Happiness is not what you think! Many of us are trying to make ourselves happy in all kinds of ways. We chase love. We are looking to find ‘the one’ – the one person whom we feel will complete us or make our lives fulfilled. Or perhaps we are busy achieving and doing, collecting goals for our c.v. or collecting material possessions so that we feel better. But as long as we are focused on making ourselves happy, there will be unhappiness. We are focused too much on taking or having or doing.Happiness is not what you think! Many of us are trying to make ourselves happy in all kinds of ways. We chase love. We are looking to find ‘the one’ – the one person whom we feel will complete us or make our lives fulfilled. Or perhaps we are busy achieving and doing, collecting goals for our c.v. or collecting material possessions so that we feel better. But as long as we are focused on making ourselves happy, there will be unhappiness. We are focused too much on taking or having or doing.
To be happy we have to forget ourselves. We need to turn away from our self and to make others happy. To put others needs before our own. Hard to do. But joy follows quickly.
The Bhagavad Gita sums this up: “They live in wisdom who see themselves in all and all in them, who have renounced every selfish desire and sense craving tormenting the heart.”
When we learn to see our self in everyone, it’s a lot easier to put them first, before we are really put our self first. I am committed to forgetting myself, as Gandhi said ‘to reduce myself to zero’. And it is only in relationship with others that we can do this. For in those relationships are offered the difficulties and suffering, that we learn and grow. From this we can, if we chose to, learn to loosen our tight grip on our precious self and put others first. It is from giving, serving others and the world, that joy comes; not from having a lot of desires that must be satisfied.
It’s so simple and so hard to get to. Think of your primary intimate relationship. You might think that you love that person, but how much in that relationship is about your expectations of the other person. ‘If you do this, I will do that?’. How much do we expect the other person to conform to our needs and wants? Tender, truly loving relationships are full of joy and even the route to spiritual growth. Yet millions of us are competitive, individualistic and out for number one. Rare is the person who bends and gives their self to others.But even if one person in our office, home or family is like this, they bring a little heaven into our lives.
But selfless love does not mean saying yes all the time, being a ‘nice’ person. Often this is a signifier of a people pleaser , they are coming from a need to be liked. Being selfless often shows itself in an inward toughness, that enables such people to say no, have firm boundaries around attitudes, actions or desires of others that will be damaging somehow.
And what about our purpose in life? True joy in life comes from having an overriding goal, a calling, that is a mighty one. Bigger than you, serving something or someone. When I lose myself in the happiness of those close to me, around me, I am full of an inner power or glow. That is attractive, and it brings joy, and I thriveThis selfless type of service also benefits us. It’s about karma. Whatever mistakes we have made in our life, selfless service clears out their karmic influence, reducing the size of our ego and bringing us more into unity with life and the divine.
But we have to be in the midst of people, in relationship to do this. After all the most difficult thing in the world are other people. And others are our great teachers. Especially those who we find difficult or challenging in some way. What a great gift they are, clearing us out for some new delight! Rounding our personality and helping us to grow in every way. As the Buddha would say, don’t ask how much you can get, ask how much you can give, in every way possible; in the office, at home, in the kitchen, everywhere.
I am trying to follow this method for a while. I often fail. I sometimes hurt someone. But I pick myself up, dust myself off again (and repeat my mantra) and endeavour to keep trying. As a result I am noticing that I have more energy because I am not trying to compete with people any more, I try to complete them.