My inbox is often inundated with emails from readers all over the world, most of them have a problem, some have more than one. The issue though is not that they have problems, it is that they are unable to remain happy among such problems. It is therefore a common belief that if my problem disappears, so will my pain and if there is no pain, I will feel happy. That is rarely the case.

Behind most, if not all, human pursuits is the desire to be happy, to experience joy, to feel a sense of gratification. Happiness, however, is not just a goal, it is not the final destination. It may be one of the outcomes, but above all, it is a mental state, a state of being.

Material richness, intellectual feats, social recognition may aid one to experience joy or feel happy but only in the most limited and temporary fashion. Your original state of bliss is not dependent on what you have or lack. Let me introduce you to the three wheels of happiness with three golden questions. If the vehicle of your life is firmly mounted on these three wheels, you will complete your journey effortlessly, in the happiest possible manner. As follows:

1. Acceptance

Can I accept it and choose peace?

There is something divine about acceptance. Accepting others as they are immediately infuses peace in every atom of your existence. Non-acceptance is synonymous to resistance, it requires challenging, it is comparable to swimming against the flow, it is always harder.

Think of two different people, it is spring and flowers are in full bloom. One’s body accepts pollen and he remains healthy. Other person’s body rejects it as foreign matter, it tries to fight with it, as a result, mucus formation takes place and he suffers from hay fever and the rest. Similarly, you need a fighting system, a coping mechanism only when you cannot accept. There is no reaction if there is no resistance.

For as long as you are dependent on others to make you feel good, to make you happy, they will continue to mold, affect and dictate your state of happiness. It is important to differentiate between accepting people versus circumstances though. You cannot change people but their existence or absence in your life can change your circumstances. If you are unhappy with people, you need to look into yourself for all the answers and solutions and if you are not happy with your circumstances, you need to work towards changing them.

Acceptance does not mean you no longer work towards what matters to you, it means you do not let your present circumstances or the outcome affect your state of peace.

2. Attitude

How do I want to take it?

The second wheel is attitude. How you experience and take anything is entirely dependent on your attitude towards life, others, and yourself. When you start to wish for how life could be and should be, when you start to build on what you do not have, the value of what you already have starts to diminish real fast.

Mulla Nasrudin once met a man in shabby clothes carrying a ragged sack, he looked careworn and lost, mostly like a scavenger. He could not resist and said, “How’s life?”

“What do you think? It’s terrible,” the man whinged, “I’ve no home, no food, no job, no money. Everything I have is in this stinky little bag.”

Without another word, Mulla grabbed his bag and ran off. The man chased him but could not keep up. After a while, Mulla dropped his bag in the middle of the road and hid himself behind a shop.

The man came running behind, got down on his knees, grabbed his bag and shedding tears of joy, cried out hysterically, “Ah! my bag, I’ve got my bag back! I thought I’d never see you again. Thank you God! I’ve found my bag.”

Mulla murmured to himself, “Now, that’s one way to make someone happy.”

Unhappy people spend their time wanting what they have not. Whenever life throws anything at you, ask yourself: How do I want to take it?

Remind yourself that you have two choices, to have a positive attitude or a negative one. You choose.

3. Awareness

Am I moving towards or away from happiness?

Just before you choose a reaction to any situation, you have a moment to finalize your selection. Choosing the right response requires awareness. When anything becomes your habit, good or bad, awareness becomes weak, your reaction becomes an automatic act. For example, let us say, someone gets angry easily, he responds to every negative situation by getting mad. Since this is his habit, he will increasingly find himself getting angry without even being aware. It is only after a fit of rage, he would realize he got angry and may even apologize. In quite the same manner, many are unhappy more as a matter of habit than reason.

Building awareness requires practice and mindfulness. Awareness helps you tread the right path. Your actions can either lead you towards happiness or away from it. Before you react, ask yourself: Am I moving towards or away from happiness? Choose your response with care, a great deal depends on it.

If you be who you are, let others be what they are, let things be where they are, let circumstances be how they are, when you choose peace above all else, you attract happiness naturally. Happiness is your viewpoint, let it be your own. As Shakespeare would say, “But O, how bitter a thing it is to look into happiness through another man’s eyes.”

Can you be eternally happy? Yes. How? Stop wanting to be happy, do not cling to the idea of “having” happiness; you can never lose what you are not attached to.

Peace.
Swami

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