It is true, I am very happy, probably the happiest I have ever been. A lot of wonderful things have occurred in my life over the past few years…I got married to an amazing woman, have a wonderful step-daughter (who I love more than anything, don’t tell my wife), my son was born, my family moved closer to me, I can count my best friends on one hand, I have a great job, good health, the list goes on.
There are a lot of “things” that attribute to my happiness. My job, my eyes, the beautiful cherry blossom trees, that fact that I wake up breathing each morning, and everything else previously mentioned. These are all wonderful “things” that make me happy each moment of the day, but they are just that…things. The “things” that make me the happiest can also bring me the most suffering. Material things especially struggle to provide us lasting happiness.
Here is an example of what I am talking about…”Say you really want a sports car. You finally get one, and maybe you feel happy about it for a week or two. Then, on day 15, you get your new insurance premium and you’re angry about the rate increase. On day 400, it’s just a car—who cares any more? We get used to material things and to money; science shows they don’t make us happy in the long run.”*
There is a lot of research** that shows that it is not the “things” in your life that makes you the happiest. It is meaningful relationships, service to others, inner peace, and living in the present moment that provides lasting happiness. Dr. Martin Seligman states that the meaningful life, “…is the use of your strengths and virtues in the service of something much larger than you are.” Because of his work, I have set out to do something much larger than me, help others flourish. When I wake up in the morning I try not to seek happiness, but instead help others find their inner peace. Secretly I know that acts of kindness, selflessness, compassion, and giving will provide me all the happiness I need. Matthew Ricard wrote in his book, Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, that “It is essential to understand that we make ourselves happy in making others happy.”
Mr. Ricard also write in Happiness…”No one would deny that it is eminently desirable to live long and in good health, to be free in a country at peace where justice is respected, to love and to be loved, to have access to education and information, to enjoy adequate means of subsistence, to be able to travel the world, to contribute as much as possible to the well-being of others, and to protect the environment. Sociological studies of entire populations clearly show that human beings enjoy their lives more in such conditions. Who would want anything else? In pinning all our hopes on the external world, however, we can only end up being disappointed.” This is where we need to find our inner peace.
The “things” in my life that provide me happiness are impermanent. They will not last forever, therefore the happiness that is associated with it will not last forever. Only by living in the present moment can I fully enjoy the conditions to my happiness. Through the eyes of impermanence I have realized that I have everything that I need to be happy. By keeping this in mind I am able to enjoy what I have more. Thich Nhat Hanh said, “…everything is impermanent, that nothing has an absolute entity that remains the same. And when we keep that insight in mind, we can see more deeply into the nature of reality…”
Each day I attempt to cultivate love, mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, and kindness. These practices bring flow to my life that provides me inner peace and well being.