Happiness for me was something to strive for; it was within reach yet out of reach at the same time. It's like when I am boarding a long haul flight and I am forced to walk through the business class on the way to my coach seat.
I slowly make my way down the aisle as I admire the seats that can transform into a bed, staring at the well-dressed man already seated in his seat as he receives his glass of bubbly to welcome him on the plane.
How amazing would my 10-hour flight be if I was seating here. Suddenly I’m brought back to reality as my fellow passenger behind me passively-aggressively bumps into me to usher me to move on. I slowly walk out of the business class cabin and enter the chaos of the back of the plane... The prerequisite to happiness for me was feeling comfortable. And feeling comfortable usually meant spending money.
I’ll be happy when I have lots of money, I have a big house and can buy whatever I want.
And when I was happy, I would take it for granted. Like a relationship past the honeymoon period, I would get bored and want more. It was never enough. When I got my first job after graduating college I was elated. I worked for a global multinational company that is very competitive to get in.
Having spent all my life up until that point studying hard to get good grades, to eventually get a good job finally paid off. However, after a few months, the honeymoon period wore off and it was just my job. It was more stress than happiness.
One place I did find an abundance of happiness was with my family. Spending time with my parents and siblings was comfortable and warm. Yet there were many times I would fight with my siblings, so many times I would argue and rebel against my parents. Those times were lonely and dark, the one place where you thought happiness was constant, still had cracks.
2 years ago I started studying ancient Indian and Greek philosophy, these ancient texts were written thousands of years ago spoke about happiness coming from within you. And through practices such as meditation and mindfulness, this happiness can be cultivated.
I had previously dabbled with mindfulness using apps such as Headspace, but I was never able to sustain the practice. Studying philosophy allowed me to understand the theory, the reasons why meditation and mindfulness work. Why they bring peace and stillness and why we should do it. My mistake was trying to do mindfulness without fully grasping its purpose.
To read that happiness exists within us and can be accessed at any moment, was something too good to be true. It was only when I started practicing mindfulness again with the intention of happiness, did I discover this was true.
I further realised there wasn’t only happiness within; there was peace, joy, clarity, oneness. How I misunderstood the purpose of mindfulness when I first tried it.
One of the biggest realisations I have made is there are 2 types of happiness.
Previously my sole focus of happiness was material, it was reliant on something to make me happy. I am happy when I’m drinking a nice glass of red wine, I am happy when I’m watching a good movie, I am happy when I’m with my wife. These moments are wonderful, they are also temporary.
The second type of happiness is eternal. I am happy. It exists now, within me, not reliant on anything. I live it by being present and grateful, cultivate it through mindfulness and meditation. I detach from my thoughts and desires. Every time I become aware I am in my head, I let go without commenting to myself and bring myself back to the present.
Over the last few years of being happy eternally, I have found less conflict and confusion inside me, I am more peaceful. A balance I didn’t know I had. I am not as reliant as before on things or people to make me happy. Contentment exists irrespective of what happened last week or what is planned tomorrow.
Starting with eternal happiness means even if things don’t go my way, I can still find moments of bliss. Letting go of my thoughts and emotions which are affected by my circumstances and accessing the peace within.
I believe we can live with both types of happiness as long as we balance the two and don’t let one dominate the other. Starting with eternal happiness which is always there, allows me to find peace and happiness every day no matter what hardships I am facing. When things are going well, and I am materially happy, I can enjoy it for what it is.