THE ART OF HAPPINESS
A. The Right to Happiness
The Purpose of Life
• The very purpose of our lives is to seek happiness, so the very motion of life is towards happiness.
• Happiness can be achieved through the training of the mind. This includes your intellect and feeling.
• By bringing about a certain inner discipline, we can undergo a transformation of our attitude, our entire outlook and approach to living based on our intellect, feeling, heart and mind.
• First we begin by identifying factors which lead to happiness and those leading to suffering then we gradually eliminate those leading to suffering & cultivate those leading to happiness.
• Personal happiness can manifest as a simple willingness to reach out to others. Happy people are generally found to be open minded, selfless, more sociable, flexible, creative, more loving & tolerant as opposed to unhappy people.
B. The Sources of Happiness
i) The Comparing Mind
• Happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than external events or possessions. Success may result in a temporary feeling of elation but before long our overall level of happiness goes back to a certain baseline. (Psychologists call this process adaptation).
• Our moment to moment happiness is largely determined by our outlook, how we perceive the world, others, our situations or how satisfied we are with what we have, where and how we are.
• Our feelings of contentment are strongly influenced by our tendency to compare, comparing our present with past as well as ourselves with others.
• One’s level of life’s satisfaction can simply be enhanced by shifting one’s perspective and contemplating how things could be worse.
• As long as there is lack of inner discipline that brings the calmness of mind, no matter what external facilities or conditions you have, they will never give you the feeling of joy and happiness.
ii) Inner Contentment
• Inner contentment is driven by desire. There are two kinds of desire; positive & negative/unreasonable desires.
• The difference between positive & negative desire is not whether it gives you an immediate feeling of satisfaction but whether it ultimately results in positive or negative consequences.
iii) Inner Worth
• You can relate with other people because you share a bond of being human within the human community. This bond is enough to give rise to a sense of worth & dignity
• Without the feeling of affection and connection with other fellow human beings, life can become difficult.
• Let your inner worth not only be material but anchored in the value of your potential to relate with others generating a sense of dignity.
C. Training the Mind for Happiness
i) The Path to Happiness
• The mind is the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness. Be conscious of your state of mind.
• The first step is learning. Learn the harm of negative emotions & thoughts as well as the usefulness of positive emotions & thoughts.
• Then work on getting rid of the negative emotions & thoughts as you cultivate the positive emotions & thoughts.
• If you cultivate & maintain a feeling of compassion & loving kindness then something automatically opens your inner door to communicate much more easily with other people. This creates a spirit of friendship.
ii) Mental Discipline
• Always identify & cultivate positive mental states while you eliminate negative mental states.
• Achieving genuine happiness may require bringing about a transformation in your way of thinking.
• Every day as you get up, purpose to develop a sincere positive thinking then as you go to bed ask yourself whether your mental state was as planned for the day. Critically look at the day & work on your flaws.
iii) Ethical Discipline
• Always perform wholesome actions (positive behaviors) & avoid indulging in unwholesome actions (negative behaviors).
• Changing how we perceive ourselves through learning & understanding can have a real impact on how we interact with others.
• The more sophisticated the level of our knowledge is, the more effective we will be in dealing with the natural world.
• We also need the ability to judge & measure the consequences of our behaviors, whether positive or negative.
D. Overcoming Obstacles
i) The Process of Change
• Learning is only the first approach to bringing about positive changes within oneself. This is followed by conviction, determination, action then effort.
• Great enthusiasm should then be developed to ensure that the above process is successful. Enthusiasm can be developed by constantly being aware of the destructive effects of that which you hope to change.
• Through constant familiarity, we can definitely establish new behavior patterns.
• When encountered by various obstacles in your quest to bring change, always stand back & consider the long-term view rather than the short-term view.
• If you feel like giving up hope, viewing the situation from a wider perspective can also be of great help.
• In facilitating change, human motivation is based on primary motives derived from biological needs & secondary motives derived from learned needs & drives.
ii) Realistic Expectations
• It’s always important to set reasonable expectations in order to achieve our true potential.
• Never lose sight of the importance of having a realistic attitude of being sensitive and respectful to the concrete reality of your situation as you proceed on the path towards your ultimate goal.
• Make a clear distinction between your ideals & the standards by which you judge your progress.
• It always makes sense when you criticize yourself. Having a self-to-self talk helps in seeking to identify & eliminate certain negative aspects of yourself as you enhance positive traits.
iii) Building Self Esteem
• A healthy sense of self confidence is a critical factor in achieving our goals. Low self-confidence limits our efforts to progress while inflated self-confidence can be equally hazardous.
• Fear & anxiety can be major obstacles to achieving our goals. Fears may be based on our own mental projections.
• You therefore need to reason out whether there is a valid basis for your fear or not.
• Cultivate a thought that if the situation has a solution & can be remedied, then there is no cause for worry. If there is no solution & it can’t be saved, then still there is no reason to worry over it.
• Reflecting on the diversity of disciplines that you may have knowledge of may help in boosting self-confidence.
• However dishonesty is one of the quickest ways of destroying self-confidence.
• So long as we know and maintain an awareness that we have this marvelous gift of human intelligence, & a capacity to develop determination and use it in positive ways, this realization can act as a built-in mechanism that allows us to deal with any difficulty no matter what situation we are facing.