March 13, 2013

Why the Search for Happiness Causes Misery

You can’t find something that’s already here with you. Happiness exists in this moment. It’s not something you need to find. That’s like trying to find the oxygen you’re breathing right now.

I have discovered that it’s the tension of your mind that causes unhappiness. If you’re not happy, it’s because your mind is focused on something that’s making you unhappy. And why is your mind doing this? Because you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of misdirected judgment, productivity and purpose that has you thinking about every imaginable time and place, except right here, right now. That’s not to say being productive is irresponsible, or that pursuing goals that have a purpose is wrong. The problem occurs when you base your entire reason for living on a point in time – an activity or achievement – that doesn’t yet exist.

When we place all of our happiness on the idea of ‘getting’ something, checking off items on a to-do list, or achieving a future goal, we’re fooling ourselves. We’re like a puppy that’s chasing his tail. We keep running around and around, chasing that tail with every bit of energy we have, but we never catch it. And we never stop to think that it might be all the chasing that’s making us miserable. We’re too distracted with trying to win the game. As soon as we beat one level and see some success, we’re instantly in a hurry to upgrade our search and move on to the next level. We never stop to think that it’s not the failure to win the game that causes our grief, but the game itself.

We neglect to realize that sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to stop participating in the problem. Sometimes the best way to solve a problem is to simply stand still and breathe.

  • The smartest way to be happy with the place you live is to stop chasing the mansion you see on HGTV with five bedrooms, a pool, a fireplace, and a three-car garage.
  • The best way to solve the problem of not having lots of friends is to stop worrying about having more, and instead appreciate the ones you have.
  • The simplest way to be content with yourself is not to achieve high admiration and praise from others, but to accept yourself fully for who you are now.
  • The quickest route to happiness is to stop the pursuit of finding happiness and start the process of being happy.

By letting go a little, we immediately release ourselves of the grasping tension of the mind. But it’s not easy to stay in this mindset (the mind loves to hold on); it’s something we have to constantly cultivate.
Our consumer driven culture doesn’t help us at all. We’re persistently showered with messages that we need this, or we need that. Every day on TV, we hear: “Buy this and it will make your life easier and happier!” If only we could afford that thing we may finally be happy. Wrong.

“Things” aren’t going to make your life any better. I mean, buying a faster, newer computer or getting a new cute boy/girlfriend is great. You may feel a sense of joy and achievement, but you’re still looking for happiness outside yourself through a “thing.”

Instead, we should base our happiness on the life we are living – on the beauty that is already ours, on desires that don’t shift from moment to moment, in our life itself. In fact, we don’t even need to ‘find’ happiness.

Stop searching. Stop chasing. Happiness is already here.

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