As humans, it seems we are always being told to be happy. We are told the road to happiness takes us to the mall, to fame, to that nice gated neighborhood, and to the insides of his or her pants at the bar( or app). We are taught through experience happiness fades, but happiness can be regained if you really work at it. We are told happiness is our right as long as it’s bigger, better and shinier than the other guy. We are hampsters on a wheel, chasing happiness like it’s the only way to be and survive. What if there was another way? What if happiness truly is death?
So I had to grab your attention but I want to share my thought pretty quick and easy. Happiness isn’t death or inherently evil but it does lead to it a lot of problems. Or rather this chasing and striving for happiness. This brings me to the basics of Buddhism and the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism. I really don’t want to go into those now, primarily because I’ve noticed people with get stuck on the Buddhist side of things and not the underlying message. I will say the goal, I feel of Buddhism is relief. It’s the relief from trying and continuing to try. It’s the relief from holding on to failure and success at the same time. It’s the relief from the rollercoaster of life that has thrilling moments but ultimately ends, causing you to get back and line waiting for another turn. Wouldn’t it be nice to not feel the line, be in the line, or even see the line?
I was in a situation where we were talking about happiness and I said I don’t want to be happy, I want to be content. The whole room thought I was crazy, and some thought I was giving up on life. I kinda smiled to myself at their reaction but that smile quickly moved to sadness. For one, I speak with my limited knowledge on Buddhism and life. I am young and while I’ve had a fair amount of life experience, what experience ( and the Four Agreements ) keep telling me is I need to mind my words better. I tend not to mind messing up in my explanation of things because I get to learn how to articulate better through being misunderstood. However, if the audience has a mind that clings, recalibrating can appear to be hypocritical or show you to appear unknowledgeable of your own topic. The best I can offer in this situation is to continue to grow and allow these missteps to further your growth to reduce those instances. But in the meantime be prepared for challenges and others thinking you are confused and misinformed( yes, I am thinking of a specific situation but the advice is still sound).
When I brought out contentment, it was an automatic shutdown of the idea. I saw fear. I saw worry and like a fight or flight response in their face and demeanor. It was surreal until it made sense to me. Our bodies are programmed to enjoy and crave reward. When we receive praise, eat an amazing dinner, or have incredible sex, our body remembers those things as pleasurable and our minds decide we want more of that. Who wouldn’t want constant pleasure? I’m finding it’s more people than you think but the reasons why vary. What I understand the problem with constant pleasure is, people wouldn’t be a part of society if they were at home being pleased constantly. Society would come to a complete stand-still. The Universe knows that and made sure happiness was temporary so we would have to work towards receiving that again, allowing other things like just survival have its moment.
Contentment doesn’t say one can’t be happy, it says we aren’t attached to the happy. We enjoy happiness when it is there but don’t mourn it when it’s not. We also don’t chase it or really do anything extra to obtain it. Contentment allows you to accept what is, in the moment and get off the rollercoaster of happiness and lost happiness. A roller coaster is still there because the struggle for contentment can mirror the struggle for happiness if one is even attached to contentment. I would then contend, if there is a struggle for contentment, then one isn’t content and still looking for happiness. All of this boils down to what I feel being content consist of which is balance. Balance does have ups and downs but the real balance comes from how you appraise each and your attachment to each. I hate to even do this but being attached to balance can put you back on that roller coaster that ultimately how many people live their lives (that would be me).
I have found in Buddhism a process to bring the peace that true contentment affords us, but that requires work and a clearing of taught behaviors and thinking. For those curious, the process is called The Noble Eightfold Path. If successful it is said the end of all this suffering due to having and losing happiness will end and a balance of being, love, light, and existence will be available in this life. I say all these not to recruit but to really share my end game and my meaning when I said I don’t want happiness.
I say all these not to recruit but to really share my end game and my meaning when I said I don’t want happiness but contentment. I have faith in The Noble Eightfold Path because in those moments when I was truly free and not trying to control anything, I saw them in action inside myself. I have true experience that is guiding my way of life.
And for that, I smile.