What does it take to be happy?

Most people feel they would be happier if they had something more in their life – more money, a larger car, a more comfortable house, better education, etc. But when faced with the simple question: “Are you happy now?” the answer does not seem very easily forthcoming or straightforward. One may be happy but doesn’t want to admit it, some people don’t even know whether they are happy. People feel they need something to make them happy.

But go back to the first sentence – it’s mostly something required to make them “happier”, not just happy.

People are born happy, are meant to be happy, are meant to enjoy happiness every moment of their lives. This realization came to me some time back. A friend of mine had been serving a well-recognized and popular “spiritual organization”, but he left the same owing to certain incidents which led him to feel all was not right. However, he did share with me that the learning for him was that “Happiness is the natural state of mind for a person to be in.”

It’s a beautiful learning, a simple one, yet profound and life-changing. The perspective now changes from the pursuit of happiness to avoiding sadness or other negative emotions. Rather than wanting things, the shift of thought patterns is to avoid things. More specifically, the effort now focusses around avoiding thoughts that disturb one’s happiness.

For example, a person wants a better house. It takes time, of course, and as time progresses and the better house does not materialize, the person becomes sad. He or she starts looking at others’ houses, larger ones, prettier ones and becomes sadder. Even when he or she finally does get the new house, the satisfaction is short-lived as the thought that others had better ones lingers on. It’s endless. Sadness creeps in from the desire to have something and clouds the happiness that existed and still exists.

On the other hand, even while aiming and working towards the goal, if the person looks at others who have lesser than he or she has, then sadness does not creep in. When the person sees many others struggling for a living while he or she is actually progressing towards a better life in pursuit of a dream, then sadness does not creep in. Happiness prevails. The new house is not really needed to make the person happy and even if the new house takes time to materialise, the happiness is still there.

The desire of a new house is really not the cause of sadness. Desires are natural and they drive people to work towards a goal. What makes the person sad is the thought that the new house is required for happiness. Comparing his or her situation with others who have larger houses makes him or her lose happiness. Thoughts that change the naturally happy state to one of sadness can be avoided – it can be replaced with others which allow one to maintain the state of happiness.

It may sound theoretical, the mind is after all not easy to control. But the mind can definitely be controlled. One can, with conscious effort choose his or her thoughts, even feelings, and fan those which keep one happy.

Happiness is not a pursuit. It is here, now!!!

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Subhash Iyer

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