Have you ever noticed that everything you do, everywhere you go, everything you want, everyone you want to be with, are all motivated by one thing – the search for the holy grail of happiness. Almost everyone, consciously or subconsciously, is seeking happiness almost all the time. Hence the flood of books, seminars, courses, workshops and retreats in the last ten years, all promising to restore your happiness. But none can! It’s impossible! This is why!
There are three ‘big dots’ in all our daily lives that we have to join before we can be consistently happy. These are Happiness, Freedom and the Self. Only when we clearly understand the real meaning of each and only when we see the connection between them, and only when we actually ‘do’ the connecting, can we be authentically happy beings.. again!
It’s probably true to say that each and every day most of us will probably ask our self, “How can I, where can I, find happiness today”. But few will ask, “Why am I not happy now?” Living in this question will eventually lead you to realize the three mistakes that we are all taught to make in life.
The first mistake is to do with ‘reality’! We all learn to confuse the secondary reality with the primary reality! The secondary reality is the world around us ‘out there’. This is the ever-changing world of people, events, circumstances and things. The primary reality is the world within us, within our consciousness. This is the ever-changing internal universe of our perceptions, thoughts, feelings, emotions and attitudes. We learn to believe that the secondary reality is the primary reality and, for many, it seems to be the only reality. This leads us to make the second fatal mistake.
When we cease to recognize that the primary reality is within our own consciousness and therefore under our control, we learn to believe that what we ‘feel’ is created by the world outside and around us i.e. by the secondary reality. Which, of course, is not under our control. We then look ‘out there’ and go out there in search of the ‘stimulations’ that seem to create the feelings of peace and happiness. We learn to believe that our apparently ‘happy feelings’ come from outside in. But those feelings are not authentic happiness, they are just moments of ‘pleasure’. So the second mistake is we learn to believe that pleasure is happiness. But it’s not. It’s only sensual stimulation.
The ‘stimulations’ that come from outside in do give us a ‘high’ but the highs are always followed by the ‘lows’. Over time we need more new and longer stimulations to maintain the pleasure we mistakenly believe is happiness. Eventually the lows also get lower, longer and more intense. The lows are otherwise known as suffering or ‘unhappiness’. That’s why, when you believe the secondary reality ‘out there’ is the primary reality, and you believe that your happiness comes from the secondary reality ‘out there’, you will then go in search of pleasure believing it to be happiness and, as a consequence, you are guaranteed to make your self unhappy! You can check the veracity of that last sentence against your own experience.
It’s not that pleasure is wrong. It is part of the richness of life’s many diverse experiences. It’s just not authentic happiness. Or, if you prefer, it’s not ‘real’ happiness. It’s just a fleeting thrill!
Mistaking the secondary reality for the primary reality, leads to mistaking pleasure for happiness, which then leads to the third mistake. This is where the vast majority of us join the world’s most popular religion without realizing it! It’s called Hedonism! The hedonist is someone who seeks only pleasure in life believing it to be the ‘only’ happiness.
We are taught by parents and teachers to make these three ‘popular’ mistakes. We grow up in a culture that encourages these mistakes. And just about every business has a vested interest in ensuring we keep making these mistakes!
However, we occasionally hear about people who become totally disillusioned with the pleasure seeking way of life. They have realized that it only leads to disappointment and unhappiness and, for some, misery and depression. Their suffering becomes so intense they start to question almost everything. Sometimes these people have an elevated position in an organization, much material wealth and a comfortable lifestyle. They appear to ‘have it all’, yet they feel empty on the inside within the primary reality of their consciousness. Then, one fateful day, they give it all up and ‘convert’ to a lesser-known ‘movement’ known as Eudonism! They realize that hedonistic happiness is just fleeting pleasure from outside in, whereas Eudonistic happiness is authentic and stable and it arises from inside out!
They give up all their trappings and they go and live and give on a Kibbutz, or they work for some obscure charity or for a volunteer organization, for almost nothing in return. In essence, they freely give their energy for the benefit of others. When you meet them a year later one of the first things they often say is, “I wish I’d done that a long time ago”. Why, because they rediscover that authentic happiness is a deep self-generated feeling of contentment bordering on a quiet joyfulness and sense of fulfillment, as a result of using their energy more ‘meaningfully’, usually by helping or serving others in some way.
Until we become aware of these three basic mistakes we tend to make three further errors on a daily basis. See if you make these errors as a result of confusing the secondary with the primary reality and pleasure with happiness.
You work hard, late and long because somewhere along the line you also learned to believe you have to work hard and achieve something in the world ‘out there’ in order to ‘deserve to feel happy’ in here. And if you don’t work seriously hard then you should feel guilty i.e. unhappy with your self!
You fall into the trap of the ‘beauty myth’, which says that if you are not absolutely gorgeous with perfect skin and the whitest smile you cannot be happy and successful just like all those perfectly formed images of people on the hoardings and glossy magazine ads!
You become a people pleaser because you have come to believe that you cannot be happy in your relationships until you do or say something that seems to make another happy!
All of which are guaranteed ways to become unhappy when a) you don’t work hard and/or ‘achieve’ or b) your reflection in the mirror is anything but beautiful or c) when those in your life are not happy regardless of what you do or don’t do.
Which leaves us with one question, what then is real happiness?
