Gloria came across this article recently when she was clearing out a drawer and said, “This is just right for now – you should put it in your blog”. So here it is! It’s from one of our old newsletters that I used to put together – written in July 2004.
Happiness arises – or fades – in the mind
All happiness arises purely in the mind – nowhere else. All problems stem from the mind. Whether we are content, happy or miserable depends on the state of our mind. It is not the outer circumstances that govern how we think and feel, but how we view those circumstances.
Where we go wrong and cause ourselves much pain and grief is by seeking happiness through pleasurable things. As a result, desires and expectations arise like mushrooms, often to be replaced by disappointments when they are not met or do not last.
The tendency of the mind is to look back at past pleasures and happiness and seek to repeat them in the future. It also looks back at past pain, and fears its repetition. So we remain on the treadmill creating a lifetime of highs and lows.
We cannot attain lasting happiness whilst the mind is looking forward or back, nor can we find it outside ourselves. That might seem a tall order but there is an easy solution: live fully aware in the present moment. If we do that, our mind is not imagining the future, nor is it looking back. What is past is past and the future is never certain. As the words of one incisive Buddhist sutra say: The past no longer is and the future has not yet come. Looking deeply at life in the here and now, the person who practises this dwells in stability and freedom.
Happiness could be in a sandwich
How do we live in the present moment? By being aware of what we are doing and not thinking of other things while we are doing it. For example, when eating, our awareness should be on eating what we are eating now, not on what we might be eating in a moment or how it compares to a meal we had last week. It means not having our attention on something else. That may sound difficult but it isn’t really. It takes a little effort to break our bad habits, but once we experience the joy of eating with full awareness, we will not want to do it any other way.
Exactly the same principle applies to all our activity – brushing teeth, walking, writing, driving, having a conversation (yes – listening with full awareness!) and so on. If we practise living in the present moment, we will find without fail that life becomes fuller and richer and our fears will have no fertile ground in which to grow.
Much has happened in the seventeen years since penning this, yet so much is the same. This article was the seed from which my first book The Great Little Book of Happiness grew. I take no credit – it is all based on very old truths, discovered by others much wiser and more eloquent, but if it helps anyone, that’s good.