Are you happy?
If you need more than two seconds to answer it, we need to talk!
For many people, happiness is the end-all of the meaning of life; that rare and beautiful thing that they long for more than anything.
But what kind of “happy” are you?
When people talk about “happiness”, there can be more than a few things we are really talking about.
The most common way of describing happiness is “feeling good”.
This relates to a type of happiness called hedonistic, which is based on the seeking of pleasure while avoiding pain. Hedonism can be the easiest kind of happiness to conceptualize. Just chase pleasures while running away from pain as fast as you can. It is a common approach to happiness but it is not the only way to be happy and it might not work in the long run.
Another type of happiness, for example, is called Eudaimonic happiness and it means “human flourishing”.
This happiness is based on the idea of having a worthwhile life rather than a pleasant one.
The idea goes back to Socrates, who argued that living a virtuous life would assure a good life. This idea was also the foundation of Aristotle’s ethics.
More recently, this ancient idea was given a reboot by Abraham Maslow and his theory of the hierarchy of human needs.
The theory describes human needs as part of a pyramid that has at the apex of the pyramid, self-actualization as the way to fulfill the human potential and a life lived to the fullest.
Living an eudaimonic life requires lifetime dedication and perseverance to learning what your potentials and how to truly achieve them.
Like the American psychologist, Carl Rogers said, “The good life is a process, not a state of being.”
Eudaimonic happiness is also central to Buddhist philosophy. After 2,000 years of practice, Buddhist monks know that one secret to happiness is to put your mind to it.
The paths we take in search of happiness often lead us to frustration and suffering instead. We try to create outer conditions that we believe will make us happy. But it is the mind itself that translates outer conditions into happiness or suffering. It is all our perception.
How can we practice happiness in the face of everyday life stress?
Research is showing more and more, that authentic happiness is more a way of being and a skill to cultivate through mindfulness and contemplative practices like meditation.
Practicing meditation and mindfulness is like a gym for your brain.
When we first begin, the mind is vulnerable and untamed, like that of a monkey or a restless child.
But if you follow through and exercise (in this case, your brain) every single day, pretty soon you’ll see results.
Psychologist and science journalist Daniel Goleman says that meditation truly leads you to an “altered state” similar to drugs, but more positive and lasting longer. He calls this an “altered trait.”
Meditation does to the brain the opposite of stress in that with meditation, you can repair and reshape your brain for positivity and growth.
Beginning is not difficult. You just have to sit from time to time, turn your mind within, and let your thoughts calm down.
Focus your attention on a chosen object in your room, on your breath, or on your mind.
Try to stay in the present moment.
The past is gone, the future is not yet born.
Science shows that those who meditate regularly can transform the very content of their minds.
The end goal is to gain inner peace, inner strength, and altruistic love.
The latest scientific research on meditation revealed that compassion and forgiveness meditation are the most powerful and evidence-based practices.
Developing compassion and a propensity toward altruistic behavior can help us to navigate life’s inner and outer storms with more awareness.
Awareness comes through practicing mindfulness. Compassion allows you to meet yourself and life with kindness, care, and responsiveness.
Forgiveness meditation is the other powerful practice to unleash the hidden power of your mind.
You can use the forgiveness meditation practice that you can find in my free audio-training.
Just as you can learn to deal with negative thoughts, you can learn to cultivate and enhance positive ones.
To be filled with love and kindness brings about an optimal way of being.
This altruistic approach to life is based on an understanding of the interdependence of all beings and of their natural aspiration to happiness.
So, while helping others may not always be “pleasant,” it leads the mind to a sense of inner peace, courage, and harmony that we all will benefit from.
If you cultivate these mental skills, after a while you won’t need to apply many efforts in dealing with the sudden arising of emotions in your mind.
The Dalai Lama often says that, although there are limits to our physical performance, how much information one can learn, and how much wealth one can enjoy, compassion and forgiveness can be developed boundlessly.
So I encourage you to find your practice to develop a compassionate mind and practice, practice, practice!
Your brain will thank you and you will experience authentic happiness!