There is no way to happiness

Via Ben Ralston
on Oct 12, 2010
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Or is there..?

1. Realise consciously that the only thing you really want is to be deeply happy.

2. Understand that happiness is an inner experience. It is inside you, or nowhere! Therefore nothing and no one can give it to you.

3. Look  inside for that happiness, and cultivate it consciously, doing (as much as possible) only things which make you happy!

4. Accept your mistakes, failings, and so on… don’t resist them, it will slow you down (in other words, if you have a bad day, and you really struggle to be happy,  don’t worry! Tomorrow is another day: every day you get better and better in every way)…

Most people spend ALL their time trying to either: seek pleasure, or avoid pain.
This is because we remember pain in the past. And we choose (obviously) not to repeat that pain. And we imagine pleasure in the future (also based on our memory of it in the past), and choose (obviously!) to repeat it.

However, memory (past) is not real. It is just an idea. It has no substance. Two people remember the same thing differently – it is not fixed. So our memory of pain is also not real. Trying to avoid pain is like running away from your shadow – it’s pointless.

And the same can be said for the imaginary pleasure – imagination is not real, in the same way that memory is not. So, most people are living in the past or the future; not really here!

Happiness is not outside you. It is not in the new car, the beautiful partner, the lottery which you might one day win – actually studies have shown that amongst the highest risk groups of suicide are those people who suddenly get rich!

It is either within you, or it does not exist in a meaningful way. It is an experience. Our motivation for avoiding pain and seeking pleasure is that we really want to be happy. But we didn’t stop to think – where and when is happiness? Is it in the future imaginary pleasure, or the past remembered pain?

If we really think about that question, the only possible answer is – it is here and now, inside us. Or not. But it cannot be anwhere, or ‘anywhen’, else!

So, if happiness is what we want, and happiness is HERE AND NOW, what to do about it?

BE HAPPY! Do what makes you happy! Follow your JOY! Let go of all else. Buddha said: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.”
Is it easy? No, not if, like me many years ago, you have a habit of doing pretty much the opposite. But if we practice it, it gets easier and easier, like anything.

And imagine a world (this is what the imagination is really for!) where everyone did only what made them happy… every person would be PRESENT. That means that there would be no room for jealousy, resentment, anger. All the negative emotions are in the memory or the imagination of pleasure and pain… they DO NOT EXIST here and now. To be present; to be here now; is to experience peace, love, and simplicity: true happiness.

10 years ago I was in India on a long train journey. At one station a young boy, about 10 years old, came along cleaning the floor with a cloth – the dirtiest cloth I’d ever seen! He was wearing only a filthy pair of pants, and was begging for money from the people whose feet he was cleaning around. They were mostly paying him no attention. All of my western education and conditioning led me to ‘feel sorry’ for him – “poor kid, no money, dirty, probably hungry, no future, what a terrrible situation”… and then he came to me, and I saw his eyes. To this day I have seen very few people with the joy and happiness and shinging light in their eyes that he had in his. I deeply realized in that moment that external circumstances are unimportant. All that matters is to be happy.

Please leave a comment – your comments make my post look good, and more people will read it, and hopefully more people will be happy, and the world will become more peaceful… all because of your lovely comment: a simple ‘thank you’ will do!

Also feel free to facebook ‘like’ it (same reason), and share amongst your happy friends.


About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting. He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.


33 Responses to “There is no way to happiness”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    if we practice it it gets easier and easier …….
    ?….. 😀

  2. Genevieve says:


  3. Ben_Ralston says:

    Way, you might just be the exception to the rule :p

  4. Dominique says:

    Thank you!… Such a simple and beautiful request to honor.

  5. Ramesh says:

    you did it again! By expressing the simple, timeless message of yoga, that less is more, that happiness is within.

  6. Ben_Ralston says:

    Michelle Cross:
    Great! Happiness is the way… My mantra for today… In fact Any day 🙂 will share this post
    Thank you

    Kathleen Starr Warren:
    Happiness comes from within. One must, first love one's self in order to love others. This is not selfish. It is the lesson.
    I enjoy my own company. I don't mind being by myself. Actually, being alone is not the same as being lonely. My alone time helps me to love and care for me. Then I can go out and love the Earth, my friends, my family, the beauty around me.

  7. Emmanuelle says:

    Lovely post Ben, thank you! 🙂

  8. Nicole says:

    Thank you Ben, much love!

  9. Padma Kadag says:

    Serial killers are not happy until they have slit someone's throat. The butcher is happy at the sight of a fresh carcass. The whore is happy when she is paid….