There are probably three kinds of authentic human happiness – contentment, joy and bliss. Each has its own necessary precondition or realization within our consciousness before it can be generated, felt and sustained.
Contentment requires the realization that everything is happening and everyone is doing exactly what they are meant to be doing, everywhere at each and every moment! It requires the giving up of two particular habits called ‘judgement’ and ‘control’! When we judge anyone or anything we lose our inner peace, which is the foundation of contentment. When we try to control anyone we will always fail and, as a result, we’ll generate some form of anger, which is extreme unhappiness!
Joy requires we realize the purpose of life is nothing more or less than ‘to live’. This leads us to the second question, which is ‘what does it mean to live’. As we live in this question we arrive at an equally simple conclusion. The purpose of living is the one thing we are doing all the time, the one thing we cannot not do, which is thinking, which is ‘creating’. We don’t come here to get a life, we come here to create our life! It is to consciously create our life, our path, our journey, ‘with’ others but without being dependent ‘on’ others. And that begins within our own consciousness, within our own minds.
That is obviously not an easy insight as we have all been taught to expect to get a job, expect to get the money, expect to have a family, expect a certain lifestyle etc. Many of us learn to believe we are somehow automatically entitled to these things. We may even demonstrate and fight for our expectations and entitlements, sometimes known as ‘rights’. But until we wake up to the reality that these are the things we are here to create for ourselves we are likely to create and live in a victim mindset. And there is no joy in considering your self to be a victim!
Bliss is that authentic feeling of happiness when we are a completely and utterly free being. In such moments, when you are literally a ‘free spirit’, you are not anchored by anything, not attached to anyone and not trapped in any object, idea, belief or memory. If you are curious, this is where you will start to notice why you are not happy so often. It also brings us to the third big dot! The self.
The vast majority of us will learn to lose our freedom of self and become attached to and trapped in one, if not all, of the seven P’s of the secondary reality – namely position, power, pay, possessions, people/person, prestige and privileges. We don’t notice how we lose our ‘sense of self’ in the ideas and images if each of these things within the primary reality of our own consciousness.
Believing them to be sources of happiness, and not realizing they can only provide temporary pleasure, we use them to form a false sense of identity without noticing they are actually the bars of a prison cell that we build within our own consciousness. Then we wonder why we spend much of our time in some form or fear of losing one or many. That’s why some level of anxiety is almost omnipresent in everyone’s life. Anxiety, tension, worry are all forms of fear, the fear of loss. Fear is unhappiness.
There are so many illusions built into this loss of personal freedom, from which arises an almost constant state of unhappiness, that it ‘seems’ we can only ever alleviate it with moments of pleasure! For many, it’s probably true to say, a life of quiet desperation is survived by frequent sensory indulgences!
We believe we are free because we believe freedom is defined only by the ability to go anywhere, say anything and do anything… that we want! But that’s not true freedom. It’s just a kind of freedom in the secondary reality ‘out there’. Freedom in the primary reality of our own consciousness is complete non-attachment from everything and everyone ‘in here’. Paradoxically, only then are we fully available for anyone and everyone around us ‘out there’.
When we are free on the inside i.e. non-attached, we are no longer busy with the emotions of fear and sadness (the most common forms of unhappiness) that must come with our attachment to any of the seven P’s. Only then are we internally free enough to do the most natural thing with the energy of our consciousness, our self, which is to ‘create’ our own ways of extending ‘care’ to others!
This perspective doesn’t make sense to a mind conditioned by a material society whose values and behaviors are driven by the secondary reality, otherwise known as the ‘material paradigm’. It usually doesn’t make sense until we become so tired or so stressed or so dis-functional in our relationships that we are forced to stop and deeply reflect on the beliefs that are running our life. That’s when we start to see those three mistakes!
The hardest lesson is to stop believing that what you are seeing in the bathroom mirror is YOU! It’s not! It is just a physical appearance and the SELF is not a physical appearance. Our physical body is where the secondary reality begins. If we invest our identity in anything in the secondary reality unhappiness is our inevitable destiny. That’s why, for so many people, their stress, their suffering, begins in front of the bathroom mirror every day!
So now you know why you are not happy. Now you know that to be happy it is necessary to be truly free, and that to be truly free you need to stop losing your self in what is not you. Only in that freedom, can you be your true authentic self! Only then are you non-attached and un-needy! Only then can you be a true ‘giver’ and only then can you rediscover your authentic ‘eudonic’ happiness that comes from inside out as you give of your self. Then, gradually, extremely gradually for some, the addiction to pleasure and the illusion that pleasure is happiness quietly fades away.
It’s been so long since the vast majority of us have ‘known’ and lived this way, so long since pleasure and happiness were disentangled, so deep are the habits and tendencies to seek the short term pleasures, that it’s going to require a little time and deliberately focussed attention to restore one’s self to that state of inner freedom.
That’s why your old friend ‘patience’ should be invited to join you on the journey back to simply being your self.
Question: Why do you think we have all learned to make the three mistakes?
Reflection: Recall a moment when you used your energy for the genuine benefit of others with no thought of wanting anything in return. What did you feel exactly?
Action: Pick one moment every day during the coming week and do something that will induce eudonic happiness!
Source Credits: Mike George in Inner Beauty Consultant. Extracted and edited from Mike’s latest book entitled ‘BEING Your Self – Seeing and Knowing What’s IN the Way IS the Way !’