Moving Towards Happiness

Shi Yao Hai/ September 30, 2016/ Happiness/ 0 comments

People are unhappy because they try to be happy. Trying is conditional, and by virtue of trying, we imply that we don’t have happiness yet and that it potentially exists in the future. This creates two barriers for happiness to occur. The first barrier is believing that if conditions are met, happiness can be obtained. And where did we learn what conditions will make us happy? We learned it through other people. But as we learned before, happiness is not inherent in our nature, nor is it caused by the external world. What does this mean? It means that there is a lack of understanding about how the subconscious mind works. People believe that if conditions are met, that happiness automatically follows. To believe that happiness arises from conditions and circumstances means that happiness has to be transferred into oneself as if it were an objective phenomenon. We already know that this is not true, as discussed in “What Causes Unhappiness – Part 1”.

The second barrier is believing that the conditions exist in the future. When a person postpones happiness based on conditionality, they are postponing happiness indefinitely, because the subconscious mind only lives in the present moment. If you do not have happiness now, you have given your subconscious mind reasons not to have it in the future either. From the subconscious mind’s point of view, what does not exist now, does not exist – period. As we can only live in the present moment, it is a directive to the subconscious to perpetually postpone the experience of happiness. Many successful people have said that if you cannot be happy in this moment, why do you expect it would be possible in future moments?

It is incumbent upon a person to learn to be happy in the present moment, regardless of what circumstances are. So, how do we create happiness? We must first recognize that if happiness is not the things and circumstances around us, then happiness itself is not an object – it is an ACTION. I am going to introduce  a yogic interpretation of one of Buddha’s classic teachings. The teaching is about the three formative vehicles of karma (what causes the way people experience life). The word karma literally means action, but also implies change and movement of energy. When a person consciously puts together experience (the way they see and feel life – their state of mind) and action (the capacity to change physical reality by any means), they gain insight and the ability to influence in the world. The first stage of learning how to do this in Buddhist yoga is learning to create one’s own inner experiences. Then, we watch how one’s inner experiences influence the external world, without expectations for any specific thing to occur.

There are 3 ways (formative vehicles) to create happiness:

  • being
  • meaning
  • flowing

Interestingly, Dr. Martin Seligman, one of the forefathers of positive psychology, has a TED talk explaining the three types of happiness. He lists the three as getting what you want, meaning, and flowing. I recommend viewing his TED talk.

Let’s talk about the first formative vehicle – BEING. It is a little different than what is referred to in Dr. Seligman’s talk (getting what you want). When a person gets what they want consistently, they start to experience the same phenomenon as seen with addiction – that is the phenomenon of habituation. Briefly, this means that the more a person gets what they want, the less satisfied they become by getting what they want. The happiness is only brief after a person gets what they want, and does not last. From a Buddhist perspective, the reason a person gets happy when they get what they want is because in that moment, they don’t want anything else. The moment they want something else, the happiness disappears. So, it’s not getting what you want that makes people happy. It is actually not wanting that is happiness. To experience “being” is to experience “not wanting”. This is a Buddhist yogic principle.

We will discuss the other 2 formatives (types of happiness) in upcoming posts.

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