What is Happiness Anyway?
Updated: Aug 25, 2019
A thought provoking question regarding happiness was asked of me recently. “Everybody’s talking about happiness, how to get it and why you need it, but does anybody even know what it actually is?” Of course we know what happiness is, right? I mean, we’ve spent our whole lives in its quest. It is…it is…
I spent the greater portion of a day coming up with answers which invariably fell short in one capacity or another. In my musings I uncovered what I believe are the three synergistic components which create the elusive state that we refer to as “happiness”. Popular cultural, psychological, and spiritual models are invariably deficient when defining, and thus creating a pathway that leads to, happiness. Each system addresses a singular component of the triple faceted state of consciousness that we spend our lives seeking. Their collective sum appears to be the magic formula.
Pleasure occurs when our physical needs are met and our body is operating at optimal capacity. We experience pleasure in the forms of health, vitality, energy, and good feelings in the body. Pleasure is touted as the be all and end all of happiness by pop-culture. We can achieve pleasure constructively, in a way that contributes toward our longevity, through life enhancing food, exercise, massage, or intimate relationships. We can also experience pleasure destructively, in ways that causes damage to our body, through drugs, alcohol, and additions of all kinds…Either way, the experience of pleasure is a chronic cycle. Pleasure-absence-repeat. Pleasure-absence-repeat. In its constructive form pleasure is a vessel of divinity. Yet, this dimension of consciousness alone cannot bring about lasting happiness simply because it never lasts.
Connection is the synergistic experience of emotionally caring for and being cared for by another. Humans are social creatures. We are designed to connect with others. Poetry, art, music, and literature throughout the ages have emphasized the importance of connection. Scientific research bears out its value, proving time and time again that individuals with meaningful relationships live longer, healthier, and more fulfilled lives. It is through our relationships that we are able to express our intrinsic self, receive validation for who we are, and grow into the fullness of our potential. Yet, though connection may fill our hearts, it cannot fill our bellies (nor our souls). The Beatles may have been onto something when they said, “All you need is love” but I wonder if they would have sung the same song if they were really hungry or tired.
Peace arises when the mind is undisturbed. It is said that yoga is the “cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” In other words, it is a pathway to peace. Yet, there are many such paths. Some are religious. Others are spiritual. A few are both. All require discipline of the mind and devotion of the heart. Discipline (known as tapas in Sanskrit) is the precursor to a quiet mind. Devotion to Spirit (you may call it God, Higher Power, or the Universe) is a return of the individualized ego to its source. When our quiet mind connects to Spirit we experience tranquility. Saints throughout the ages have referred to this tranquility as the “peace that surpasses all understanding,” meaning that it trumps outer circumstances.
If there is a magic recipe that creates happiness, it undoubtedly contains the three ingredients of pleasure, connection, and peace. The more peace you pour in, the less of the other ingredients you have to use. Yet, they are still required. The next few blog posts will address each component separately and include individualized action steps. In the meantime, a few things you can begin to integrate right now include the following:
-Eat whole, organic foods suited to your mind-body constitution
-Spend an hour daily in leisure with your friends and/or family
-Meditate every single day (no exceptions)
These simple techniques can change your life. Lao Tzu, the sixth century Chinese philosopher, taught that simplicity is one of the greatest treasures. So, don’t make it complicated. Start with the four suggestions above. If you already do those things, refine your practice of them. Keep it simple…but do it. I promise you’ll be happier!