The One Who Searches It, Finds it, and the One Who Finds it, Shall Keep It - On Happiness

Sunday, July 31, 2016


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“There's nothing like deep breaths after laughing that hard. Nothing in the world like a sore stomach for the right reasons.” 
 Stephen Chbosky

If you are reading this, I believe you are a human being and if you are a human being then I suspect you want to be happy. But what actually is happiness and how can it be attained? Does being a billionaire or does landing in your choice of job mean happiness? Does anyone have an all-inclusive definition that fits to tee everyone's take on happiness? I believe not! It could mean a million different things to a million different people. Happiness for me is reminiscing about good times with a friend or starting my morning with a hot cup of coffee teeming with aroma, placed right on my desk just when I arrive to work. Ah! That first sip filling my taste buds and traveling down my throat. That is true happiness! I remember how as a child, happiness meant sitting in a car and watching the moon through the window. I would think the moon was chasing us and that I was the only witness to that great cosmic event. Or think about how the rain makes us happy - the sight and the sound of it (especially in the hot summer days!)

My version of happiness could be different from your version of happiness, because the stimulus that triggers happiness is highly subjective. For an actor, receiving a standing ovation on his performance would be happiness. For a doctor, it would be saving a life. For a tax officer, it would be meeting up tax collection targets. Just close your eyes for a minute and think what makes you happy!

Yesterday, I asked my ever-jubilant attendant what happiness meant to him and he replied by saying, 'Madam, for me, life itself means happiness. There are people sleeping on footpath, they do not get enough food to fill their bellies. I am happy because I sleep on bed and with a happy tummy (his exact words translated into English).' And his reply got me thinking that happiness does not come simply from having a formal education or from wealth. It begins with having the strength to confront and conquer one’s own weaknesses. Only then does it become possible to lead a truly happy life.

It is not possible to be happy all the time, but you can be happy much of the time. And it doesn't depend on how your day is going or how others treat you; it depends on you. Coming back from work (no matter how stressful the day is), watching a nice movie or reading a good book, makes me happy like no other thing in the world. It is something I look forward to the whole day. There is no such thing as a problem-free life. How we respond to the challenges, makes all the difference. True happiness is within, in the state of our hearts and minds. It does not exist on the far side of some distant mountains. So, stop looking around and start looking within!

Sometimes, things don't work the way we expect them to. Resultantly, we feel inundated with challenges. Our natural reaction under such circumstances is to label the situation itself as a problem. I have begun to believe that happiness is all in your head, and so is the suffering. The problems are not the situations, they are the fragments created in our minds. If you aren't aware of your mind, this may seem counter-intuitive, but if you think deeply, you would be able to find truth in this. If hardships are responded with a positive outlook, they could melt away. Gaining the control of our mind could bring us in harmony with our choices and life, and this could ultimately result in happiness. If not always, at least most of the times!

The reason why it is so hard to continually be happy and have a peaceful mind even when we have the potential for such peace and happiness within us is that we habitually succumb to deluded thoughts that consume our mind and destroy our inner peace. Let's say you’ve a strong craving for strawberry ice cream, to you that strawberry ice cream would appear intrinsically, irresistibly good. After a couple of bowlfuls, you will begin to feel sick, and then it no longer will seem so tasteful; you may even find it repulsive! This clearly shows that, like all other things in life, strawberry ice cream itself is neither toothsome nor sickening. In fact, it is the deluded mind of attachment, which projects desirable characteristics onto the objects we behold and makes us believe that those characteristics emerge from the object itself. Likewise, there is no existence of an intrinsically bad person or an intrinsically good person. Delusions are distorted ways of viewing our own self, others and the world around us. For instance, if you are angry at a person, it can corrupt your view of them so that they appear intrinsically bad. In the same way, desirous attachment sees its object of desire as intrinsically good and desirable. Thus, happiness and unhappiness is all a labyrinth of mind!

Unhappiness crawls in when you feel you cannot alter your situation - you do not always have the power to do so! All you can do is, sit down and make a list of things that make you happy - a list of things that you're grateful for. Amazingly, you'll find a long list at the end of the exercise. This list could help you shift your mindset from the things you didn’t like or didn’t have, to the things you are really happy to have. And you'll be surprised. A friend of mine practices this and she calls it her 'Happiness Log'. Start keeping your happiness log to remind you of things that bring you joy. Whenever you're down, just revert to your list and smile at your blessings! By the way, my list would include my blog and my readers (apart from other things).  

Search for happiness within and you will surely find it. Discover the amazing things you’ve inside you, and be mindful that these things are beautiful if you learn to accept them and try not to meet up with any fantasy. Life is much amazing and beautiful without fantasies. And once you truly discover that happiness is within, you aren’t subject to losing it merely because people aren’t in the right mood, or because of external events changing your source of happiness. It means looking within, and learning to be OK with what you find.

Here's wishing you great luck in searching it, finding it and keeping it! To happiness!

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Amna's Goodreads Bookshelf

To Kill a Mockingbird
Animal Farm
Of Mice and Men
The Alchemist
Me Talk Pretty One Day
Romeo and Juliet
Lord of the Flies
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Odyssey
A Tale of Two Cities
Frankenstein
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale
Les Misérables
Eat, Pray, Love
The Poisonwood Bible
The Joy Luck Club
Middlesex
The Memory Keeper's Daughter
Lolita
Under the Tuscan Sun


Amna Tariq Shah's favorite books »