and generally express a negative overall state of mind.
Those with the left side active seem as though they have just come out of a comedy show, or played with a toddler. It's the effect of mindfulness and meditation on the brain. These results are tested on Buddhist monks who meditated for thousands of hours and then returned to the labs to be tested.
Reflect on the quote at the start of this article. Isn't it a cycle of suffering we form for ourselves? Although money, health and pleasures make us happy, why is it that this "happiness" is so short-lasted? Perhaps, we need to work on the canvas on which all this is painted? Maybe we need to look at the platform of our consciousness itself and convert it into that of happiness?
We spend years and years of effort toward our education, in getting fit, striving for a fantastic career, earning money and looking beautiful.
However, how many of us spend that kind of effort in training the mind the habits of happiness? I leave you with this staggering question which Matthieu asked all of us at the event that day.
What's your answer? Have you developed the habit of happiness?
Peter Baksa has written "The Point of Power" and "It's None of My Business What You Think Of Me!" which both are available now on Amazon on Paperback and Kindle. Peter has two additional books ready to launch soon which all will be for sale on Amazon as well. They are "Think Yourself Young," which will include interviews with Tibetan Monks from earlier this spring at the Lama Temple in Beijing China, and the fourth Book "The Faith Wave: I think therefore it is" which will be released in Jan 2012.
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