We are all, naturally, consumed with our own happiness. Our physical well-being, our nutrition, our success, our relationships, our money; all seem to play part of our happiness package.
All of this works fine as long as all these aspects of our lives work perfectly. However, once one of the aspects goes off the trail, we lose our happy balance and get an uncomfortable feeling that our life is not as happy as it should be.
It usually starts small with some dissatisfaction and if we don’t tame it in good time, for some people that feeling can go viral, colouring all the other experiences of our lives.
Let’s say we have one of the best relationships we ever imagined, our child just turned 3 and we are happy as a couple and as parents as our child is progressing well and brings us the joy and liveliness into our life. We got what we wanted. However, our house is not the house we want to stay long term in, and our salaries are not big enough to get a bigger one. We also put a little but more on weight than our schedule allows us to hit the swimming pool and yoga sessions. We start to focus on these ‘missing links’ in our happiness package and of course, our smiles that we used to give to our child or our partner are not as bright as they used to be. Then one day we discover a lump on our breasts and soon enough, we are diagnosed with early stages of breast cancer. How could this happen? How do we get about it?
It is in those moments when we realise that the size of the house and the amount on our bank account isn’t important anymore. We focus on the preciousness of what is important; our children, the love we have for each other, our family, friends, our health. But have you not have an awakening, frightening moment like this, you’d continue to focus on the lack of things in your life and your dissatisfaction would creep in in no time. Some people get severely depressed not even knowing when and why it started. Some people become obsessed with business and money that they start neglecting the relationships around them, and some people lose their motivation to do joyful and meaningful things in their days.
So where are we going with all this? We are going to explain a simultaneous reality that is happening within your mind, whilst you are so focused on the external.
Your own happiness (package) that you’re observing is like a film projected on a blank canvas. Like in the movies, all we see is the film that the projector puts onto the blank canvas. Yet, what the blank canvas is to the projector so is your own mind to your reality. Not many are aware of the fact that the meaning we give to the external factors of our lives, is what truly is happening to us. But this is just our view, our experience, our opinion. Someone else in our house with our relationship and with our child might be totally feeling blissful as they have a different outlook on that package.
What we struggle with is our own mind and its perception. We struggle with negative emotions such as anger, resentment, jealousy, comparison to others and what society expects from us, we measure our self-worth with the bank account and the status of our job title. Yet our mind is suffering every day with dissatisfaction and disappointment, sometimes even depression.
The first step to change your life and become happier is to admit that you are internalising and reiterating to yourself everything that is happening to your You are internally giving it colour. So perhaps you could change the colour from grey to green?
The next step is to find a way to check in with your mind daily and start a dynamic relationship. Who is in charge here, you or your thoughts? Meditation is the place where you meet yourself. You welcome all your emotions and you direct them where you want them to be. If anger comes to you, welcome it and ask what is going on. Then commit to seeing it from a different perspective. Maybe the hurtful situation is showing you how much anger you have within you. Maybe this is a lesson what you might need to overcome so it doesn’t repeat itself. Maybe this is not bad but it’s actually good; you just cannot see it yet. Whatever it is you come up with, this is your opportunity to tame your thoughts and to use them as a shrink would, if you would be sitting in a session.
The last step is to start focusing on gratitude. It beats lack of anything in seconds. Each morning write down 5 things you are grateful for and each evening jot down 5 things that went well in the day. This is a simple and gentle way to tame your negative mind.
The way forward is to become wise. To see beyond the appearance, beyond the film projected onto our blank screen and to make sure our screen is one that will project a happy film. Modern Buddhism is something people crave these days. Even neuroscience is proving us that Buddhism knows more about happiness than any other philosophy out there. It even measures the brains of meditating people and monks.
It is becoming more popular as it helps us understand the meaning of life, the kindness and compassion towards ourselves, how to overcome our painful emotions and simply put, how to have a more fulfilled and happier life. The best part is that there is no need to sit amongst monks in a monastery. Teachers that live modern and successful lives run programs on Buddhist teachings even on Facebook. One of them is the Little School of Buddhism that brings practical spiritual tools and techniques into everyday living.
You can become your own therapist that puts you in the control mode without taking anti-depressant pills or paying thousands in therapy sessions. That move is what today’s leaders see as the crucial point of the happiness pack we all desire.
Duda Baldwin is the founder of Little School of Buddhism and she also runs Women’s Happiness Retreats and Parents’ Retreats in Bali. Duda is a Buddhist teacher, author and a step mum of two little boys. In her free time, she enjoys camping with her family, travelling the world and reading deep, inspirational books.