Recognizing the Roadblocks to Happiness
In order to achieve happiness, it is necessary to further examine what interferes with happiness. Before we can see and use the methods for establishing happiness, it is necessary to look at what prevents happiness.
People mainly get lost and become troubled because they think that happiness is inherent in the details of what happens to them. Yet what causes happiness has nothing to do with any external factors but is based upon ways of viewing life. Buddha taught that there are three mental-emotional causes that interfere with the natural progression of happiness.
1. Not getting what you want
2. Getting what you don’t want
3. Losing what you value
The first two of these we’ve previously spoken of in an earlier post. It is an error in the way of thinking that believes that what is wanted is supposed to be a way to happiness. As you may recall, the root meaning of the word “want” is “to lack.” It is a mental-emotional conundrum “to lack” as a way to be happy. Being happy as a result of wanting is always tied to “supposed to be’s” that others teach us will make us happy. But wanting is a losing game.
In life it is common for people to cyclically go through expected “phases” of obtaining happiness – what society has taught us brings happiness and success. When we are relatively young, we marry. At first, there is elation and we feel as though we have accomplished that milestone. Sometimes before, or as the elation is wearing off, we have children. This keeps that “expectation” of happiness alive, for awhile. There is no doubt that many parents love their children, but sometimes the view on parenting changes as the reality of the commitment sets in. It becomes somewhat more of a necessity than a milestone for happiness. Sometimes marriages and families fall apart when the expected happiness morphs into something unexpected. Sometimes people replace the object of happiness with something else, like corporate success. There can be many perceived external sources of happiness. These are just examples. The point is that in situations like these, we have lost connection with the underlying value of the action, and are motivated by attaining an external object of happiness.
As well, nothing in physical reality can transfer an experience of emotion into us. The Buddha teaches that it is the way that we think about something that causes our experience of life. Change the way of thinking about something and the experience of it changes. This is a very powerful truth that a skilful Siddha (worker of the beyond ordinary) uses on purpose.
It is the third mental-emotional cause of unhappiness that is particularly revealing. – Losing what you value. It is not actually losing the thing itself, but the way that it is valued that causes unhappiness. So to restate: Losing “connection with” what is valued. That is, what the value itself is. A value, when focussed upon as a basis for experiencing any thing, situation, person, or place, is one of the factors of happiness. People become lost when they value a “thing”, and not the way of valuing it. Understanding this is one of the very important keys to creating a way of happiness.
Creating as a way of happiness is real. Wanting happiness is illusory. Wanting is a vain, unskillful form of imagining, wherein one imagines what is wanted, but leaves oneself out of the picture. When anyone is fully focussed into and engaged in the process of creating, happiness is a side effect.
Here’s the tricky part. We have all been taught to want things, situations, persons, or places as the way to be happy. We’ve been taught to identify with lacking, and this lacking can only be filled with a thing or situation outside of oneself. Wanting a “supposed to be,” is ineffectually substituted for valuing, often to such a degree that people have not only lost view of what they value but also are not even aware that something is missing.
What would happen if you replaced wanting with a well thought out idea of what is valuable to you, including when, where and why? (How, is something you will fill in as you go from where you are, to where you want to be.) It would then become apparent that in order to have something of value, you would have to resonate and be a part of what was important about that value. This is accomplished by being those values. This is so important, that a well-developed value becomes a refuge in times of disarray, trouble, or confusion. For example, the value of being loving can change the experience in a relationship from one of expecting happiness, to one of appreciating one another and gratitude. When an individual lives from value, they know where they are going in life and they are self-enabled, as opposed to other agenda directed. Happiness then becomes a path to create the way to get to where a person chooses to be in life. When an individual lives from their own chosen value, they can not be weakened by any outwardly defined senses of self that any manipulative person or group may be using, to get what they want. Look at our media. Does it not first try to get you to think of yourself as needy, or broken, so that it can sell you something that will now “fix you?” “Make you better?” “Make you happy?”
What is the take away here? You can be what you value as you choose to change your life for the better (in experiencing). It is useful to understand that being your values is the path to freedom in choice. Otherwise, all that is possible is reaction in preconditioned ways.
You can engage in creativity as a way of choice, expressing, creating a life that is better. We begin with the practise of meditative calmness in amidst the attention demanding daily activities of life. This builds contentment as a replacement for and remedy to wanting. In Buddha’s teachings, wanting is thought of as an illness. A sickness that needs overcoming.
Next, comes the developing of an alliance with power, through the establishing of real choice that is not reactive picking. Real choice begins through the establishing of a sense of meaning-fullness, thereby overcoming the conditioning of reactive behaviour. Not unlike the conditioning of Pavlov’s dog.