#110 – If You Want to Live a Good Life, Don’t Chase Happiness. Instead, Cultivate This…

Photo by Jackson David on Unsplash

What does it mean to be happy? It’s a noble question, a question that I used to ask myself often, but rarely do now. I care for happiness, much like I care for sadness or any other feeling that is part of the human experience.

Happiness is a temporary feeling of euphoria, a firecracker with a short burst of light, or a surge of dopamine intended to make us feel good.

The taste of something delicious, a strong alcoholic beverage, a mind-numbing orgasm, a warm bath, and a million other iterations of pleasure can be aptly placed in the bucket labeled happiness.

Don’t get me wrong. I love good food, making passionate love, and enjoying the many beautiful blessings that life has to offer.

However, I don’t chase these euphoric feelings anymore. I don’t think about them as much, nor do I look forward to them. If the feeling of happiness finds me, I embrace it with open arms. Once the feeling leaves, it’s out of sight and mind.

The Happiness Trap

Happiness is a conditioned feeling that has created a pattern in our minds. We know happiness because of some prior event, and we want some form of that event repeated.

Happiness can become detrimental to some because the never-ending chase leads to addictive behaviors. Happiness is sly in its maneuvering and will take us places without our consent.

What’s more important than happiness?

Acceptance

Acceptance is making peace with what is.

Acceptance doesn’t mean allowing bad situations to infiltrate our lives and doing nothing about them. Instead, acceptance is making peace with the many moments of our lives that bring us hardship.

We don’t have to tolerate things that cause us harm, but we need to accept them before moving forward.

Change is important. However, when you are in the thick of a challenging situation, the self-inflicted suffering we impose on ourselves wraps us in a tight robe, and the feeling of escape may seem impossible.

Whether it’s desire, passion, sadness, heartache, worry, or any of the various flavors of emotions we ride through like an amusement park, it’s important to acknowledge that they are temporary and derived from stories in our minds that have happened, or don’t exist yet.

Here is a metaphor from the NFL. Acceptance is the arena where all your emotions interact. A part of coming into self-awareness means looking at all these shifting emotions as various teams. You are the arena, but also the spectator seeing your various emotions playing.

When you get deeper into self-inquiry which is nothing more than questioning yourself when you are in a comprised mental situation, asking yourself questions like who am I, what is being hurt, is what I’m feeling causing me to die, etc.. you can start to see unravel this inner dialogue. It’s like we are talking to the voice within the voice. It gets very inception-like.

Acceptance is acknowledging the many ephemeral feelings we exhibit and having the discipline to see them passing by as well as reacting to the ones that bring us and others value. In my experience, the majority of the dialogue that goes on in the mind is useless.

Shouldn’t I feel anything in life?

We are human, and we have many emotions. To feel them is a beautiful thing.

When someone dies, cry. 
When someone tells a joke, laugh.

The issue arises when we build a craving for a specific feeling to happen again.

Acceptance is the movement into presence. Much of what makes us disappointed, is when others haven’t lived up to the stories we have in our minds about them.

I’ve learned through experience to look at every day, every person, and every situation as fresh and new.

A Moment of Vulnerability

My family life isn’t perfect. There are those in my close circle that refuse to talk to me and blame me for their shortcomings. In the past, this would cause me great sorrow. I felt responsible. Their unresolved issues would drive me into a cyclical tormented dance where I’d replay stories of what would have, could have, should have, might have, etc…

Although I do care for those causing themselves suffering, I have accepted the fact that I can’t dictate how another feels. This may seem obvious to some of you but it took me a long time to really embody this concept.

Everyone has the power to be the gatekeeper of how they want to interact with their world.

Our mind can be free, or it can be locked into a jail cell where we are hostage to our chattering thoughts. Thoughts can be pernicious in nature. Even though they are a part of our human experience, they like to fit us into a mold of victimization if we aren’t careful.

Why Acceptance Is Important

1. Inner peace is priceless. Accepting others for who they are can take off the unnecessary burden and expectations we impose on them so we can put forth more energy on becoming better ourselves.

2. I don’t know how much time I have on this planet, so living every day intentionally is paramount. Accepting the world for what it is, allows me to appreciate and embrace my flaws and those of others. We are all trying to find inner peace, and it’s a day-to-day, moment-to-moment intervention.

3. Accepting others for who they are right now, and letting them flower into their own potential is a good thing. Every grown adult human is responsible for themselves and the choices they make.

Acceptance and Expectations

Not having an expectation is another form of acceptance. In my experience, what causes the human mind to inflict suffering upon itself is the expectation of the outcome of another.

“Wanting to reform the world without discovering one’s true self is like trying to cover the world with leather to avoid the pain of walking on stones and thorns. It is much simpler to wear shoes.”

― Ramana Maharshi

I set expectations for myself because that’s the only individual I truly have agency over. For others, all I can do and all you can do is hope that they find acceptance in their life and make a forward leap into progress.

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I share this because much of the suffering I see happening within myself and others is self-inflicted. We may walk around as if nothing is bothering us, but inside our minds, we have a Coachella-type, acid-filled rave gone wrong taking place. Having just a bit of insight can help us navigate through the currents of our life, and into deep waters where there is a beautiful type of peace unique to all of us.

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