The news in the UK this week has included the results of a survey on people’s perception of happiness, based on where they live. It’s near to meaningless, of course. The sample was very small and any survey is a wonderful excuse to have a moan. But it makes good news fodder, I suppose.
The fact is, most people, most of the time, are not particularly happy. In our desire for lasting happiness, we tend to blame anything and everything from the weather to politicians for not providing it. We seem to have become a race of malcontents. It’s crazy, so why do we do it?
Master your own happiness
The master of our happiness and, just as importantly, the absence of it, isn’t our state of health or wealth, nor is it our employment or lack of it, our social status or anything else in our environment. It certainly has nothing to do with our gadgets or apps, how many Facebook friends we have or, despite the survey, what part of the country we live in. These may be contributory factors but, deep down, we know that happiness has to come from inside. The controller of that is simply the mind.
Your mind is the controller of your happiness. It really is that simple. But our minds are very complex. It takes a great deal of effort to change the way we habitually think, feel and react. But we can and, when we do, we control the controller; we become the masters of our lives and of our own happiness.
Each one of us has, since birth, built up a complex and convoluted “library” of likes, dislikes, loves, hates, fears, judgments, prejudices and so on which trigger us into thinking, feeling, speaking and reacting in certain ways. Everything we see, hear, taste, touch, feel and think passes through and is affected by the contents of this library. In other words, we are conditioned or programmed.
Changing the view
To regain our self-mastery, we need to bring in some extra light and knowledge. We need to rebuild our conditioning. This doesn’t involve dismantling the old, book by book, shelf by shelf and brick by brick. We don’t have to analyse every thought and feeling that arises. But we do need to see things, and ourselves, in a different way. When we look at things differently, gradually our preconceptions about many things change. Negative emotions, those clouds that cast shadows across our faces, start to dissolve and appear far less often. We become happier, more contented. This is the value of Zen thinking.
This isn’t something that happens overnight. It is a journey that is often challenging; but there is also a great deal of fun and satisfaction to be had. The Great Little Book of Happiness is intended as a guide-book for the trip. It is a tool to check where you are and give some pointers to the right direction in which to go. All guide books are limited, though. The real journey and scenery you have to make and discover for yourself!
Adapted from The Great Little Book of Happiness
Next week: a fundamental cause of unhappiness.