The pursuit of happiness is a kind of materialistic mantra of today’s world.
Materially, if we have a cycle, we want a scooter, if we have a scooter, we want a car. When we get a car, we want a bigger one. The list is endless.
And so is the pursuit.
Social Status wise, the moment we get a promotion, we begin running after the next one. A good pay raise is good only if nobody else has got a higher one. We are eying a separate cabin and privacy if the other guy has one. Again, the list is endless.
And so is the pursuit.
Emotionally and relationships wise, we evaluate successful relationships on the basis of how many visits, how many phone calls, how many invitations one gets and gives. We try to create a perfect family of always smiling people around us, and are disappointed if things are not picture perfect. Yet again, the list is endless.
And so is the pursuit.
Truth be told…the “pursuit of happiness” is a strange term. Like many phrases, we repeat it mechanically but it makes no sense whatsoever.
Happiness just IS! It is not an object or person that can be pursued.
In fact, perhaps it is this very phrase “the pursuit of happiness” that is often the seed of much discontent and unhappiness.
As we continue our march towards greater economic prosperity, our happiness doesn’t seem to be increasing. In fact, we find ourselves more discontented and unhappy. The pursuit of acquisition, status, image, and rewards has become the dominant part of our pursuit of happiness. Non-material values like personal growth, caring, trust, respect in our relationships, and community connections seem to have taken a backseat. It is time for us to realize the futility of pursuing one set of goals to the exclusion of the other, and that the pursuit of happiness is about pursuing both sets of needs, and maintaining a healthy relationship between them. When our intrinsic and extrinsic pursuits are balanced, we can realistically look forward to a happier tomorrow.
Happiness is not determined by what we have and own , but also by our knowledge, our living skills and our imagination: by being, not having. Compassion and co-operation are as important to achieving happiness as competition. And developing our minds could be the key to all of these changes.
Questions like ‘How do I know when I have enough?’, ‘How can I make sure others have their share too?’ and so on. We need to find a way to incorporate our intrinsic needs and goals into the very definition of what it means to be successful and happy.
What is our Soul’s Natural State?
Its true that we are sometimes not too happy. We might be in circumstances we are not entirely comfortable with. However, this is no reason to stay unhappy. We have to find a solution to the issue. The problem is that very often, there is no real reason, and yet, we are filled with angst. So, what should we do?
While we wander frantically pursuing happiness, we must remember that happiness is the soul’s natural state. We were meant to be always happy. If we cant breathe properly, we would probably see a doctor. In a similar way, if we are not happy, particularly if we cannot understand any clear reason for our state of unhappiness, we should probably see what the doctors of the ‘soul’ have to say about our state. These doctors are available aplenty in life and in all wisdom traditions, be it in the form of folklore and stories, injunctions and guidelines for living and even religious scriptures….sources are endless.
Compassion and Empathy Make Me Happy-
The fact that I am able to bring happiness to others makes me immensely happy. To me happiness has always been in giving and doing for others: my family, my friends…the help you can give, the smile you can share, the shoulder you can lend.Loud sing-alongs of children, people bustling about purposefully, and neighbours pitching in to help are everyday happenings…and everyday Happinesses.
As you move along, you reach the stage where you are able to reach out beyond your realm. You can be content with yourself within your world; share some of what you have, bring smiles on unknown faces and hope to those who have none. And strangely it is you who feels rewarded.
All Spiritual Masters have pointed out to us the wisdom of shifting the focus from oneself to the other to be truly happy. Albert Schweitzer said ages ago, “I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.” Likewise, the Dalai Lama says today, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Compassion needs to blossom. For compassion to blossom, one must empathize. Its an essential life skill, the importance of which cannot be overstated.
Many simple people of India are tuned into the wisdom of contentment. “I earn enough to provide for my family. Isn’t this more than enough?” the auto-driver who brought me home, had responded when I asked him what he felt about the impending increase in auto fares. He did not take a penny more than the meter fare, though I knew there had been a lot of delay due to the traffic jam, saying that it would be ‘haraam ki kamai’ (an illegal earning). “I am able to sleep peacefully every day following these simple rules of life,” he said wisely. Hence, contentment is absolutely essential to remain happy no matter what your situation.
Acceptance is often confused with fatalism, when actually, it is totally different. Acceptance is an appreciative look at what life still has to offer to us. IN complete acceptance lies the trigger to greater growth. This is true in serious issues as well as existential day-to-day ones. While most of us crib about our bad luck whenever something goes wrong, some enterprising souls choose to look at the brighter side. Essentially, as long as we fight with life, it seems to be an enemy to be conquered. The moment we befriend it, and go with it on its ups and downs, life becomes much easier, and we become much happier.
Sometimes a relationship dares to break free of all bonds of convention and tradition, resting snugly in the purity of loving hearts. It would help all of us to remember that our life is not defined by our job, our wealth, or possessions, but by our valuable relationships, which are our true assets. But, we also need to keep in mind that relationships can cause us pain, if bridled with expectations. We should have the grace to accept that like life, relationships too go through several phases, each of which could make different demands on us. Acceptance and Love can make any relationship constantly happy.
Interests and Hobbies
We have many gizmos, many options for entertainment today, but very often, these become yet another source of dissatisfaction or boredom. Why? Cause we miss the crucial factor for a complete life – passion. If we haven’t already done so, it is time to begin. Whatever our age, we can surely rediscover the spark that interests and inspires us.
I remember the time I tried to chase a butterfly as a child. Try as I might, I could not hold it. When I gave up and started playing elsewhere, it came closer and sat on my shoulder. Such is the case with happiness.
It’s high time, then, that we move away from pursuing happiness to just being happy.
How to just Be Happy?
- Be content with what you have
- Be present in the current moment; don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future
- Cultivate compassion and empathy; try to contribute meaningfully to the happiness of others
- Do not try too hard at being happy; just accept the current moment for what it is
- Nurture relationships with love
- Accept what life brings you
- Explore your interests, rekindle your passions. Its never too late.
- Infuse Love in all that you do.
Now its your turn…What are the things in your life that keep you happy? Care to share your happiness in the comments below?