What is happiness?
This question is not a simple as it first seems. There is no definition of happiness and it is entirely subjective. To try to pin it down, we first have to be clear what happiness is not:
Happiness is not comfort and pleasure. Comfort and pleasure are temporary antidotes to being unhappy. If you dedicate your life to the pursuit of comfort and pleasure you may be able to experience comfort and pleasure regularly but you can still be really unhappy.
Happiness is not inner peace, though one needs inner peace to be happy. Inner peace is a lack of internal (and subsequently external) conflict.
Love and compassion is not happiness, though I believe they are essential ingredients of happiness.
Happiness is not a thing. It’s the absence of a thing
The thing that happiness is the absence of, is suffering. I’m talking here about self-imposed suffering such as: resentment, anger, fear, anxiety, impatience and the resulting stress. These are self-imposed because they are the result of how we think and feel about our life experiences, and are not the experiences themselves. It is the reaction to our life experiences that causes us to suffer, not the experiences themselves.
Rather than try to define happiness, I listed those things that were the prerequisites to happiness. Those things that if one did not have them then one could not be happy. Once I had written them down, I discovered that I could rearrange the words into a mnemonic which is ‘CALM GIFT’. This couldn’t have been more appropriate so now we have it:
The CALM GIFT of happiness
When you finally realise, deeply and intuitively, that everyone you meet is a reflection of yourself and part of the one life that we all share. When you realise that everyone is is a child of their conditioning and experience in the same way that you are. When you realise that you have all the defects that they do but only differing in degree, then, and only then, you can be compassionate both to them, and to yourself.
Acceptance is emotional connection. It is allowing yourself to feel whatever you feel in the present moment, good or bad. The present moment is overwhelmingly good but the catch is that to feel the good, you’ll also have to feel the bad.
This isn’t the sloshy, sentimental and fickle romantic love which has elements of attraction and lust liberally mixed in.
This love is the all-encompassing and unconditional love that the bible sometimes refers to as charity and which is an open handed acceptance and giving to all living things.
Mindfulness is being in the present moment. If you are in the past you will regret, if you are in the future you will worry. While you can’t return to the present moment, you can’t be happy.
Gratitude is the supreme balancer of negative emotions. As you are a bundle of conditioning, some of it will be negative so you need to balance it out to teach your brain that life isn’t all bad. Learning to be grateful will give you that balance.
You can only develop inner peace by being aware of inner conflict. When it arises, there is no need to do anything, acknowledge the conflict and it will dissolve in time.
If you can’t forgive you’ll resent. How can you be happy if you’re feeling resentful?
The measure of truth, honesty and integrity is when: what you say, what you do, what you think, how you feel and what you experience are entirely consistent. When that happens and when there is no cognitive dissonance, you have found truth.
This, is my recipe for happiness.