Being happy is a goal most of us aspire to; but what does that really mean? Are we seeking a prolonged high, or does it just mean finding sustainable contentment? However we define it, happiness that lasts is not conditional on external factors.
A myth permeates so much of what we do and think: that to be happy, we need to get the external factors right. So we work hard to earn money to buy stuff we want; we strive and suffer to get the right relationship; and we position ourselves to get the respect we feel we deserve. Get all of this right, avoid pain and illness, and we’re happy. Sorted.
Doh. Is that working for you? Great if it is, but I’ll wager it won’t last. Maybe it’s not quite working yet, but with just the right twists and turns, a good investment, a new suit and a bit of luck, you might just hit the sweet spot. So go on, do this all your life.
In the Buddhist world, this is called samsara: a cycle of dissatisfaction based on chasing a rainbow.
But here’s the secret: the pot of gold is right here, now, in you. It’s like a huge gold nugget that gets lost under heaps of mud in your back yard. No matter how mucky the mud, the gold beneath remains untarnished and waiting for discovery.
So the real work in finding happiness is to uncover it, brush off the mud, and enjoy it. This is called meditation.
I am still in the world of mere mortals, and just like you, I suffer chasing the rainbow. But from over 20 years of brushing off the mud, I know this for sure: the most amazing state of happiness is not from highs and outer successes; it is hitting the sweet spot in meditation where everything is exactly, perfectly right, just as it is.
My teacher, when I had opened up to this insight, had just one word of instruction for me: ‘integrate’. So there are just two tasks for us if we seek contentment: cultivate our mindfulness practice so that we glimpse the gold within, and then to take that insight into the world, to cultivate peace around us.