Here is the contemporary definition of happiness (as prescribed by societal conditioning):
A scenario where a condition of the objective world matches the subjective expectations of the mind, whether through effort or chance.
When both conditions are met, happiness is the result. When one or the other is not met, the opposite is the norm. Just as an adult is elated when Friday with all the relief and partying comes round, so too are they disappointed when their hard work fails to net them that coveted promotion. As a child bursts out with joy at the mention of ice cream and movies, so too are they stressed when that next round of homework comes into their lap. Just as an outside condition in the form of thoughts, feelings, sensations, objects, and circumstances have the power to make us happy, so too do they have the capacity to test our patience.
The logical/easy solution here would be to change or be fluid with our subjective expectations, so that no objective condition/scenario can shake us. That itself is the solution, but its implications go much deeper than that.
Start by asking yourself the following question:
Why do I like (insert your favorite thing/feeling/state of mind here)?
The reason as to why anybody would like the things they do is simply because that particular arrangement/condition just happens to make them happy. Just as I cannot convince my friends to share my love for spirituality, sports, and Starcraft 2, so too they cannot convince me to share their love for learning new languages or understand their lawyer jokes. It’s just the way I am wired, though humoring them from time to time always results in me learning a new thing or two.
We love the things that we do simply because we just do, and it is by grace/serendipity that we love the new things and don’t feel as strongly for the old things as we do.
To answer the above question with any question other than some form of ‘because it makes me happy’ is to avoid it entirely, for the contemporary definition of happiness is a subjective one. The logical solution stated above, where we either be fluid or change our expectations, is a beautiful one because it teaches us to neither to put our expectations on a pedestal, nor to have none altogether. It urges us to not curtail or desires and expectations, for they are what make us happy, nor should we over-prioritize their fulfillment, that any form of deviation should be the cause for misery.
The solution here is one that transcends the duality that the human mind is used to working with, for it fosters an approach to life where all ‘good’ and ‘bad’ situations have no capacity to overwhelm one, yet one still is able to find contentment in even the simplest things. What else could ‘good’ or ‘bad’ mean to the one is at peace no matter the situation, kissing life on the lips when things go well, responding with acceptance when things go south. The greater beauty of it is that it offsets the subjective definition of happiness that the world has given it, and replaces it with one where happiness/peace is the objective state of being, and all circumstances fleeting before it.
It is a reversal of the wisdom of the world, where all objective conditions (thoughts, feelings, sensations, objects, situations) cease to have power over the way we feel, where peace and happiness become our default state, and in turn give us the power to shape our live as we see fit. It is both a surrender of the need to have objective conditions meet our subjective expectations, and an unconditional acceptance of ourselves for what we are. To the mind, it may seem as if it is being asked to give up all its expectations, tendencies, and schemes; but that could not be further from the truth. For when the constant striving for happiness through the need to have objective conditions meet (egoic) subjective expectations comes to an end, what more could there be but unconditional happiness as an objective facet of experience?
To sum it up:
- Neither be a slave to one’s desires and subjective expectations, and having to force the world to react with the presentation/manifestation of objective conditions in order to be happy.
- Nor to disregard one’s likes and circumstances as they are, but to accept them as they are, cultivating an ability to be at peace no matter what.
If any line from any spiritual text could describe it in a nutshell, it would be the following:
“Nothing real can be threatened;
Nothing unreal exists;
Therein lies the peace of God.”-A Course in Miracles
Namaste and have a good day.