Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Happiness: Alex

All people must deal with unhappiness, and separately, the idea of all happiness as a fleeting emotion, something we can’t grasp. Nothing lasts forever, and for most of us, happiness is no exception. This doesn’t, however, mean that we can’t be happy people. Happiness, like anger, sadness or any other emotion, is simply a product of the mind’s constant wandering. Focusing on events of the past or possible events of the future can bring an emotion to the forefront of our consciousness, while other emotions are constantly present, our mind focuses on particular facets of our past and future in order to make one emotion, or one mixture of emotions dominant.

The seven primary colors are capable of being mixed in varying amounts with one another to make innumerable new and different colors. Our emotional spectrums as human beings are incredibly similar. Just as blue and yellow can be mixed to make green, sadness and anger can mix to create an emotion that’s altogether different than each as an individual. These emotions are taken from the palette of our psyches and mixed by our mind’s perspective of occurrences, but our mind is only capable of doing so because all emotions, good and bad, are constantly present within us. Even in the happiest of moments, a wandering mind can bring forth images of loss and unhappiness. This is the bittersweet reality of our consciousness. Equally so, thoughts of good times and happiness can often lighten the weight in our chests in the most trying of time.

God created memory so that we may have roses in winter.

It’s because of our memory’s ability to effect the present that in order to find prolonged happiness we must learn to do two particular things. The first is to have without possessing. The second is to learn to live in the present.

To have is a beautiful thing. To possess is emotionally detrimental. We must learn to appreciate things for what they are, in all things. Relationships, for instance, must be about mutual appreciation, not possession. To have is to appreciate the independence, the perfect imperfection of the thing without clinging to it, as it is or where it is. All things develop, all things change – to have is to appreciate change as a part of the beauty; to possess is to try to prevent such change, to keep something or someone as they are, as you are comfortable with it, him, or her.

If we can learn to accept that all things are fleeting, then we can learn to appreciate the magnificence of that which we have. The concept of possession is the non-acceptance of the reality of loss. Tim McGraw captured this concept in the song “Live Like You Were Dying.” If you knew you’re time on Earth was limited, if you knew that all that you know will soon be gone, you would allow yourself to love that which you have, uninhibited and honestly. Instead of clinging to ideals, you would value the reality of your life.

Allow me to enlighten you; your time on Earth is limited. All that you know, all that you love, will one day be gone. This isn’t meant to be a depressing realization, but a beautiful fact of life. All things end so new things can begin. Love the things and people that make you happy, as you would love a flower bud. As it sits in your open hand, you can cherish its beauty, if you clutch it tightly, you merely possess the crushed head of a flower, while materially the same, and only with an open hand can you appreciate the flower.

Living in the present comes in many levels. At times, it simply means recognizing each day as a new beginning, but there’s far more to it than that.

Many people believe that each person is put on Earth for a reason – we were born with a purpose. Whether this is true or not, it’s undeniable that the decisions that we make affect not only our lives, but the lives around us, and just as a the flap of a butterfly’s wings can set off a chain of events that brings about a tidal wave – the smallest of decisions can set off a chain of events that could shape another’s life. Whether you’re aware of it or not, the moment you were born to live, the moment that defines your existence will occur; it’ll pass just like each one before it, and you may never be the wiser. There’s no dramatic music, no slow motion cinematography to point out what makes you great, and the reality of the world is that your crowning achievement could be any moment now, even this one. Such a concept may not be easy to accept, that any moment, this one, or the next, could be the defining moment of your life, could change the path of your journey forever, but with acceptance comes the realization that every passing moment is of the utmost importance and deserves your full and completely attention.

“Life is a series of moments. In each, you are either awake or you are asleep- fully alive or relatively dead.”

-Dan Millman

The Zen concept of Satori takes living in the moment to the next level, a level very few are capable of reaching for a prolonged period of time. Satori is the art of living entirely in the present instant, without any thought of the past or future; Satori is losing your mind, and coming to your senses. If someone were to throw a rock at you, you would recognize the action of them throwing the rock as an impending threat. In the time between the rock leaving that person’s hand and it landing past you, you were reacting – living completely within that instant. You had no thoughts of the past, no concepts of the future, only stimulus and reaction. Your conscious self acting in complete unison with your basic self in the interest of your well being. Athletes often experience such brief moments of Satori during sporting events. When you put up a shot from the top of the key, drop back to pass, break toward the goal or set up a spike your thoughts are only of the present moment – this clarity, this Satori moment, is the very essence of enlightenment.

Lao-tzu, an older contemporary of Confucius, wrote a book called the Tao te Ching, loosely translated to The Book of the Way, that explains the philosophy of living in the present somewhat differently, but to the same effect. Lao-tzu preached the practice of action through non-action, a concept that is lost in many translations and confused with the idea of literally not acting. However, the true meaning of his teachings on non-action were to emphasize the importance of entering the realm of “body awareness,” wherein you are not an individual putting forth effort toward action, but rather you are one with the action. You don’t think to act, you simply act, in this way; non-action is the paradigm for action. Non-action is action in its purest form. A portion of the book translates as such:

Less and less do you need to force things,

Until finally you arrive at non-action

When nothing is done

Nothing is left undone

This concept of living entirely in the moment, of vanishing into your action is best analogized by Stephen Mitchell when referring to the Tao’s lessons of non-action as “the fuel being completely transformed into the flame,” representing the disappearance of any discernment between the person and the act. Masters of the Tao live in this realm of non-action, just as Zen masters experienced the world through the eyes of Satori.

Such concepts may not be conceivable, practical, or even possible, but as is the way of idealistic teachings. I’ve found the best way to learn from such things is to take all things into account, while constantly searching for what pertains to me. You may not feel capable of living in a satori-like state, or of mastering the action of non-action, but you are entirely capable of living a happy life by consciously putting forth an effort toward improving your own perspective. The world will remain changing, as it was, is and forever will be; the best way to cope with life is to not cope at all, but rather to appreciate all things, in all moments to the best of our abilities.

Life is a flower bud that we mustn’t grasp too tightly, for this and every moment is your moment of truth, your reason for being. It’s fleeting; appreciate it.

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