Everyone wants to be happy. Everyone wants to feel good. It's the driving force behind everything anyone ever does in the world, period.
Some of us get so caught up in things we don’t like, that we end up seeking happiness in the wrong places. Alcohol, drugs, cheap sex, speeding cars, fighting, confrontation.
The problem with trying to drown out our current reality with cheap thrills, or trying to force it to change by warring against it, is that these methods are short lived, like a quick sugar rush, and often the come down can bring us more pain than we had planned.
Solutions achieved by short term, outer focus might seem great but they don't last. After they are over we're left alone right back where we started. They don't fill the space and they can cause us great personal and collective harm.
But you know, no one ever did anything that they thought would be ultimately detrimental to themselves, regardless of how the results look to the rest of us on the outside.
Even the most abhorrent atrocities you can imagine are always carried out in the (mis)belief on the part of those committing them, that their actions are for the betterment of their society or themselves.
Everyone always makes decisions based in the belief, that what they do will make them feel better, not worse, than they currently do. It’s inconceivable that anyone would ever do anything to feel worse than they currently do.
There are of course circumstances where it might be obvious to us on the outside that a person's behavior is damaging to themselves and others, but psychologically their actions make perfect sense to them.
An Extreme Example
Take the example of a suicide bomber. Their mindset would seem quite insane to most of us, but to them they are thinking rationally. Our experience, our ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, black and white, are all relative.
A suicide bomber lives outside the present moment. He/she holds a belief that a future experience will be better than right now. They are willing to take the ultimate step towards realisation of their idea, and are willing to take others with them in order to experience it.
They have convinced themselves, or have allowed themselves to be convinced, that a happier life exists in some time and place other than here and now.
How Does It All Go So Wrong?
If everyone is searching for happiness, and all anyone will ever do, is in the the pursuit of happiness, how does it all go so wrong at a personal level and on a world scale?
Current worldwide events will make many of us ponder deeply on this. Many more of us will be reactive and and programed in our response, ultimately fueling the pain and suffering in the misled belief that we are making things better.
We seem not to learn very well from our previous experiences. What’s that old saying again, you know the one about insanity?
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”
I don’t know who said that, but it seems fair to me. No matter how hard we try, we’ll never make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.
In my own personal search for answers to this, and other heavy questions, and after numerous cock-ups on my own particular rollercoaster ride, I've come up with three fundamental guidelines for happiness.
These seem to work for me, and although every day presents a new challenge I use these to re-center myself when I begin to drift. Maybe they can work for you too.
How To Be Happy Out; The Three Fundamental Rules
- Break The Rules
- Don't Get Caught
- Respect All Things (Both animate and inanimate)
I realise that on the face of things, these rules are open to interpretation and need some explanation, so let's get into them now.
#1 Break The Rules!
Breaking the rules is vital to growth on both a personal level and on a universal level.
We were born into this world a blank canvas. We are awareness housed in a bag of skin and bone, and from day one the rules that others created began to take effect and shape us.
The rules came from those who loved and cared for us the most, and from the caretakers of The Social System that we have built and maintain.
[box]The Social System; A social ideology, belief or group of beliefs held by an individual or group of individuals which dictates the thoughts and actions of a wider society.[/box]
They gave us a name and a number. They told us how to speak, how to think, what to wear, how to behave, how to live, how much money we could make. They gave us boundaries and limitations.
All of these definitions and limitations were enforced by our society and the systems built within them. Societies vary from one part of the world to the next but by and large they teach the same thing.
The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones. – John Maynard Keynes
Changing Old Ideas
We didn’t get a choice in whether to accept the preconditions we were given, at least from a physical perspective. We didn’t understand that there were alternatives, an infinity of alternatives for that matter.
So we rolled in and did what we were told, we did our very best according to the rules we were given, despite some things going against our better judgement.
All of us grew up with these constraints to our development. Rules and regulations abound and the teachers of the rules believe in them so entirely that if you break them woe be unto you.
Those who made the rules had their own best interests at heart, although they might have presented them for the benefit of the greater good.
These guys are long gone but many of their ideologies remain and they can be slow to change. That's because most humans can only cope with a little change at a time.
Slow change can be a good thing but it means that unsavory circumstances tend to stick around longer than we otherwise would like.
Big Change Big Pain
Big changes come about like a sudden pop or bang and cause a lot of distress to people. Sudden change can be tough to take, but often it comes about because there is a powerful desire and push on behalf of consciousness towards that change.
Nothing ever changes unless the rules are broken. No positive development in consciousness and in the lives of the people on this planet ever occur unless someone somewhere says;
HOLD IT! I’m not having that!
It can occur at any level of society. At a personal, family, community, country or international level and it often it tends to stir things up.
Most of us are living a life of mediocrity, playing by the rules, which is born from both fear and a lack of belief in our own capacity to do greater things.
You could be the gay son of parents with old world traditional religious values. Or a government official with new ideas in an old school political party, the principle is the same.
Even our ideas of right and wrong have changed over the years, and continue to change for the better. There was a time in most societies where an eye for an eye was right, just and proper. It still does in some societies.
Corporal punishment and sentencing to death are considered right from a very narrow perspective. Some societies will continue to do this until they advance to the point of broader understanding.
It is my strongly held opinion that if you really want to be free and happy in your work and life, you've got to be prepared to break the rules.
Breaking the rules is not only our responsibility, but our obligation. Stir it up ruffle some feathers, break the pattern, challenge preconceptions. Life is too short to play by someone else’s rules.
#2 Don't Get Caught
The ones who enforce the system at both a macro and micro level, believe in the system and often believe there is no alternative. Even to entertain an alternative is beyond comprehension to most of them.
