What would you say if I told you that I can offer you a simple yet profound new approach to happiness? To help you access a place within yourself, a powerful place of calm, where inner peace and happiness already exists.
I have no doubt in my mind, that there is an inextricable link between one’s personal happiness and calmness. It’s a two-way street: increased happiness leads to greater calm, and increased calm leads to greater happiness. In other words, by intentionally cultivating calmness, a person will experience increased happiness. This is the basis of true inner happiness, a genuine wellspring of calm.
Researchers often wonder about the causal sequence between calmness and happiness. They ask: Is it the case that calm people are happier or are happy people more calm? On a practical level, I suppose, which comes first does not matter. What matters is that we can cultivate both.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, let’s start at the big life question all beings with a consciousness, have at some point asked themselves … What is the purpose of life?
Well, whether one believes in this or that religion, or whether one believes only in science, in the end we all are seeking less suffering and more happiness. But isn’t a life based on seeking personal happiness self-centred, even self-indulgent? Not necessarily. In fact, isn’t it unhappy people who tend to be most self-focused and often socially withdrawn, depressed, and even aggressive.
Happy people, in contrast, are generally found to be more calm, sociable, flexible, and creative and can tolerate life’s daily frustrations more effortlessly than unhappy people. And, most important, they are found to be more loving and forgiving than unhappy people.
We begin, then, with the basic premise that the purpose of our life is to seek happiness. With that, the question arises, what is happiness then?
Well first of all, happiness is not the same as pleasure. On the surface, it may seem like an obvious difference. But, most people confuse the two.
Happiness is when one reaches an inner stage of inner calm and joy. It’s a state of mind and heart and it doesn’t depend on life’s ups and downs and the normal fluctuations of mood.
Pleasure, on the other hand, depends mainly on fleeting physical and emotional satisfaction. It’s unstable; one day it’s there, the next day it may not be. Pleasure, good or bad, is always temporary.
In our quest for happiness it’s therefore important to frame any decision we face by asking ourselves, ‘Will it bring me greater happiness or greater pleasure?’
What then are the key elements contributing to happiness? Good health, wealth, work success, satisfying (emotional and sexual) relationships and security. Just to name a few.
And yes, all these factors are sources of happiness. But for an individual to be able to fully utilize them towards the goal of enjoying a happy and fulfilled life, your state of mind is the key. Why? Because although you see the outer you actually experience the inner! For example, if you are sad, everything seems sad. If you feel irritated everyone is a self-righteous and bad-mannered person.
Anaïs Nin powerfully puts it: “We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.” Think about it: without a calm mental mind-set, without attention to the mental factor, these things – good health, wealth, work success, satisfying (emotional and sexual) relationships and security – have very little impact on your long-term feelings of happiness.
For example, you may be very rich, but when you are in an intense moment of anger or hatred, you suffer deeply. But if you can maintain a calm, peaceful state of mind, then you can be a very happy person even if you suffer from poor health.
Therefore, the greater the level of inner calmness, the greater your ability for lasting happiness. How then can we achieve this calmness?
Step one, is by understanding that you and what happens to you every day are the reflections of your thoughts and feelings. You believe that you meet events and that those events are good or bad, pleasurable or punishing. In other words, your feelings are the reflections of what happens to you moment to moment.
The belief then is that by changing your unhappy and stressful surroundings you will bring an end to it. This has never really worked, and it never will, because the stressful or unhappy condition was not the event but your reaction to it.
This is why nothing can really change for you until you see that your unhappiness, stress and anxiety aren’t connected with the event, it has everything to do with your thoughts about the event.
Why try and change your outer world when it is only a reflection of your inner world? This suggests that unhappiness and stress do not come at you but from you! So, it all starts with you and your relationship to your thoughts and feelings.
Why? Because it is your mind, rather than circumstances themselves, that determines the quality of your life. Your mind is the basis of everything you experience … it makes sense to train it!
It is similar to taking care of your physical body; you need a variety of vitamins, nutrients, exercise, good eating and sleeping habits. In the same way, in order to achieve calmness and inner peace, you need a variety of skills and methods to overcome the negative mental states.
Eventually, through training your mind, you can change, you can transform yourself. Thus the understanding, that achieving lasting happiness as a way of being is a skill.
Step two, is about learning how to put things in perspective and reduce the gap between your story and reality itself. So, let’s consider this for a moment. If it is true that you are the creator of your thoughts, doesn’t it then mean you have the power to let them go if you so choose?
I believe that by developing your ability to let go of your thoughts (and as a result your feelings) you can bring more calm and happiness into your life, right away. The practice of meditation is such a method of letting go of thoughts.
Slowing down is another way and living mindfully is yet another.
Moving slowly and mindfully through life is thus one of the most important steps to happiness. Happiness cannot be “found,” it is a by-product of inner calm.
And happiness is a feeling of calm you can tap into at any time. It’s not an outcome of events. And once you start to see the relationship between your thinking and the way that you feel, you are on your way to unlocking the true power of calm.