If we want to be happy then why do we suffer? In one of our workshops we asked the participants to raise their hands if they wanted to suffer. No one did. So why do we?
We are all the same in wanting to be happy and not wanting to suffer, there is no difference between us, so we can help each other. When we can live from this deeper level of awareness, it helps us go beyond attachment to immediate forms of happiness and to finding a more universal happiness. (His Holiness the Karmapa, from our book, "Be The Change")
Despite such a longing for happiness, we easily start worrying about not having enough and stop appreciating what we have. In other words, we put happiness on hold. We make happiness something we will come to some time in the future: when things are better, when our children get married, when the weather changes, when we have more money -- then we will be happy. So much time is wasted waiting to be happy, when all we need to do is experience the magnificence and beauty of what we already have, both within and all around us. Or, as Maha Baba, one of India's greatest yogis, said "Don't worry, be happy!"
It is our ego-based selfishness and desire for things to be different from how they are that is a major cause of our unhappiness. By this, we mean the dissatisfaction with what is and the belief that says if we are not happy or at peace, then there is something wrong with our world, so if we can just change other people or our life's circumstances and get them to be a certain way -- then we will be happy.
If we look at our desire for things to be different, no matter how subtle it may be, we find resistance, discomfort, aversion, even conflict. The myth that the grass is greener elsewhere is one we live by for vast amounts of our waking time -- the underlying searching, yearning, craving and longing for a life, partner and job other than the one we have.
We can make it a saner and happier world if we just slowed down and had less focus on wanting or needing more stuff. If stuff made you happy, there would be nothing but happy people living in Bel Air and unhappy people living in Fiji where they have nothing, but I have been to Fiji and there are plenty of happy people there. I have never seen a hearse with a luggage rack on top. We have got to get away from stuff and appreciate what is here. (Ed Begley, Jr., "Be The Change")
Many of us believe that we cannot be peaceful or happy while others are suffering, or we feel guilty if we experience abundance while others are going without. We were teaching a workshop in England when Marie told us, "I cannot be peaceful until my children are peaceful; I cannot be happy unless they are happy." But suffering ourselves because others are suffering does not help those who are already in pain; if we cannot help ourselves, then we will be unable to help anyone.
When we find our own peace, then there is one less person suffering. If we look for happiness outside of ourselves, or look for it some time in the future when things have changed, then we will never find it, for ultimately it is not dependent on anything or anyone. Rather, happiness is within each one of us; it is always within us. It can never be found because it was never lost.
There is an innate and tender place inside each one of us that is loving and happy. Without this, kindness would not be possible, compassion would not be possible. When we come from that tender place, our normal self-centeredness dissolves into other-centeredness.
What does happiness mean to you? Do comment below.
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See our award-winning book, "Be the Change: How Meditation Can Transform You and the World," with forewords by the Dalai Lama and Robert Thurman and contributions from Jack Kornfield, Gangaji, Jane Fonda, Ram Dass, Byron Katie and others.
Our three meditation CDs -- "Metta: Loving-Kindness and Forgiveness," "Samadhi: Breath Awareness and Insight" and "Yoga Nidra: Inner Conscious Relaxation" -- are available at www.EdandDebShapiro.com.