“The pursuit of happiness” is an odd phrase in our Declaration of Independence. Like Justice Scalia, I imagine that I know what the founders meant by it, but it seems to me that the concept of “pursuing” happiness is wrong-headed.
First of all, happiness is not tangible: it can’t be bought and it can’t be sought. Happiness is a state of being, and it arises when we create a receptive, full and open awareness. No one and nothing can make you happy or unhappy. This is hard to accept, but happiness is a choice. It’s your belief that something is not the way your ego wants it to be that makes you unhappy. You always have the choice to shift your attitude. Making your happiness contingent on anything outside of yourself is a sure way to remain unhappy for the rest of your life.
Second, and more importantly, it is critical to know that happiness is transitory. No one is happy all the time, and you don’t need to be happy all the time. It’s not normal. Emotions are energy-in-motion; by definition they come and go. There is in this country, thanks to that pursuing happiness comment, a tendency to think that our entire aim in life ought to be going after happiness; hence our materialistic mania and focus on diversion and youth. Ironically, and and at the risk of repetition, this pursuit serves only to make us chronically unhappy. America is the most affluent country on the planet and it also has the highest rate of gun violence, depression, obesity and heart disease.
Cultivating happiness is both simple and difficult. It’s not esoteric, but it is very hard for those of us having a human incarnation to practice on a daily basis. So for the benefit of those like my friend who shall remain anonymous but is, in fact, a closet Eeyore and likes things simple and codified into lists that don’t require too much time or pondering, I humbly offer these
Ten Keys to Happiness:
1. Embrace Silence
You can’t begin to find anything in yourself in the midst of chaos and noise. Find some quiet and alone space, without anything that has a battery. If you instantly start to think about all the stuff you have to do, you’re normal, but you’re also amped up and you need more quiet time.
2. Release Toxins
This means the stuff you put into your body as well as the stuff you emit, like anger, fear, negativity, worry. Toxins cloud the invisible realm of spirit and make it hard for happiness to come in. If ingesting something is the only way you find happiness, you might want to seek some help.
3. Cultivate Self Knowledge
Spend some of your quiet time contemplating who you really are–not your body, not your job, not your cash or lack thereof, but what is alive and pondering inside of you. Jesus said, “Ye are gods.” Think about that.
4. See Others as Teachers
If you can imagine that everyone you meet is there to teach you something about yourself, you’re on your way to self knowledge and happiness.
5. Release Judgments
Practice catch and release of all judgments of yourself and others. (see #4)
6. Express Gratitude
For every negative thought, think of one thing for which you’re grateful. Focus on the positive: it’s just as real and present. It’s a metaphysical law that what you focus on increases.
7. Practice Generosity
There is nothing that makes you happier faster than giving of yourself.
8. Live in the Present
Catch yourself thinking about the past or traveling to tomorrow and reel yourself back to right here, right now. You may have to do this a hundred times a day. I do it a thousand.
The less stuff you have, the fewer your obligations, the easier it is to do all the things above.
10. Go with the Flow
It’s far easier to be happy when you are not running from or fighting what is. The difficult things don’t get easier by running or fighting; they get easier when you accept them, feel them and remember that these, too, are life.