It took me a while to understand that being happy was not a permanent state, but an attitude to renew constantly, moment after moment.
Just like standing up is not a state, it’s something that you do.
Happiness is something that you do with your mind, it’s motion, like a monkey jumping from one liana to another. it’s dynamic and fresh, it takes energy…and persistence.
And not only that, but you also need to learn how to generate that state of happiness. You can’t just rely on circumstances, willing to put effort is good but not enough, you need to have a method to do it well.
I don’t know if that was the case for you, but at school I wasn’t taught how to be happy, and nobody knew how to do it in my family either.
I had to wait until I met with Buddhism to learn that happiness could be controlled and established permanently in your life and that it could be studied, trained, achieved.
In the part of the world where I come from (France) there is no such thing as a “happiness curriculum”, so people rely on good food, wine or Prozac. It’s only effective to some extent.
Other cultures didn’t leave happiness to chance, they provided with a host of ancient and effective methods to achieve it. Not just folk tales and secular common sense, but actual methods supported by a complete philosophical view, Buddhism is just one example.
Among these practices, I picked contentment: the following article addresses it in part. Contentment is one of the greatest tools in our age of mental instability, it functions like an antidote against dissatisfaction. The below combines ideas extracted from Buddhism and Self Help literature.
Consider this blurb like a summary, I hope it motivates you to investigate more for yourself:
Pick your choice
Your mind will be content or miserable depending on your focus, mainly.
It means being happy or not is completely up to you, circumstances have little to nothing to do with how good you feel.
If you focus on something that you like, you feel better.
If you focus on what you don’t like, you feel worse.
Now just pick your choice, you’re the boss: it’s your mind, you’re free to choose your focus.
There is a trick if you can’t find anything positive on what to focus: everything has a dark and a bright side.
- You can focus on your sore ankle, or on how lucky you are for still having an ankle and being able to walk.
- You can focus on the youth that you’ve lost, or on the wisdom that you’ve gained through aging.
- You can focus on how much taxes you have to pay or on what life would be like if you were tax-free but living on food stamps.
All these examples refer to the very same situation, viewed from different angles, that’s what I mean when I say that circumstances don’t really matter.
There’s no limit to that practice, your creativity will expand as you always try and find what’s nice about your present situation. Remember: there’s ALWAYS something that you can rejoice for, you only need to look around.
The power of focus allows a quick access to contentment since it gives the mind a sense of satisfaction for what is there.
What you focus on will determine nearly 100% of how you feel, that’s how your mind works.
At each moment, if you place your attention on something that is positive and rewarding, satisfaction increases.
I invite you to try it right now, don’t even bother finishing this article, you don’t have to. Just focus on something that you’re happy with in your life:
- Your sense of freedom (if you’re single)
- Your wife/husband (if you’re happily married)
- Your friends
- The beautiful weather (skip that if you live in Stuttgart)
You can also pick things present in your immediate surroundings:
– A beautiful girl who walks by
– A music track that you like, playing in someone else’s car
– The smell of pastry, coming out of a bakery
Finding good things is an endless process, and a rewarding one.
I could stop the article right here. Since the above is already enough to eliminate most daily frustrations, but I’ll keep going just for the sake of looking like a serious blogger.
Aikido vs brute force
Practicing contentment is a bit like that since you don’t spend any extra energy doing it: the only point is to identify what you’re happy about, and focus on that to improve your state.
In that kind of training, you don’t need to oppose reality: you leverage the best parts of it.
As you get more advanced in that practice, you’ll see that you don’t even need to change what’s going on in your mind.
You don’t need to “talk yourself into being happy” by trying to convince yourself that everything is great (your mind is no fool, it won’t buy that BS anyway).
You don’t need to repeat affirmations either.
All you need is to look in the right direction, the glass half full and contemplate it.
Hard to believe it’s so simple, huh?
That’s why I invite you to try it for yourself, that’s the best way to prove if that method works or not (am I being too pushy, here?).
Do it again!
By practicing contentment again an again, you’ll get better at it. Eventually you’ll make that practice personal, completely customized to your needs. It’ll fit you perfectly and it’ll be part of you.
There’s a piece of Buddhist teaching that says that if you maintain your practice without even thinking about it, it means that your mind is trained.
You’ll reach that stage when you’re just content on autopilot mode, without noticing that you’re actually practicing contentment. It won’t require much on your end, just like you don’t need to think about standing up or walking, it’s natural, almost effortless.
Like a lot of inner practices, this one concerns YOUR mind only. As you progress, you’ll gain tremendous benefits but you’ll also be more aware of how other people torture themselves just by focusing on crap around them. It’s tempting to tell them how easily they could change their mindset, unfortunately that’s perceived like a patronizing attitude, and you usually get rejection as a result.
For instance: I expect 50% of the readers of this article to have bounced at this stage, because few people really accept advice from someone else :)
The best you can do to inspire people is by being happy yourself. People will notice it and some will ask you about it. That will be the opportunity to share.
Ok, I guess I’ve lectured you enough.
I sincerely hope you reap the benefits of contentment, nothing would please me more.
And BTW, I wish these results for myself too, since I’m far from the completion stage.
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