The pursuit of happiness

I grew up on a farm with wide open spaces. Once married and living in a city, I longed to move from our home in the suburb to a bigger property where we would have more space. I believed that if we owned a larger property I would be happier, because in some way I would have a similar lifestyle to that which we had enjoyed as children. It so turned out that with a bigger property came more maintenance, more expense and more responsibility.

So much of life is like this for all of us.

We believe that a particular event, or the acquisition of an item, or a certain experience will finally make us permanently content. There is a lie we tell ourselves – that as soon as we get the next promotion, the next holiday, the bigger house or whatever, then we will be really happy.

Any of these may make us happy for the moment. But life moves on with constant change, none of these pursuits enable us to be contented in a lasting way.

So off we go, looking for another experience and then another in the pursuit of happiness. There is no end. How many holidays, how much money, how many cars or clothes have quenched our appetite for more?

In striving to have more or seeking something different to where we are now, that itself becomes the source of our unhappiness. The pursuit of happiness becomes the source of our unhappiness.

So what do we do? Do we abandon the pursuit of pleasure? No more holidays, or dinners at exclusive restaurants, or drinking wine and eating chocolates?

Enjoy without holding on

Enjoyment exists because the moment does not last.

A beautiful spring morning, with the birds singing, and the early morning light casting a golden glow on the world, gives me a feeling of being light and alive. As the day moves on, it will possibly become hot and humid, the temperature will soar and we may be looking for shade. By the evening the mist may roll in and we will be putting on jerseys and wanting to stay indoors to keep warm. And so life flows, moment to moment, a stream of constant change.

Enjoy the moment without clinging.

Become aware of your thoughts

Our unhappiness stems from the false beliefs that we are not enough or that we need something external to make us happy.

Our thoughts and images have great power over us when we are unaware of them. Yet when we become mindful of our thoughts, they have no power over us at all. When we understand our thoughts and images in this way, it gives us the ability to discern which thoughts we want to act on or which thoughts we simply let go because they do not serve us.

Notice the freedom of mind once you become aware that you are thinking. It is like waking up from being in a dream. In the moment of becoming aware that you are thinking, instead of being lost in a thought you have become aware of the thought, you have risen above it. And in that moment of awareness, there is a moment of ease, of stillness within. You are not being mindlessly pulled along by a thought.

At whatever point you become aware that you are thinking, simply make a soft mental note…thinking…thinking…thinking. Or you can be more specific by softly noting …judging, planning, dreaming, commenting, before you return once again to the body and the feeling of your breath. This is the practice of mindfulness.

As you become more and more aware of thoughts or images arising in the mind, you will see that this level of mindfulness has great implications for how you live your life in the world.

Often you are not only lost in your thoughts or daydreams, but you act on these thoughts in your daily activities. With awareness, you are able to choose. You are able to make wiser choices. You are able to cultivate and act on the thoughts which serve you. The thoughts which do not serve you, you simply let go.

The happiness of your life depends on the wisdom in choosing the quality of your thoughts.

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