I often hear folks say, “I just need to find what makes me happy.” Happiness, and its pursuit is a major goal in life. After all, even our Declaration of Independence states we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The word pursuit, by definition, means to go in search of. I often find that is what happens around happiness, whether it be in relationship, job, or material objects. We are in search of until we find and then guess what? We are usually in search of once again. A metaphor often used to describe the cycle of desire and pursuit is the dangling carrot in front of the donkey and the donkey following the carrot as it’s not quite within his reach, but he’s almost there. Another metaphor I think of is when I watch my cat play with the laser toy that he loves so much. This make-believe “lightning bug” he thinks he is chasing looks like it will be just in his reach so he places a big paw on it, and it magically disappears only for him to now find it on his back paw! How did it get there? How can I get it again? When will I ever get it and keep it? These are the questions we ask about happiness all the time. As often, when we feel happy we are not even aware of how we achieved that state. The interesting thing I found out about my cat and that laser toy is that it is not healthy for them to play too long with it as since they never get to make a true catch, they actually become quite frustrated and agitated. Hum, interesting as we humans are left in the same cycle of suffering when we are on our own pursuit of the magic laser beam of constant happiness. Once we “catch it” we want it again and again and again. Desire breeds more desire.
Why the constant cycle? Well, much of it has to do with the fact that we believe life should contain a great deal, if not, a constant stream of happiness. With this belief, we begin the search. When we are in the search we are focused on where we want to go or what we wish to get and often miss out on what is right in front of us now. It is the moments of joy that exist in front of us that we lose when we concentrate on the moments of joy we hope to get. If we begin to look at moments of happiness, rather than an end pursuit we may actually find that happiness lies in the smallest of places and is with us all the time if we are open to see.
The Buddhist term sukha or ease is a state of flourishing that arises from mental balance and insight into the nature of what is, or current moment to moment reality. It can be defined as a state of happiness that is enduring as it arises from a mind that is in balance or equanimity, not from an attached mind that is full of desire. To achieve sukha a transformation of consciousness is needed. This can be achieved through mindfulness and sustained training in attention. How do we begin a path to mindfulness? Well, we can begin with turning our attention and focus to the first foundation of mindfulness, through the use of our breath and body.
How do we embody joy and happiness? Spend a moment contemplating all you have done today as you read this. I mean really think back to the moment your eyes opened and you took a breath and noticed yourself “awake.” From there you went about your busy day without much thought to how you got there and the role your body played. See if right now you can take a moment to be curious about all your body has done today. I don’t mean in “working out,” but just in assisting you through your daily motions and routines. It may sound like nothing but trust me it is something. It is something to start to be mindful of what we do have. Now I know some of you reading this may say, yes, but I do not like my body as it gives me distress and/or pain. Well, that is information as well. We may not always find what is to be pleasant, however, it is still the truth and it is what is with you right now. You do not need to grasp and pursue and work so hard. Rather, you can find joy and happiness in the simple fact that, even with pain or discomfort you can still find a breath. Your breath is still breathing your body and reminding you of the moment of being alive. It is moments that we cultivate into happiness, joy, and equanimity.
May you continue to CULTIVATE joy, happiness, and equanimity.
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE IN PEACE AND EASE