These people operate completely on autopilot. They live and work by the rules, and that's fine, but you don't need to. You can exist in the system but you need to take a particular understanding with you.
It is possible to exist in the system and stand aside from it psychologically, and it's vital that we do so if we are to live a life by our own design.
But it's tricky. It requires us to allow the fools to be fools without trying to make them kings. Know what I mean? Pick your moments. Allow people to be where they are.
Whatever your aspiration or dream, I've learned that it's good to stay below the radar while preparing. New ideas can be liberating when they come but we need to stay in control of our energy.
To launch new ideas into the world before it has had time to form structure in our minds, can bring a wave of unwanted opposition that we'd be better off without.
Keep Your Cards Close To Your Chest
In the early stages of a new idea, it's likely that the detail required to make it real is lacking, and therefore it may be hard to believe you have the inner capacity.
The trick is to trust the impulse and take a step forward. It's important at this time to keep ideas close and only share with others who are on your wavelength.
To share with everyone will likely bring a wave of crap and opposition we could likely do without. Until the ideas are formulated strongly enough in mind, it's good to keep your cards close to your chest in my view.
At the early stages of a new business idea or some other audacious goal, those people around you may not support you and you must make this ok.
Those around you, friends, peers etc gathered in line with a previous idea of you that you held. Now you are changing, so those people are unlikely to understand.
Surround Yourself With Supporters
When we begin to pursue a new idea, people who resonate with it will begin to surround you. You'll be prompted to find groups where your idea will be supported. Seek these people out.
New ideas often challenge long held beliefs and so it's vital that your progress is not damaged by coming on too strong too fast, it's just not worth it.
I've learned this principle the hard way. In the past I have made gaining the support of people close to me, who can't see the vision, way too important and as such failed to reach my goals.
The danger of making support of certain people important is that it can become vital to your success. Now your success is conditional on that support and when it doesn't come you meet failure head on.
My advice is don't share until you're ready, and even when you are, those close to you may never be ready to receive so best not to make their support a high priority.
If their support does come then that's a bonus.
This is what I mean by don't get caught. Don't get caught in the system. Don't get caught by those who would oppose you. Don't get caught trying to prove your rightness.
#3 Respect All Things (Both animate and inanimate)
Life permeates all things both animate and inanimate. Life is inherent in everything regardless of its physical state. All things are consciousness objectified.
I believe life is consciousness and consciousness is life. I understand all things, no matter how basic they seem to be, to have inherent consciousness.
This can be difficult to grasp because most of us have been schooled by the long held scientific idea that if something isn't moving around or in a state of perceivable growth that we can observe then it's not alive.
Our definition of life needs to be revised I think.
The way I see it all things are alive, even the ground under our feet. Especially the ground under our feet infact. The air we breath, rocks, soil, plants, insects, animals, humans, there is no difference. Life is life.
Life is in all things, it's that which animates and which holds apparent inanimate things together. If we can't have respect for the ground under our feet how can we possibly fully respect another human being?
We are born, then we die. That which animates us leaves, our perspective broadens and our shell is left behind. Our shell is delivered to the ground and it begins to decompose.
We are cast back into the soil and we become worm feed. Our physical body breaks down and becomes fuel for insects and plants.
Our bodies quite literally become the insects, animals, plants and trees. We become rocks and we become mountains.
More people are born, they consume the animals and the plants and they grow and they die, round and round it goes ad infinitum.
When we realise that the entire physical world comes out of consciousness, including our physical selves, then we can't not have respect and reverence for everything.
If we disrespect our environment we disrespect ourselves and our children, and all that come after us. Truly being happy comes about by virtue of this fundamental truth.
Are We Supposed To Be Unhappy?
I believe it's our divine right to be live a happy life but most of us spend our entire existence looking for it outside ourselves. At best we accept some watered down version.
We give up. We believe that life and happiness is a lottery and that we must accept the hand that we are dealt. It's such a defeatist bullshit attitude.
We invest our energy in pleasing others in the misled belief that this will bring us the love and peace we deserve, only to realise that we are sacrificing what's in our heart.
We are trained by people who have come before us, worked the system, see it doesn't work and yet sell it to us wholesale. Generation after generation give up their power to a system that fails to deliver.
We get on the ladder. We go to school and learn what we are told. We get the job and live the dream only for us to realise later we were sold a pup.
We put off our happiness until some point later in life, for the sake of money and bills and responsibilities. We shout at our kids, we scream at the traffic lights, we pretend that all is well.
Bottom line I believe is happiness is up to us. We get to decide to play the game by our own rules or someone else's.
Want to know how to be happy? Well I'm kinda working on that…
I'm guessing we have a choice though, so we either start doing the things that make us happy or we don't. It certainly requires some faith, and balls, and a willingness to go blindfolded sometimes…
But I'm guessing that it will work itself out. All I know for sure is I've one life as me, so I'm gonna do things my way, go down my own road, even if it means going it alone for a while…
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Sifu Z says
I think this is a good article. There are points I strongly disagree with but they are unimportant. I think the case for “happy” may need more proof but it stands true in the vernacular. Good on ya!
Hey Z thanks for reading. I wrote this a while back and I’ll need to read again to see if it reflects my views now. That is; happiness and unhappiness don’t truly exist and can not be experienced ultimately. When we talk of these they are usually in response to phenomena, circumstances, events, experiences. That “happy” state we seem to be seeking exists internally irrespective of life experience. When we chase happiness we’re chasing shadows. No doubt millions feel “unhappy” but for me, from what I’ve come to know, this reflects an inner state that we can control if we can only see that it’s possible. Wu Wei: go with the flow.