Whoever said “Happiness is in between the ears” was right on. Happiness and misery are states of mind. Yet we continue to believe that material goods will bring us joy. TV, newspapers, radio abound with commercials that promise us lasting happiness if only we buy their specific goods. With the best intention parents will often promise a child his/her favorite toy if the child agrees to adhere to the rules laid out by a well meaning parent; “When the child adheres to these rules he /she gets rewarded with a toy. Since our infancy we are trained to believe that hard work and perseverance lead to achievement of material goods that ultimately bring fulfillment and happiness.The only thing wrong with this picture is that the promise of fulfillment is a facade and a temporary one at that. The toy only provides temporary joy and is soon discarded for new shinier one. As we grow older the toy takes on different forms, it may take the form of a better job(s), a house(s), car(s), wife, children the list goes on. The toy not only changes forms it even multiplies. Yet, the joy and fulfillment we seek is not to be found?
This is because we never looked for it in the right place, in fact we have only been trained to look for it in all the wrong places. Happiness cannot be found “outside.” This is an important concept to understand. “Outside” here represents people, places and things all of which give us temporary happiness. Happiness and misery are right here within us; inside our mind.
I am not suggesting that one must not Endeavour to improve one’s economic status by getting a better job, or seeking a happy married life. The problem is not with the material goods, the people or places that we seek, but the belief that their attainment alone will lead to happiness. All too often despite having it all we are still not happy. And when we are not happy we tend to blame the world for our unhappiness.
Let’s pause here, and discuss what happiness is, before we dwell further into this. Happiness means different things to different people. Some people equate happiness with visiting certain places, others will confuse it with an acutely euphoric state of mind rendered by drugs, alcohol, material goods, while yet others feel they are happiest in the company of their loved ones. I am not here to tell them they are right or wrong. In one way, they are all right in another they are all wrong. The quest for happiness or the lack thereof is a very personal journey and it is what makes the world go round. However one thing is certain, lasting happiness cannot be found “outside” in any one person, place or thing.
So then how can we guarantee lasting happiness? Unfortunately, the simple truth is: we cannot.
The workings of a human mind are far too complicated to fathom. An ordinary person cannot be happy or unhappy all the time. We feel love, joy, jealousy, disgust, desire, happiness and a sleuth of emotions all in the span of a single day. The goal is never to remove the negative emotions completely and permanently because that is just not humanly possible.
The goal is to lengthen the enjoyment of the positive emotions, without becoming a slave to them and without the crutch of abusive substances, things or ever the people we love. Emotions such as happiness and pain by nature are transitory and thankfully so.
The state of mind that is most desirable is not happiness; it is equanimity. Equanimity is the intelligence to neither get completely carried away in a moment of joy nor get shattered in misery or pain. Equanimity dwells on the concept of awareness. All too often we live in the past or in the future, never fully cherishing the moment we are in. Equanimity in a nutshell is the negation of its ego and the complete awareness of the present moment without forming a bias or getting attached to anything. Clearly it is a loaded concept to understand, however, it is one that promises lasting peace of mind.
To become an equanimous person, one must let go of one’s ego which is the root cause of pain and misery. Needless to say, we live in a very individualistic world and see every opportunity with the lens of “What’s in it for me?” But if the answer to that question were to be “lasting peace and a greater appreciation of every moment,” would we not find it worthwhile to inculcate?
The problem is that the concept of equanimity preaches to lose the very baggage we have so passionately carried with ourselves through our life; our ego. Imagine a child that started rolling a ball of snow through a snow covered mountain, and as he rolls it, the ball collects more snow and grows bigger in size. By the time he reaches the foot of the hill, his tiny ball of snow has become a gigantic boulder of snow, which will eventually roll him over. This ball of snow is our ego, and it is not easily let go off.
I would like to clarify at this point, that I certainly do not claim to be equanimous myself. I am easily moved by sorrow, pain and jump for joy at the slightest indication of happiness. As humans, we can only endeavor and persist to continuously improve ourselves. When we stumble and fall, what do we do? We instinctively get up and move on. Thus also during difficult and trying moments it is only too human to lose one’s mind, but the important thing is to persevere. Losing one’s ego and becoming equanimous is not something we will achieve overnight, but realization is always the first step to change.
Realize that happiness cannot be bought with money, and the very ego that we are so protective of is the very source of our unhappiness. Realize that constantly living in the past or in the future is another source of unhappiness as it causes us to lose the only thing we are guaranteed in life: the present.
Unfortunately, happiness is not for sale here. Lasting peace of mind and equanimity is, however, available in your own mind. Let us now begin our journey to seek for the right goal in the right place; “within.”