The 10,000 Paths
It's the reason "Happy" By Pharrell Williams resounded so deeply with so many around the world. It's the reason we party, dance, eat nice food, search for God and fight for a better life.
- The man or woman working at a big corporation trying to get that next promotion, the nice car and a bigger house.
- The entrepreneur following their dream intent on building a business and being able to do what they love for a living.
- The middle-aged worker toiling away at a big company in hopes that he'll one day be able to retire and live out his golden years.
- The person searching for their partner and "true love" in life so that they can build a family and settle down.
What do these people have in common?
- They all want to be happy & at peace.
- And they want their loved ones to be happy and at peace as well.
The paths we walk in hopes of achieving happiness aren't wrong. It's just wrong that we expect them to bring us real peace and happiness.
Most of us are searching for happiness where it does not exist. Our desire to be happy leads us to search for things outside of ourselves such as power, fame, and wealth.
True happiness exists not outside of ourselves, but inside. It exists in finding inner peace- the foundation of true happiness.
Think of inner peace as the prerequisite for true happiness. Peace is the state accomplished once one has reconciled, cured or come to terms with all negative mental factors, erasing the bad that plagues the mind and keeps it from total relaxation.
Inner peace is a fortress for the mind. This is why it allows us to attain true happiness. The happiness acquired from attaining inner peace is unaffected by outside circumstances.
True happiness is the effect of attaining inner peace. By understanding this, you know how to attain true happiness. Achieve inner peace in order to discover true and lasting happiness.
So then...how do we attain inner peace? How do we find this "true" happiness?
Why Our Search for Happiness Fails
The paramount mistake we make in searching for happiness, and perhaps in life altogether, is convincing ourselves that our happiness exists in something. That is, that happiness exists in one place and one place only and that if we don't get it we can't ever be happy.
But what if we do accomplish our goals? What if the businessman gets that promotion, the entrepreneur builds a successful business, the blue-collar worker gets to retirement with ample savings and the man or woman searching for love finds the one? At least those that do will be happy, right?
Only temporarily. This type of happiness is fleeting. It's more of a mirage of happiness than anything else. Science calls this hedonic adaptation (for more information read The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn't, What Shouldn't Make You Happy, but Does).
Once it wears off all you're left with is a whole new set of stresses and frustrations. This is because true happiness starts with us. Happiness is everywhere, we only need to know how to look. Until we achieve inner peace we'll always look for that one thing that's supposed to make us happy.
But if we convince ourselves that the thing we desire is our key to happiness then we won't ever be happy. As soon as you get that thing you'll want some other thing and then another and another. It's a never-ending cycle of consumption only broken by letting go of craving. Letting go of your craving for something outside of yourself.
By convincing ourselves that happiness exists only in this one thing we don't yet have we miss out on the opportunity to cultivate true peace and happiness in the present moment.
How to Develop the Practice of Inner Peace and True Happiness
True happiness is everywhere. It's in the trees, in the people you meet and in the basic activities you do every day. It's in letting go of those things which you crave and opening your eyes to life in the here and now.
Why is true happiness everywhere and how do you find happiness in everyday activities? By letting go and living with mindfulness.
With mindfulness, you tap into the peace that is everything you do. Every step, every breath, every conversation, everything you drink and eat. Everything becomes a chance to renew your sense of inner peace and discover true happiness.
Happiness isn't a one-shot deal. It isn't a "get it done now and I'm happy forever" thing. It's a practice. It's a way of life. Everything in life is this way. Want to lose weight? Don't go on a diet. Change the way you live your life altogether. Decide that from now on you're going to eat more healthy and exercise regularly.
This is the way to real change. The way to real and lasting self-improvement. Inner peace and happiness are daily practices just like this. There are many ways to cultivate inner peace and discover true and lasting happiness in your life, but these are the necessary foundations from which happiness arises:
The Foundation of True Happiness:
1. Letting go- Let go of the idea that you're incomplete. Let go of the idea that you need "something" in order to be happy.
