What is a happy life?
Is it a fulfilling career? Money? Success? Approval? Fame?
What if I told you it is none of these things?
Would you be surprised, or is there something in you that recognizes that this is true?
In society, you are praised if you’re ambitious, successful, rich, and famous.
Yet none of these things lead to happiness. Sure, you could say money increases happiness, but that is only to the point of covering the necessities plus a little extra.
This article is will not cover what is convenient, but instead look at what leads to long-term peace.
To contemplate means to look at attentively and thoughtfully.
What is it that makes you happy? What is your definition of happy?
What made you happy in the past?
And I’m not pointing to buying a new house, getting a raise, or getting likes on social media. Those are passing pleasures.
You may even benefit from using a different word than happy. What about content or peaceful?
To me happy means the absence of suffering, and the absence of suffering doesn’t mean no pain. There will always be unpleasant sensations or pain, but what can be transcended is the follow-up reaction.
This is by no means an easy task, but it is also not impossible.
The journey begins with one tiny step.
2. Present Moment
What stops this moment from being enough?
Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that come up.
You could even say to yourself: Everything is perfect as it is.
This will no doubt bring up objections. Instead of believing the narrative, notice that there’s a feeling in your body that is being neglected.
Can you meet this feeling?
There’s no need to label it. Just feel the sensations. Notice how they move.
For a moment, imagine that every desire and aversion you have is an escape from this moment, from feeling.
If you feel overwhelmed with the feelings in the body, feel free to take things slow. Most people have avoided this for their whole lives.
We are thrown here and there not by life, but by our reactions to life.
Developing equanimity is seeing that these reactions serve no purpose. If someone cuts me off in traffic, does it benefit anyone for me to become angry?
The problem is that these reactions feel like who we are, so we never even question them.
There are plenty of people who drive cars that never become angry. This kind of inquiry into yourself is not comfortable, because you have to sit with unpleasant sensations.
If you are willing to do this, you will discover that there is no reason to react except to escape from a feeling we don’t want to feel.
Don’t try to eliminate reactions. Instead, become curious–what purpose do they serve?
Start small. Become aware of small irritations you have. Notice how those try to distract from a feeling.
Awareness is how this all starts. Just notice what is happening, and wonder if it has to be that way.
Starting a simple and easy meditation practice will make this process much easier.
Study after study shows the benefit of connecting with like-minded people.
Yet it’s not easy to reach out, especially if you’re an introvert, but it is worth it.
Here, too, emotional work is required, because there can be patterns of shame, pride, worthlessness, failure, and rejection that stop us from reaching out.
This has been the case for me, and exploring these hidden places brings up memories long forgotten. This kind of investigation is uncomfortable at first, but rewarding in the end.
If you’re unsure of doing this, get in touch with a professional that can guide you through the process. Sometimes you just need a few sessions in order to learn some tools and discover that you are capable of this.
There may even be resistance to seeking help. If so, that is the feeling that needs to be welcomed.
I told you that this article wasn’t going to be convenient, didn’t I?
If you pick even one of the tips above, and implement it, it will make a difference. The only problem is that these are not easy to integrate.
There’s no need to force any of this.
Even if you forget you ever read this, that’s okay. Life has a way of bringing you back if this is your path.
Sometimes we need to bang our heads against the wall until something breaks. Only then are we ready to try something new.
I know that’s definitely been the case for me.
So don’t be too hard on yourself. Enjoy the journey.
All the best,
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