Questions about the Happy Mind: #4. Is happiness a shallow and selfish goal? Part 1: The Journey of remembering

by William R. Yoder on October 27, 2010

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The first sentence of The Happy Mind is that “Happiness is the promise and the goal of life.” But is making happiness the goal of life a shallow and selfish goal? What about love? What about serving others? What about serving God? What about awakening and enlightenment? Isn’t it setting the bar rather low to make a smiley-faced cheerfulness the whole purpose and function of your life? Isn’t it selfish and self-absorbed?

How I define “happiness”

If your definition of happiness is simply a smiley-faced cheerfulness, then I agree that we might want to aim a little higher.  But for me, the word “happiness” means more than that. The first paragraph of my book goes on to say:

“Happiness is much more than just a fleeting sense of feeling good. It ­includes feelings of fulfillment and deep satisfaction, the excitement of passionately pursuing and realizing your dreams, the deep peace of your innermost being, and the joy of unconditionally giving and receiving love.  Happiness is more than just personal gratification and pleasure. We derive happiness from our kindness and compassion toward others, from service and generosity. And perhaps the deepest form of happiness comes from our spiritual journey, from our discovery of our loving connection with all of life.”

This is obviously not the only way to define happiness.  And you might use another word to encompass all those things. But this is the deepest sense of the word “happiness” for me. And this sense of happiness includes love, serving others, serving a higher power, and awakening and enlightenment.

The spiritual journey as a remembering of our truth

According to the principle of one power, there is only one power, one cause, one source of all that truly is. And that power is love: the infinite eternal creative potential for ever-expanding well-being.

Our “spiritual journey” is ultimately a journey of remembering our truth. The beginning of our journey is the recognition that we have forgotten—the recognition that we are already in a state of forgetting. The way that we know we have forgotten is that our life experience is one of unhappiness, suffering and fear. That’s why the First Noble Truth of Buddhism is that “Life is suffering”—life as we are currently interpreting it and experiencing it is a constant cycle of suffering and fear.

Our inner truth strives toward self-awareness

It is the nature of our deepest truth to move toward self-awareness and self-expression.  When our true nature of love has been hidden under mistaken ideas and ignorance, it makes itself known in the form of discomfort and suffering. That very discomfort motivates our minds to reflect and look more deeply, so that we can discover and undo the inner blockages to our awareness of love. In this sense, the suffering that Buddha talks about is actually a reflection of our own inner resistance to the self-expression of our truth.

As long as we are ignorant of that inner resistance, we will blame our suffering and unhappiness on other things: on people and things and events and forces in the world that are somehow threatening and limiting our happiness. And as long as we are focused on outer causes, we remain unaware of the only place that we could possibly find love and joy: within ourselves.

So we not only have to recognize that we are suffering now, but that we ourselves are the cause of our own suffering. As A Course in Miracles expressed it, “Only you can deprive yourself of the peace of God.” No one and nothing else can deprive you.  And you cannot deprive another. And only you can stop depriving yourself.

Repressing unhappiness actually represses your truth

So it is never a matter of simply denying or glossing over your unhappiness. You have to fully recognize it and own it. “Own it” means to take full responsibility for it, and not add any stories of blame. If you either pretend that you are happy, or you try to blame your unhappiness on someone or something else, you will remain in a state of suffering, a state of forgetting. Denying, repressing, glossing over, pretending, etc.: all of those approaches just keep you locked into suffering.

To say this in another way, your repression of your unhappiness is actually a way of hiding your truth, because your unhappiness is the way that your truth calls to you through your forgetfulness. Your feelings of suffering, fear, upsetness, unpeacefulness, anger, hatred, and all other negative feelings are the emotional reflections of your deepest truth striving to get your attention so that you will wake up. Yes, it’s unpleasant. But if it were pleasant, you’d never do anything about it. The sound a smoke alarm makes is unpleasant and obnoxious.  But if it played your favorite music, you’d simply fall back asleep as your house burned to the ground. To be continued …

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