June 27, 2010

Relative Happiness vs. Lasting Happiness

Life Detox.

Simplify and Seek Within.

Words like detox, purge and cleanse conjure up unpleasant thoughts of sacrifice, renunciation and withdrawal.

There’s often some discomfort associated with, and experienced throughout, the process of detoxifying. Whether it be physical, mental, or material, we cling to that which we believe to bring us happiness; however, not all that is gratifying produces lasting happiness.

“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life.

So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness…”

~ His Holiness Dalai Lama

Instant gratification fades fast.

Stripped down to the core, we innately desire ourselves and others to be happy. This desire is impatient, driving us to seek instant gratification—resulting in a relative happiness that’s reliant upon the external factors. The problem with anything ‘instant’ is that, generally, the speed in which it comes foreshadows the speed at which it exits. This sort of satisfaction offers only fleeting relief.

We have allowed ourselves to subscribe to a belief that power, money, status, and belongings bring happiness, even though we are well aware of their impermanent nature. These choices not only masquerade as happiness but add a set of stresses of their own.

The irony is, the more we look outside of ourselves for the easiest, fastest and most attractive way to be happy and not suffer, the less happy we become and the more we suffer. All these self-gratifying actions clutter our minds and life by forming habits and physical and material clutter.

Conversely, absolute happiness is the product of pure love and compassion for oneself and outward to the world. This kind of purity is manifested and cultivated only from within and is not dependent on external factors. The less chaos and confusion in one’s life, both physically and mentally, the more space that is available for the practices which lead to lasting happiness.

It is so simple to lose sight of what it is we really want or to even recognize what we were searching for initially. This culture depicts cars, technology (my weakness), food, sex,  etc. as that missing ingredient. The car ages, the technology goes obsolete, the food loses it’s appeal, and the sex becomes boring. On to the next purchase, or experience, while always looking ahead for something bigger and better. And so the cycle continues.

Buddhists call this cycle ‘samsara’. Even the word samsara, with the repetitive ‘a’ looks and sounds like a nasty, perpetual spiral. The cycle of succumbing to whatever avenue is the easiest way to appease our ego.

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”


Children wake up every morning with a clean slate, free from the worries and stresses of mental and material influences. The absence of these factors allows them to exist in a mindfully present state. They wake up with only two agendas: to be happy and to make sure everyone else is happy. I can’t tell you how many times a day my boys ask  “mommy, are you happy?” with honest concern written on their faces. Conduits of pure love and compassion. Until the ego steps in and decides to complicate that clear view, they are still in touch with the foundation of absolute happiness.

“Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify.”

~ Henry Thoreau

Ah, now words like purging, cleansing, detoxifying, and purifying don’t sound so bad, do they?

I am in the midst of retraining my brain. Armed with mental alarms, I pause to question my intention when the desire for empty gratification arises. I ask myself questions like:

Will that happiness last?

What will the end result of this choice bring beyond short lived gratification?

The answers are usually ‘fleeting gratification resulting in mental and/or material clutter.’ There it is… leading me in the wrong direction.

Simplify. Perform a life audit. What side-tracts, distracts, and blocks your view from pervasive, internally manifested, independent happiness?

I started by cleaning out drawers and closets then donating the items to charity. The less belongings I had, the less I had to worry about. Beyond material possessions, drama and worry also takes up massive mental energy. Beginning to convince my mind that these were useless drains in my life has been invaluable.

“… you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it.  If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.”

~ His Holiness Dalai Lama

Tackling these daily hurdles has enabled me to become more present and mindful, expand my compassion and loving-kindness practice and free up more time for meditation. All three practices are paths leading in the right direction.

“The happiness we seek can be attained only through the purification of our minds.”

~ His Holiness Dalai Lama

As children, we knew what was most important. Somewhere along the way we get distracted and lose the vision. Happiness, loving-kindness and compassion are at our core, cultivated purely within ourselves. Clear the distraction of clutter, purge the misguiding desires, and detox the ego’s delusions. Grant yourself the room to think, the space to feel, and a clean perspective free from the illusion of relative happiness.  Simplify and seek within.

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