As I promised – One truth about happiness per week for four weeks. This is the fourth and final week . If you are already as happy as you want to be, take a walk or play a video game. If not read on.
As a review, The first truth is, “You are responsible. “No one makes you happy or unhappy. You do that to yourself.” The second truth is “You have the power to change yourself.” The third truth is “Sometimes, you can’t feel better.”
The ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus is famous for his doctrine of change being central to the universe. He said, “You cannot step twice into the same river.” Why? Because it is forever changing, just like your happiness and unhappiness.
Sure, it’s a wonderful goal to have – to be happy as much as you can. But the reality is that you will phase into and out of happiness all of your life. The only thing life asks of us, is to experience it. Not to judge it, condemn it or redesign it – just experience it. Because it will continually change and if you don’t grab the present moment, it’s gone. Yes, another will follow but the previous one is lost forever.
We can all think of the times that we worried about something that might happen in the future. While we worried about the future, we missed the present. In my life, 99 percent of the things I worried about never happened. And all that time I spent worrying is lost.
The past is gone, never to be recovered. The future hasn’t happened yet. The only thing that’s real is the present moment. The Buddha taught that, “true happiness is the act of living in the present with love and compassion for every sentient being.” Our greatest happiness comes from accepting life as it is – transiency, impermanence, constant changes and all.
In Buddhism, “mindfulness” is the practice of being in the present. In other words, trying to be aware of each present moment and not letting your mind wander into the past or the future. Much of our unhappiness comes from living in the past and/or the future.
The present moment is all there is. When we regret something in the past we are wasting our present moments. When we worry about something in the future we are wasting our present moments.
What it boils down to is our expectations. Our expectations serve to upset us. Because the world doesn’t work according to our expectations. Our past regrets are usually about something that we wanted or expected that didn’t happen. Our future worries are usually about our expectations of something that we fear.
Sadly, some people don’t experience and enjoy their life because something doesn’t meet their precise expectations. And then when it’s too late they realize that they’ve missed that part of their life. It’s no wonder that so much melancholia exists today. Why wouldn’t it? We take antidepressants so we can continue to resist the life we have and not think about accepting it just as it is.
Because it just doesn’t happen the way we want it to. Our child is not pretty enough. Our house is not big enough. Our clothes are not fashionable enough. Our vacation destination is not exotic enough. In the meantime we miss the experience of fully enjoying those parts of our lives because they are not “perfect” according to our expectations.
Here’s a thought for you: Perfection is a state, within which, things are as they are and are not as they are not. When you resist that, in place of some illusory perfection that just doesn’t exist, you are contributing to your own unhappiness. And you’re missing what life has to offer. While you’re looking for something that meets your expectations, real life is happening all around you.
So enjoy what you have, not what you think you should have. Be where you are, not where you think you should be. Live the moment you’re in, not the past because it’s gone and not the future because it may never come.