What is Happiness?

What is Happiness?

Finding Happiness

Ever since I took a class on comparative religions in college, I’ve been fascinated with Buddhism and the concept of Nirvana. Simplistically, Nirvana is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the state of perfect happiness and peace in Buddhism where there is release from all forms of suffering.”

I always thought that was the ideal to try to achieve, but I wasn’t sure how to pursue it so the concept rested in the back of my mind where I would occasionally pull it out and think about it.

I’ve never met a living being who doesn’t wish for happiness. Even brand new babies and animals desire it. It’s been man’s primary desire since the beginning of time, and it’s with us all the time, even in our sleep.

The question then became, if everyone has been pursuing happiness forever, why is there more pain and suffering in the world than ever before? There had to be a better method for finding pure happiness and freedom from misery than just pursuing it.

That’s when I reached into the back of my mind for what I had learned years earlier about Buddhism. I decided to go to Thailand where I met with — and learned from — several Buddhist monks. That trip changed my worldview; and ever since I’ve been on the path to find Nirvana — which is no easy or small task.

Buddha delivered approximately 84,000 directions on how to train one’s mind to be happy and free from problems. Buddhists around the globe use those teachings as their guideposts to reveal the highest path to inner peace and happiness.

Controlling Your Mind

Buddhists believe that an uncontrolled mind is at the root of our problems and our unhappiness.

By engaging in the practice of dharma (following the teachings of Buddha), you can learn to control your mind. This in turn will help us discard non-virtuous actions and their underlying causes and put us on the path to finding permanent peace and happiness.

When I looked into studying dharma, I discovered that following it to the letter wasn’t for me since it required taking on the sufferings of all humanity — something I wasn’t prepared to do.

I chose to go a more moderate path to find happiness. For me, the starting point became realizing I have choices — whether they be in my personal or professional life.

Viktor E. Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning and a concentration camp survivor, penned, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing: your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” That is so true.

Years ago I created my “bucket list” of what I thought would make me happy: the trips I wanted to take, the art I wanted to own, the status I wanted to achieve — all things. Yes, those things made me happy — temporarily — but after getting most of the items on the list, I realized I was no closer to feeling inner peace, which had become my definition of true happiness.

Finding True Happiness

I fully realized this when my dad passed away. I was lucky to have been able to hold my dad in my arms as he died, and to bear witness to the look and feel of pure love he had for my mom and me.

I didn’t want my dad to die, but I was at peace with losing him in my daily life. That’s when I began to understand that the actual source of real happiness, the happiness that provides inner peace, is through love.

Here are the steps I’ve started taking on my journey to find happiness:

  1. Learn to be more present. As Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and translator for the Dalai Lama said, “…by fully inhabiting the present moment, we become conscious of the interplay of our emotions and desires and less at the mercy of events around us.”
  2. Kick my addiction to work. I was working 24/7 at the expense of my relationships with the people I love.
  3. Find employment or volunteer opportunities that excite me. Ones where I can make a real difference in people’s lives.
  4. Declutter your life and home. It was amazingly liberating! I held yard sales, donated things to charity and started spending more time doing things that gave me enjoyment. I also found I was no longer working for things, but for the enjoyment of it.
  5. Put things in the correct perspective. Realize waking up, seeing the sun rise, enjoying flowers as they open, or witnessing the discovery a child makes is miraculous.
  6. Learn how to express joy. A well-known Indian yogi, mystic, philanthropist and author, Jaggi Vasudev (better known as Sadhguru) said, “If you look back at your life and see, the most beautiful moments in life are moments when you are expressing your joy, not when you are seeking it.”
  7. Stop making comparisons between yourself and other people. I still have a way to go to live my life not depending on external situations, but in realizing the only validation I need is what I give myself.
  8. Laugh — a lot! Studies have shown that nothing works faster than a good laugh that brings your mind and body back into balance.

My journey, thus far, has been incredible. I feel better, look better and have enhanced my relationships with family, friends and clients.

Does it work 100 percent of the time? No — I’m a work in progress — but I’m on my way and will continue practicing and learning until the day I die!