When we're not happy, do you believe it's because we "think" we know what happiness is? The short answer from Vedic psychology
Happiness. It is the No. 1 thing we all want. The constitution of the United States institutionalizes our protected right to pursue it. But what exactly is it? Someone once told me they'd found happiness. I honestly didn't know it was ever lost.
Is happiness attainable by discovery? Is it at a geographic location? Maybe it's a state.Yes, people often dream of living in a state of happiness. But no one seems to permanently reside there. Sounds a lot like Florida, but I know it is not one of the 50. So maybe it's more like Guam or Puerto Rico. I sure hope it's got a tropical climate, complete with frou-frou drinks adorned with cute colorful little umbrellas. Oh, and no income tax.
Maybe, as so many imply, happiness can be bought. Or, Aha! Moment -- it's a pharmaceutical. Nope, that's ecstasy. And in the "other" drug world, the H word is already taken by heroin. Of course, that happiness has a pretty short shelf-life and an extremely expensive price tag ~ your soul. But like shopping, it does seem to make some people happy, at least until the high wears off.
Hmm, makes someone happy? Isn't that forcing something on someone? Babies are happy; no one seems to be forcing anything on them. They just simply appear to embody happiness.
I hate to admit it, but I think we failed to even define "happiness". If we don't know what it is, maybe we should see what it isn't. Happiness is not what you think it is.
No. Literally, happiness is not a mental function; it is not what you think.
People who experience severe forms of mental developmental challenges are mostly happy, playful and in the present moment. Proof positive that what you think will not insure happiness.
If intellectual prowess equated to happiness, then every rocket scientist and brain surgeon would be deliriously ecstatic. And it would follow that the greater one excelled in the mental thought process, the happier one became; the world's eggheads would be known Universally for their mirth and happy-go-lucky contagious personalities.
Thinking has so little to do with happiness, that you can be thinking about how you have to lose weight, pick up your children from school, organize your tax records and still be happy! Impossible you say? Not really.
Vedic psychology says that happiness and enlightenment have something in common: being in the present moment with an open heart, and not having a problem with it. Being with "what is" and not judging it, not resisting it; dwelling in it from an open-hearted place, not from intellectual posturing.
Let's go back for a moment to people who are severely challenged due to mental developmental issues. A friend was recently sharing with me about his daughter who is sixteen. At the time of her birth, doctors told him that she would not live very long. A severe medical complication would not allow her to develop any mental capacity beyond that of a three or four month old baby.
My friend is always telling me about how incredibly happy his daughter is ~ always smiling, laughing, just in the moment. She never projects off into the future or gets stuck in a past event, unable to experience the present moment freely. She never has an attachment to any outcome. She does not experience life through the "should have," "could have," "would have" or "better have" filter. My friend tells me that without his daughter, he would never have seen the face of genuine happiness. She is the ultimate happiness teacher ultimate happiness teacher, unconditional in her relationship with it.
Does what we give our attention to affect our emotions? Absolutely! That is clear and self-evident by anyone with a nervous system. Anyone who has ever spent more than five minutes worrying about anything can vouch for that. So how can one be giving their attention to the reality that they need to lose weight, pick up Rover's aromatic calling card in the back yard, organize their tax records and still be happy?
If you are aware of all these things while being in the present moment with an open heart, you have discovered the pivotal element. When in the present moment with an open heart, you are accepting of the place you presently find yourself standing. There is no judgment, no flogging or rejection of yourself for how you got there, merely an acceptance of "what is" that frees you to now respond to what is in your best interest.
"Okay, it would serve me to lose a few pounds. I can do that. I got myself here, I can get myself to where I need to be." No whining, no gnashing of teeth, or screaming banshee cries of the pain that originates from denying oneself the joy of empty calories; simply accepting "what is" in ones own best interest, because there is no other agenda or dysfunctional focus.
Another friend of mine was sharing with me her daily ritual of retrieving her dog Duke's recycled food products. She was telling me that since her father's death, every time she scoured the backyard for canine-deposited land mines, she dropped into her heart and thanked God that Duke, her beloved golden retriever, was alive and healthy.
She was giving her attention to getting the job done, but it was happening from a heart-felt place grounded in the present moment.
I was in a car accident, and it took me nearly a decade to fully recover. For years I could not work, make money or think as clearly as I had before. Now, every time I sit down to organize my tax records, I am just happy to be working again. I am thrilled to be able to carry out simple tasks without anguishing frustration. I am grateful beyond measure to be able to make enough income that I have to now file a 1040. What I have learned from my friends, and from my own life, is that happiness can be unconditional.
If happiness seems a rare or foreign event in your life now, it is simply because being in the present moment and not having a problem with it, is not the attitude you have the most practice at. Consider how much of your attention is consumed with worrying about bills, what body parts are sagging, what tattooed, body-pierced prize your teenager will be dating next.
Imagine how different your life would feel if you practiced not having a problem with the present moment to the same degree that you have practiced blaming the present moment for delivering something that you are dissatisfied with.
Clearly there is a connection with having a problem with the present moment and being tense, angry, anxious, depressed, and lonely. Even though having a problem with the present moment has never solved a single problem, or improved the quality of our lives one iota, it is perversely ironic how we cling to the practice of it. We stubbornly hold a grudge, clutching it against our breast as if it were our firstborn.
Vedic psychology says that it is the ego part of our consciousness that literally "hates" the present moment, because it sees the present moment through this blaming filter. Every time you find yourself projecting off into the future, or reliving something from the past, you are experiencing the ego's subtle hatred for the present moment, by distracting your awareness away from it. Enlightenment, the process of freeing our minds from any limitation, does not happen in the past or the future; it happens in the present moment. That is why it is essential to practice being here now.
The added perk to being in the present moment with an open heart is that the tyranny of the ego loses its power in that state. The ego needs some source of unhappiness in order maintain its hold over the human mind. The ego likes to be the master of our lives, pushing us around emotionally. The ego strives to makes us the servant, training us to serve it by constantly surrendering our attention to things in the present moment that we can find fault with. When we practice accepting the present moment as it is, we are in actuality cutting the ego off from its biggest food source, and forcing it back into the servant role it is designed to have.
What if we had nothing to lose but our relationship with and perpetuation of unhappiness; if we released the death grip we have on finding fault with the present moment? What if we chose to practice being deeply and profoundly loyal to an infinitely more life- sustaining attitude? What if a more sensual, enjoyable and healthier existence could be obtained by simply choosing to relate to this moment with an open heart, instead of a toxic opinion?
And thus my friends, the H Word is the best (needless to say cost effective) gift to give any mother this Mother's Day.
Vaishali, author of You Are What You Love