How to be happy? My reading of the book Dalai Lama: The Art of Happiness
What is happiness?
In our Central European culture, luck is something elusive, ephemeral, beyond the range of our influence. Happiness is when we are feeling joyous or when things in life are going the way we want them to. When we say someone is born lucky, or under a lucky star, its means all things come to him easily, without effort. “You were lucky you rented that apartment” – as if it was not because of my effort or ingenuity, but just that I had a stroke of unbelievably good luck.
In general notion of happiness that pervades our society is quite a passive state, something that we can not influence, something that our fate either assigned to us or not. “Fortuna caeca est” – Happiness is blind, says the old Latin saying.
On the other side of the globe, in the lands of the rising sun that practice Buddhism, happiness is one of the ultimate goals adds meaning to life. In those cultures happiness is nurtured on a daily basis by creating positive mental states and by practicing compassion to others.
Dalai Lama in his book The Art of Happiness teaches practical activities to reach happiness. He says that happiness is achieved by training of the mind, or applying the internal discipline to transform our own attitudes. That is to separate which attitudes and thoughts make us happy from those that are taking us away from the happy states.
It is interesting that research has shown that happy people are more sociable, more flexible, more creative, forgive easily and are more inclined to help others. The question is what was the first chicken or the egg: do we help others because it makes us feel happy or does helping others makes us happy…
Are we happier if we are creative, flexible?
To me, creativity is very important part of everyday life. I enjoy being creative through writing, singing in the choir, dancing or just basically cooking. Socializing too – I feel the physical need to socialize more if I neglected the social activities that month.
I was surprised to read that education is an important factor in achieving happiness in life. Not only it enables financial security, according to research, but also better health, a positive self-image and a heightened sense of self-worth. So all the schools we went trough are not in vain after all .
The outlook on life is linked directly to and how we perceive the world around us, on our daily attitude and our thoughts about the situation we find ourselves in.
So instead of comparing ourselves and complaining in our internal dialogue how others have it all much easier in life, have more money than us, a better car or a better relationship, we can cultivate gratitude for the abundance of things we have in our lives.
The secret is in the attitude. Being grateful is one of the greatest spiritual postulates : what we are thankful for multiplies.
Law of Attraction says that what we focus on – increases !!
The choice is ours, do we want to focus on bickering or dissatisfaction, or should we rather focus on gratitude? What do we want to have more of in our life?
Dalai Lama teaches that mental and spiritual peace is achieved by practicing compassion and caring for others. When we learn to appreciate the kindness and love, which which we naturally create connections to other human beings – we increase the feelings of self-worth.
Happiness is different then pleasure.
Pleasure leads to behaviors that are detrimental to us as it is desire and greed. Insatiability in food, drinking alcohol, tobacco, sex or accumulation of wealth leads to dissatisfaction because ultimately this behavior is damaging for us.
Desire is based on a feeling of dissatisfaction, we keep wanting more than is enough. Although these actions provide immediate satisfaction, its easier to stop that behavior if we understand at the end of the day they will not make us happy.
Positive mental and emotional states are good antidotes for the negative ones.
So Dalai Lama teaches we should practice patience, tolerance and kindness in order to heal feelings of anger, hatred and attachment.
He also teaches that our enemies are really our best teachers. If we succeed to practice tolerance and patience with our enemies, its so much easier to build the same to others.
Hatred is a block to developing compassion – our enemies make us practice compassion hard which enhances our practice of love and compassion.
One of my favorites teachings in the book – negative thoughts and feelings arise due to misconception of reality. The nature of our mind is pure. Negative patterns of thinking and negative emotions are impurities that can easily be eradicated and removed.
Negative mental states are distorted images of reality, they are barriers that obstruct the expression of our natural state of joy and happiness.
All negative emotions are based on ignorance. Love, compassion and insight have a solid foundation in our source.
Being angry is also a negative emotion, it is necessary to challenge and reappraise the negative thoughts that provoke anger so we can diffuse it. Anger builds on anger – the more we express it in verbal or physical way the angrier we are.
By preventing it – cultivating inner contentment and calmer states of mind, says the Dalai Lama. Or by shifting perspectives of the situation or the person we are angry at. So the practice of patience and tolerance helps us reach the stage of forgiveness and releasing anger faster.
To foster positive ways of thinking and eliminate the negative does not come overnight, it takes time to adopt the practice and turn it into a habit.
But whatever steps we take towards learning to reduce the influence of the negative emotions is already quite a lot. And because of the plasticity of our brain –it is constantly changing and accepting new activities.
It is possible to replace the negative conditioning with the positive one.
The Dalai Lama says that the solution lies in the daily activities by which we train the mind and encourage the positive mental states. This is how we create happiness in the everyday life.
In addition to Buddhists, some psychologists and psychiatrists have dedicated a good part of life to researching psycho-physical states in which people are happy. Michal Cikszentmihaly in the book of The Flow presents his research on what makes people happy. He explored all age groups, rich and poor, people from a different climates, & cultures and come to some very interesting conclusions. Read more in the following article.
Iva Tarle is a former diplomat of Republic of Croatia in Indonesia, living and working in Bali as a transformational coach. Iva organizes wellness and spiritual tourism in Bali. He is a certified NLP practitioner, Reiki and Theta Healer. More about coaching programs, daily meditations and other deals on the following link.