Practical Happiness: Stop Reaching, Start Digging

laughingbuddha

The other day I woke up and nothing was right. I was cranky and angry with myself for various reasons. I started plummeting down an abyss of anxiety and depression regarding my self worth and uncertain future—the usual hang ups, but it had been a while since I had felt so emotionally disturbed.

I sat down for my customary meditation and could not focus. It was as if I was a beginner again. Over the past few months my concentration has reached enormous depths, but all those negative feelings blew it to pieces that day.

Finally, around what I think was the 35-minute mark of my 40-minute meditation, I settled into deep concentration. Within those 5 minutes, only one thought arose within me. The gist was, “We’re always reaching for happiness as if it were some foreign object out there, when the truth is that happiness is already within us. It just needs to be cultivated.

It struck me like a jolt of electricity. I began to laugh. How ridiculous my anxiety and insecurities seemed in lieu of this insight. And yet, how many of us live our lives this way on a daily basis.

We believe that lasting happiness or bliss (as I like to call it) is this thing that’s coming to us; it’s floating somewhere out there in the ether. But the truth is that happiness is not something that simply happens. It must be unearthed with skill and practice. I say ‘unearthed’ because I believe that happiness is our natural state.

No child comes into this world carrying the heavy burdens of insecurity, self-loathing, anger, and fear. No, those worries creep in as the mind begins to develop. Some would say it’s inevitable. Maybe so, but the point is that at the beginning, we are unburdened and joyous—free in movement, thought, and emotion.

So how do we get in touch with that happy baby once again? Well, many of us have had years of practice in self-deprecation and chronic misery (mild or otherwise), so it would stand to reason that more practice needs to be undertaken in the opposite direction.

We must realize that happiness is not a thing, but a state of being. Furthermore, it is defined by our thoughts and emotions at any given moment. So, I ask what would happen if we transmuted the negative thoughts we experience so often into positive ones? I’m not speaking about some airy-fairy mentality wherein you repress your negativity and force yourself to be positive. This shift in perspective takes time and practice.

Knowing this, we can implement a healthy and progressive wellness practice in our lives. For me, it is meditation. I practice lovingkindness and insight meditation. I recommend it to everyone, but we are all different and must find what works for us as individuals. Whatever it may be, your wellness practice should be something that puts you at ease and will be your sanctuary. Understand, it is not an escape. It should be a safe time in a safe place to really work through the negativity you experience in your daily life, a time wherein you begin to see the subtleties in patterns of action that lead to unhappiness.

If you are consistent, as time goes on, your perspective will begin to shift. You will still feel suffering, but you will understand that it is your choice whether or not to engage in that suffering. Often, this realization itself brings immense joy.

So go on, practice! Dig deep, be honest, be vigilant, and above all, be patient in your practice. The process of uncovering happiness can be a tedious and painful one because we have to sift through the layers of unhappiness built up around it, but eventually you hit a vein and the happiness comes bursting through all the muck.

Wishing you the warmth of bliss this Tuesday.

By Terence Stone

Featured Art by Konaa W

Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.

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  • Ian D.

    Can we be friends?