  10. Thank you, Ben! Always love to read your pieces and this one came at the perfect time. xoxo

  11. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thank you Lynn, you're grrreat 🙂

  12. Ben_Ralston says:

    Loving you back 😉

  13. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thank you!

  14. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thanks Ramesh, simplicity is where it's at, totally. Love

  15. Ben Ralston says:

    Hi Padma,

    If i was writing for serial killers, it would have been quite a different article!

    The butcher is not really happy about carcasses, that’s just how he makes his money. Sure, money may make him happy, and there’s nothing wrong in that.

    As for the whore, it’s another extreme example… but again, it’s the money that makes her happy, and that’s fine again.

    We all have different paths to tread. I’ve been a whore, and a butcher, in just this one lifetime – it’s all good!

    But serial killers, and butchers, and whores aside, what makes *you* happy?

    Love, Ben

  16. Dan Slanger says:

    Ben, thank you for this and all of your previous posts. And thank you for all you do for the elephant community.

  17. LeahS says:

    Thanks Ben. I love that you can tell "it" to people in such a clear way, your words resonate with many. Thank you. Keep on writing, and we'll keep reading!

    If I may, I wrote last week on my own tiny blog , it was called " is it a sad day or a happy day" because it is up to us, in each minute. Here's a link.

  18. Sarah Sunflower says:

    I love this… Thank you for sharing… 🙂

  19. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thanks Dan, I really enjoyed your article on hiking, coffee, philosophy, and whatever else it was on! Looking forward to more of your unique stuff.

  20. thank you ben. i figured this out somehow in the last few years and my life has changed. contentment and happiness are my choices, even in the midst of the chaos of primary school classroom, money struggles, marriage ups and downs and the occassional existential muddle. i can still be happy and content in the shitstorm of life. i never thought that was possible. and the more happy i am, the less trouble i see. i seem to be attracting positivity. being happy puts us in the universe's good graces i believe. i guess it's true…"practice and all is coming".

  21. Padma Kadag says:

    Regarding the use of the term "Here and Now". This term and its use I understand the meaning of what is being implied. Though if you use it in reference to the Three Times as taught by the Buddha, Past, Present, and Future the logic will destroy all three. Here and Now can only exist in interdependent relation to a past or a present or both. The word Now is defining something which is not in the future or past so it is dependent on the existence of a past or future. Tell me how the "Here and Now" can possibly not be as illusory as the past and future? If it is illusory then why emphasize it as a source of True Happiness?

  22. Marci says:

    Loved this! So simply true, why do we make things so difficult?

  23. catlyn777 says:

    agree, happiness is an inside job 🙂

  24. ARCreated says:

    as always… a light in the world!!!

  25. ARCreated says:

    I always look to the idea of happiness being internal so if your happiness is dependent on causing something else harm then it cannot be happiness. (sort of your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose)
    What the murderer and butcher experience is temporary pleasure not happiness…because happiness exists even if you have urges that aren't fulfilled. What makes you happy? isn't about what you do…but how you feel. It's cultivating santosha in whatever you experience.
    As for the whore…well I could argue that the whore does some good for others so I'm not sure that belongs with the other two examples 🙂

  26. Eric says:

    one of Shakyamuni Buddha's last instructions (in addition to emphasizing the precepts) before he died:
    "be a lamp unto yourself".

    if one has not cultivated bliss and repose within, they will NOT be able to help other beings.
    it's got nothing to do with being 'popular', it has everything to do with meeting people where they ARE. Buddha met people where they were, he gave teachings where and when appropriate, he did not belittle or look down his nose at those who were not at his level of insight.

    as for "here and now", you (and I, and all beings) are dependently co-arising, each moment.
    "here and now" is the only realm in which we can arise and act.

  27. Ben_Ralston says:

    yes, there are perhaps different 'currents', or waves, that flow through the universe, and it seems that it is possible to hop from one to another. That's why some people seem 'lucky', and some unlucky. it's just that they flow *with* the universe rather than against it.
    Love, Ben

  28. Ben_Ralston says:

    Yes, now is all there really is. Focus on it enough and you can't help feel good. Because our essence – in reality – is joy.
    Love, Ben

  29. Ben_Ralston says:

    We make things difficult because we've forgotten to just wonder at the world. We got in to the habit of explaining and understanding everything – a form of arrogance really – so we're caught in that cycle.
    We need to let go of the need to understand, and just enjoy.
    Love, Ben

  30. Michael says:

    When in alignment with the universe, it is amazing what you produce and how many lives it touches and SAVES. Thank you!!! all the way from Portland OR I needed this at this exact moment in time……

  31. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thanks for being receptive MIchael, and for letting me know…