Arriving Home :: Four Ways To Unconditional Happiness
What many of us want in life is to feel better and, more specifically, happier. To some degree us human beings are always pursuing happiness. We spend time with people who make us feel good. We engage in activities and behaviors that give us an experience of pleasantness. Much of our lives is about building external realities and environments we think will bring us happiness or increase our levels of fulfillment. Subconsciously or consciously, we are architects of happiness - driven by the the desire to be happy.
Spiritual practices give us a direct opportunity to work on our happiness or more like our relationship to happiness. Through introspection, reflection and awareness, we get to understand more deeply what makes us happy and what true happiness really is. One of the main insights from my years of practice has been around this very dance with happiness. Well into my own spiritual path and daily practice, I found myself meeting and re-meeting the illusions I had been living with on what I thought would allow me to feel happier. As practitioners, the ego can become even more subtle and deceptive, making it harder to see where we are caught in the pursuit of happiness, instead of letting there simply be happiness in our lives within the current conditions.
I have found that some of my deepest insights on happiness have come in the moments where outwardly, I thought there was no way I could feel good or happy in that moment. When life was dark, emotional, falling apart on the outside - those times when you think there is no way happiness could be present. This is where all of the training we do in meditation and in our spiritual practices shows up to teach us happiness is still there, even more profoundly and strongly than before. We just have to be receptive and aware enough to recognize it.
Where To Find Happiness
A practice like meditation teaches you that there is a natural sense of wellbeing or a fundamental okay-ness always available to you just below the surface of everyday thinking and doing. When focused upon, you begin to realize not only are you okay and have the capacity to find rest in this natural wellbeing, but inherently within the okay-ness there is happiness there too. Mindfulness gives you the ability to see the happiness, understand it and connect to it regardless of what is happening externally.
How? Mindfulness, or Vipassana, is the practice of learning to see things clearly. If done correctly, this also gives you insight into the nature of reality, reminding you that all circumstances, experiences and environments are in a constant state of change or impermanence. We see this particularly when it comes to our moods and emotions. A bad or sour mood is usually changed by something good happening that counterbalances the bad mood. You receive a compliment, someone makes you laugh, something perceivably good happens. Your mood changes, it lifts even slightly. Seeing our moment-to-moment experiences clearly leads us to the understanding that happiness is not hinged on outer-happenings or inner-happenings like moods. Since these are impermanent, we can see them change, while seeing the underlying okay-ness or happiness also there.
Upon further investigation, this fundamental okay-ness is also true happiness presenting itself often through the form of feeling resilient, content or centered - even when things are not okay. Deep down, intrinsically we know we are still okay and can choose to connect to the happiness (i.e. contentment) also there.
When life feels like it isn’t going well, when I am sad or in despair after an overwhelming day. In the midst of the darkness, the light, ease and contentment become even clearer to spot, because we’ve learned that once we pause and look - happiness is still there.
The best ways to see happiness despite your external circumstances are to:
Rest your attention in your breath or your heart and connect to the fundamental okay-ness that is always around you.
Think of something that is working or going well in your life. Even if it is as simple and minimal as that one breath you just experienced, or that you have support or success in some small way.
Notice the good through practicing a moment of gratitude and appreciation for what you do have.
Let yourself be held by the resilience, strength, contentment and okay-ness for a few moments and notice how you begin to feel a little bit better.
By doing any of these practices, you automatically are letting go of the pursuit of happiness and realizing what you do have, what is supporting you, and that beneath it all - you are okay. The habitual architecting stops for a moment and you rest in the healing qualities of this present moment, you are reminded of this natural sense of wellbeing and that no matter what, happiness is there - even when you least expect it.