May 1, 2014

Has Happiness Become Our Latest Wonder Drug? ~ Erik Vienneau

breathe nature outside happy

“Happy” is the buzzword these days.

But is happiness the right goal? Don’t get me wrong I’m happy to be happy. It’s better than sadness. Who doesn’t want to feel good? It’s great to feel happy, but perhaps the recent positive psychology movement isn’t going far enough. Perhaps it’s even leading us in a well-intentioned yet off-the-mark direction.

The problem with happiness, when viewed in the current context, is that it’s temporary, unstable and perceived as  something to be gained or gotten. Remember that last ice cream cone? You picked the perfect flavor, tasted it…those endorphins starting rushing around your brain…mmmm…happy.

Again, nothing wrong with happy. But a few minutes after you eat that ice cream cone, you’ll probably be asking yourself “Now what? What’s my next fix?”

We go around trying to line up, ideally back-to-back, experiences that may make us feel happy. We try to stay happy because we don’t want to loose happiness.

So is “happy” our latest drug?

If you are trying to avoid sadness and get happy then I would say yes, it is. If you are always chasing the next thing that will produce happiness, isn’t that just like any other elusive high? Avoiding sadness and trying to get happy is like chasing a drug.

But what if looking for happiness outside yourself is the problem?

If you are going to shoot for something, why not try peace? I mean true peace in alignment with the term “Santosha” in the yoga lineage.

Santosha, which means contentedness, doesn’t have an opposite. Santosha, once realized, isn’t temporary. Santosha is something we must look within to discover. Santosha is our birthright. We don’t have to go out and buy it. Looking for it is like looking for your glasses when they are already on your face.

If we knew in our hearts that we were all good and had everything we need already, would we chase happiness and avoid the down times? Realizing our true nature, which is contentedness, bliss, pure potential and clarity, takes a complete shift in thinking.

What we seek is not out there, separate from us. It is already within. We are and always have been completely OK. To mine our happiness, we must sit still and look within.

So if you are ready to give up chasing happy and want to discover that you are already absolutely perfect (not to mention truly happy) here are five ways to look within.

Don’t make a big deal about it.

Find a quiet place, grab a cushion off the sofa or roll up a blanket and sit on it. Try to find a cushion tall enough for your knees to be below your waist.

Don’t overthink it.

There are many details about proper meditation posture. Deal with that later. Simply sit up straight, legs crossed, and breathe in and out through the nose. Rest hands on thighs.

Don’t try too hard.

Silence the phone ringer and set the timer for five minutes. Place the phone where it is not a temptation during sitting meditation.

Don’t complicate it.

Gently close the eyes. Now notice the breath. Notice it moving in and out. Feel the body: toes, feet, legs, a belly,  chest rising and falling, a head and face. Feel the air expand the chest. Feel the body relax in a normal exhale.

Don’t freak out.

Thoughts will arise. But they are not more important than the magic of being alive and breathing. But for the next five minutes, don’t follow or attach to the thoughts. Let them pass by like detritus floating on the surface of a swiftly flowing river.

If you attach to thoughts, return to watching the breath flow in and out. If you have to return to the breath 10,000 times in the next few minutes, that’s perfectly normal.

You are meditating. Meditation isn’t about trying to stop thoughts and blissing out. Relax. It’s our mind’s job to think. We just don’t follow the thoughts.

If we follow the above steps, we’ll find that meditation is actually challenging work. It is training the body a little at a time. It requires consistency. Don’t over do it. But do it.

If we stick with it, we’ll eventually discover we are, always have been, and always will be OK.

And that’s way better than happy.


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Apprentice Editor: Pamela Mooman / Editor: Renee Picard

Photos: Flickr, Flickr

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Erik Vienneau