As I mentioned in the previous section, even if you do acquire that something which you crave- be it a new level of power at work, greater wealth, the attention of another or the adoration of many- you'll just move on to something else. You'll always "need" something which you do not have in order to be happy. And even if you do get what you want, this is not true happiness. It will soon wear off and you'll be right back where you started.
True happiness exists in this moment. Until you learn to let go you won't be able to enjoy the present moment. Your mind will constantly be racing, working to get that thing you need to be happy. Live your life. Raise your kids, go to work, run your business, do your projects. But don't do these things expecting something. Simply commit to contributing your very best to everything you do and let the cards fall where they may. These things can bring you happiness and joy, but don't expect happiness from these things.
Find happiness everywhere and in every moment.
2. Living with mindfulness- You should strive to live every moment of every day in mindfulness. Mindfulness is -the- foundation of peace and happiness. This is because of a number of things. First and foremost, mindfulness keeps you grounded.
We're constantly bouncing around in our minds from one thought to another. Then back to the present, only for a second, and back again into our minds where we ping-pong endlessly. This causes us great stress and anxiety and many of us don't even notice it. Mindfulness puts an immediate stop to this. Indeed mindfulness is the direct opposite of this "monkey mind" syndrome.
Mindfulness is also like placing a magnifying glass over your life. By doing so you have the ability to identify deep-seeded emotions or beliefs such as anger, sadness, a lack of confidence or some other limiting belief and then, seeing clearly the misconception from which these things arose, are able to come to terms with them.
You also begin to notice things which were always present but that you hadn't noticed previously. Mindfulness enhances everyday life. Even the simplest things become a great pleasure. One of the best ways to test this out is the practice of mindful eating. Eating a meal in mindfulness is much more pleasurable and satisfying than not eating in mindfulness. Mindful eating is easy, it's exactly what it sounds like- it's practicing mindfulness while eating.
Don't know how to practice mindfulness? Read The Little Book of Mindfulness.
3. Cultivating compassion- How does seeking to understand others, expressing love and kindness and seeking to help them make you happier or more at peace? In every way possible.
Our happiness is dependent on other people, in a way. Most of us let what others do bother us to no end. Driving to work in the morning when someone suddenly cuts you off on the freeway, at work when your boss asks you to come in for a few hours on a Saturday, at the gym when someone swipes the machine you've been waiting to use for the last 10 minutes, and your husband or wife when at the end of a long day you get into an argument over the smallest seemingly most insignificant thing. These things happen to us every day. And sometimes much worse.
These constant bothers can be so tiring. They're often a source of great stress and frustration for us. But by committing to cultivate compassion for others you will be able to see beyond these incidents to the larger picture. These things will no longer cause you the same level of frustration or stress that they once did.
When you make the commitment to cultivate compassion for all beings (including yourself) you undertake a giant task. Like learning to live with mindfulness every moment of every day, it will be a work in progress. But by seeking to understand those around you and knowing that there is always a reason hidden within every action you will be able to start cultivating compassion for those around you (and those not). This is because understanding is the basis of compassion. To understand someone is to feel compassion towards them.
You can do this easily: Simply commit to the idea that there's a deeper meaning or reason behind why everyone does what they do. When something bothers you, remind yourself of this and then begin thinking of possible explanations. It's a great exercise that I use myself constantly to cultivate compassion and understanding for another. You don't even need to figure out why they do what they do, all you need to do is think of possibilities and you'll calm yourself and feel a sense of compassion grow within you.
Walk the Path
The above three points are a strong foundation for inner peace and happiness. As long as you live by these three principles you have the ability to find happiness wherever you go. Each of the principles takes work- hard work. But true happiness is real and obtainable.
The key isn't to be perfect. The key is simply to make an effort. Begin the process of letting go, strive to live every day with mindfulness and commit to cultivating compassion wherever you go and happiness will be right there with you in every moment.