Don’t seek happiness, seek peace

It’s not a wise decision to seek happiness, because life is uncertain and constantly throws challenges at us. During such times, the mind may desperately want to hold on to happiness, when in fact, the reality is that the yearning for happiness causes greater suffering. This duality torments us. We ‘ought to be’ happy, but we are suffering. This duality is a way to perpetuate suffering.

This is why it is best that we seek peace. Peace simply means that we are okay with what is. It is a deep sense of acceptance of both the highs and the lows in life. Peace admits that there is very little in the outside world that we can control. Accepting this gracefully and with great humility is the beginning of peace. An attitude of peace does not demand happiness. It says, “I am okay with what is, right now“. This state of allowing is akin to the “go with the flow” philosophy of Taoism. It is rooted in non-resistance to what is.

At this stage two questions arise : ‘Is this a defeatist attitude?’ and ‘Should we accept the external situation?’. These are valid questions. Acceptance does not mean that we do not make attempts to change the situation. In fact, true action comes about only when we accept deeply. Imagine that something goes wrong in your home. Let’s say you discover that your son or daughter is taking drugs. The most common reaction here would be “How could you do this? Is this what we have sacrificed our lives for?”. This is non-acceptance. This is a classic example of an egoic reaction – that is – the parents feels personally offended by the action of the child. A response born out of acceptance would be like this : “What made you take drugs?”. When the question is asked from a non-accusatory space, the child knows that (s)he is loved for who (s)he is. Despite this misdemeanor, the child gets the signal that she is accepted and loved. All healing and transformation begins in that space. At the other extreme is indifference. An example of this would be “You are an adult now. Do what you like”. Or worse – complete silence and avoidance of the issue.

Therefore, the way of peace is never the path of a defeatist. It is an active, intelligent and non reactive, non egoic way to attend to challenging situations in life. This is why perhaps there exists this phrase in our lexicon “I made peace with my loss”. Making peace, does not mean one denies the sadness, the loss, the misery that one is currently undergoing. It’s not a “What can you do? That’s life!”. There is no attempt to react, nor is their an attempt to brush things under the carpet. It is the intelligence in seeings things as they are – without aggrandizing it, nor belittling it.

What peace does to us, is it gives us inner stability. It is the home button on our phones. A sort of compass for lost travellers. This inner GPS, helps us handle the vicissitudes of life, without being blown away completely. And this an extremely valuable thing to have.

How can we begin to develop an attitude of making peace with life?

Step 1 : Get established as the witness of your thoughts and emotions
Most challenging things in the external world – the loss of one’s job, the death of a loved one, a breakup – is experienced as a mental and emotional state. It is this reaction within us that causes us pain. The event may have happened months ago, but the imprint on our minds lingers. We need to begin by fully sitting with it from time to time and attending to it. I often think of attending to a petulant child. The more you ignore such children, the more dysfunctional they get. The more you over indulge, the more they cry. The middle path is to attend to the child in a calm manner and give it your full attention. This reduces the tantrums considerably. Take this same attitude with your own emotions and thoughts. Go towards it fully. What is the worry that is bothering you. Write it down. What is the emotion that you can’t face? Fear? Anxiety? Emotional pain? Feel it fully within your body. When we give something full attention, we realize that we are not it. We can observe it. Which means we are at a distance from it. This is a major realizing in the path of peace. Therefore, each time you get overwhelmed, come back to the witnessing self in you.

Step 2: Understand that they are temporary
Often our emotions overwhelm us because we feel we are trapped. The sense of perpetuity, is what bothers us. Think of a time you had a headache. This pain is physically more painful that the emotion caused by fear or a heartbreak. Yet, we ‘perceive’ fear as more threatening to us. This is because we know a headache will pass – however bad it is. However, with fear, we lose the notion of time. This makes it appear that it will perpetuate ad infinitum. The way we can begin to understand that feelings and thoughts come and go, is to ask ourselves the question, “Where is the emotion now?” when we aren’t troubled by it. Emotions and thoughts come in waves. Sometimes we are depressed by them. At other times we feel ‘normal’. Perhaps you are taking a shower. At this time, remind yourself ‘Where is the emotion now?”. We feel strange. We feel ominous. We feel that the emotion will come gushing back. This is okay. When we ask ourselves this question deeply, we realize that the emotion is not here, not now. This provides us the counterpoint and faith to know that even in the darkest of times, there are instances where the emotions simply disappear. This tells us, that the external situation and the internal reaction are not the same. While the external situation may be terrible, the internal reaction need not be bad. And when the internal situation is bad (example: a depression), the external situation does not mirror this inner reality. Severing the link between these two is the path towards understanding the temporal nature of feelings and thoughts. And this bestows a talisman unto you. A talisman that helps you weather the storm.

To sum up, you can never always be happy. It is better to give up this illusion. Let us learn to make peace with even the darkest moments of our lives. This gives us that inner strength that we so desperately yearn for, in this mad, chaotic and often unfair world.

An Ixora in full bloom. Bangalore 2021.

1 Comment

  1. Awesome

    On Tue, 13 Jul, 2021, 2:39 PM Journey of a thousand words, wrote:

    > Akhilesh Magal posted: ” It’s not a wise decision to seek happiness, > because life is uncertain and constantly throws challenges at us. During > such times, the mind may desperately want to hold on to happiness, when in > fact, the reality is that the yearning for happiness causes gr” >

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