I recently quit working at a software company. Reason? I fortunately realized that I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I would have wanted to after all. Thought of using the time at hand now to begin a long-postponed quest – answers to my questions about a rather elusive, much hyped topic Happiness! No I don’t wish to emulate Gautam Buddha, Mahavir and the likes.. well just yet.. but have struggled with these questions way too long for my comfort. My priorities so far, albeit mistaken priorities, allowed an at-best half-hearted attempt to find these answers. The result, quite obvious, I struggle to date.
They say, don’t seek a complicated explanation when a simple one exists! How very true! I began my search by looking for books, articles, people.. anything under the sun that would give me even the slightest hint to what happiness really is? Of course I would need a lot of material to really understand the concept of Happiness I thought. And how wrong was I!
I was lucky to stumble upon a series of talks by an organization called ‘Brahmakumaris’. I occasionally listen to them on TV, mainly one Brahmakumari (BK) Sister Shivani who I personally think is a wonderful orator. Lucky for me, this series was by her.
I remember the first time I saw her on TV. Her attire gave me the impression that this is yet another Swamini giving hard to follow talks on morals, ethics.. all those heavy topics I have hated listening to. But hearing her speak just once changed my impression completely. She had me glued to the television and how? By speaking in extremely simple language, yes, but more importantly, talking sense; sharing thoughts and ideas to deal with situations that are extremely easy to digest and seem to be doable by laymen. So anyway.. with a lot of hope I started listening to all the lectures one after the other and boy was I shocked to hear what I did.
Firstly, what is happiness? Happiness, she says, is a state of being stable; not excited, not thrilled, not laughing all the time, not a temporary sense of pleasure; a state of being at peace with oneself; a state dependent only my own internal being; a state completely in one’s own control.
Our happiness is in our control? What really? That is not possible! Personally, I have always felt happy only let’s say when I achieve something.. be it a material possession, the great score on a test, when someone says something nice to me. But I don’t seem to play the central role in any of this; I don’t seen to be the do-er. These are all external events which may, may not happen. I therefore may, may not be happy. Isn’t it? It depends on my luck and fate?
She demystified her statement by saying that it is me who makes my happiness dependent on these events. I create a thought in my head, if event A will happen, then I will be happy. Fortunately if event A does happen, I will be happy. But for how long? This will be a temporary state because very soon I will decide to be happy next only when event B will happen.
Whoa! How very true! I began rushing with the lectures a bit. I was too intrigued by now. More and more questions started popping in my head. Why are we subjecting ourselves to such pockets of happiness? Can we actually be happy always?
This was answered in the very next talk. A very fresh perspective.. I am a happy person already she says; irrespective of the situations coming my way. We just chose otherwise.
For example, many of us have the tendency to blame others for our unhappiness. To this she said, we have no control over what others are doing but our reaction to it is our choice. If we give a person the power to hurt us, upset us then we need to take the responsibility for it because we are letting that person disturb our state of mind. Alternatively, if we decide to accept people around us with their fallacies and decide to not get affected by them, if we decide to be at peace anyway, we would retain complete control over our happiness.
This seemed very very comforting. Easier said than done I thought. But then it occurred to me. What if I repeat this to myself day in and day out.. I am a happy being. My happiness lies only in my hands. Is it possible that it will become part of my system? It is just about changing a deep rooted belief system at the end of the day, isn’t it? If so far we have convinced ourselves that happiness is external, can we spend the rest of our life convincing ourselves that it is in fact internal? I am sure it won’t take so long.. but even if it does, doesn’t the thought of moving in this direction itself contribute to our peace of mind?
I haven’t completed the series yet but picked up some huge pointers and tips already.
To be happy, be in the present moment. When I heard BK Shivani say this I was like.. not again!! To give you a background to this reaction, I have read quite a few self-help books (all in the attempt to find my answers mind you) and they all insist that one must be in the present; in the NOW. I never really understood why. But listening to these lectures I realized that I have convinced myself that I am unhappy in the present moment, well more often than not. A very natural outcome is that I start doing one of the following:
I fleet to the past. I start thinking of happier times when the situation was not like the current one. For some time this takes my mind off the present and gives me a sense of pleasure. But for how long? Very soon I am back seeing the present right in front of me.
Another reaction is to start imagining a future when the situation is not as bad as the current one. Again, for some time this takes my mind off the present and gives me a sense of pleasure. I am thinking of how life will be one day and I begin to feel very very “happy”? But for how long? Very soon I am back seeing the present right in front of me.
Let’s try a brand new outlook. What if I could look at reality right in the face, decide that it will not bog me down and deal with it like a man? Do whatever it takes to set things right NOW and be at peace, be stable, be happy NOW? Just take a moment here and think about this. Is it possible? Can we try and do this for lasting happiness instead of deceiving ourselves into temporary pleasures of the past and future?
I am convinced that this is not simple on the face of it but.. only because it is not a way of life for us yet. But the day it becomes? I think managing to do this even once will give us enough motivation, courage and strength for future trials and tribulations awaiting us. I see it this way, dealing successfully once with a tough situation at hand will build enough mettle in me for the next one down the road, similarly for the next situation and so on and so forth!
This seems like a technique to everlasting happiness to me and it seems too simple! Funny thing, just to be sure, I started second guessing this conclusion; I tried hard to see flaws in these deductions – a common attitude with my generation I guess. But couldn’t find any. Could you?