From http://www.dayofhappiness.net: A profound shift in attitudes is underway all over the world. People are now recognising that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy at all costs. That’s why all 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority and March 20 has been declared as the International Day of Happiness – a day to inspire action for a happier world.
Simply put, happiness is when we are able to be with what we’re doing while we’re doing it. Happiness is a state of mind. When we are present with what we are doing and able to let go of our worries about the future and regrets about the past happiness is there. Our state of non-happiness begins when we fight against the unfolding of the here and now. When we are stuck in a mental formation or strong emotion or expectation happiness is not possible. Happiness is the ability to be here now.
In the west, our culture instills a deep teaching that happiness only exists outside of ourselves. That happiness is something we acquire with money, hard work, the right conditions, or if we are good enough at something or deserving. Basically we learn that happiness happens when we get what we want. And with this mentality we also learn to be victims of our surroundings. If things don’t go the way we planned or wanted them to or if people don’t act the way we think they should our happiness disappears right away. This is not true happiness. This is conditional happiness. Many times we think what will bring us true happiness is permanent and solid when in reality it is temporary and fleeting.
This is not to say that exterior things or situations cannot bring happiness. Of course they can! It is important however to see that this type of happiness is conditional and will not be long lived. When we hang our happiness on something outside of ourselves once we get what we think will make us happy we are soon onto the next best thing.
True happiness is a flame that cannot be extinguished as easily as clouds covering over the sun. It is a state of being that is cultivated on the inside and radiates outwards. True happiness is a practice. In this light it is different than conditional happiness because we get out of it what we put into it. We have to be diligent in watering the seeds of true happiness, otherwise it will not grow and blossom. When we nurture our true happiness we will benefit from its influence in every aspect of our daily lives.
How do we cultivate true happiness? There are many ways. But perhaps one of the biggest tools is the art of embracing. Embracing ourselves, one another, situations, emotions, and thoughts. Embracing both the pleasant and unpleasant nature of ourselves and others allows us also to practice letting go. Letting go of our stress, worries, fear, expectations, and regrets frees our internal landscape of unskillful blocks which bog us down and drain our energy.
Our happiness can really be measured by our ability to embrace. How often do we embrace ourselves? The people around us? Life? Even something as simple as the weather? How often do we embrace the present moment just as it is? To help celebrate the first annual International Day of Happiness let us start with embracing ourselves just as we are. Embracing ourselves is not a selfish or self serving act. Indeed it is a loving and compassionate way to connect deeply with the present moment and cultivate true happiness.
When we take care good care of ourselves we are also taking good care of those around us. This is the essential teaching of interbeing. Nothing we do is an individual act. We cannot reside by ourselves alone. My friends, we’re in this together.