Pleasure in Contentment

What brings about happiness?

I don’t mean the momentary type of happiness, but the kind that is without boundaries and pervasive. The sort that simply exists in spite of the world.

I would venture to say that most people focus on the things that are condition for the temporary variety of happiness to arise within their minds. By this, I’m referring to the acquisition of liked objects, the aversion to disliked objects, and especially the ideas of liked things and qualities belonging to oneself and the disliked ones belonging to someone other than oneself.

The mind living constantly in that world may be fooled into the belief that pleasure is brought about in this way and the suffering of life is somehow not associated by the same things.  This is to say, perhaps, that other people cause one’s unhappiness. Those who make the prices so high you can’t afford the things that bring your pleasure; who tax your purchases; accidently damage or even outrightly steal your things, they are all too blame.

And lets not forget the people we say we love, who always fall short of our expectations. Surely these people are to blame too, right?

I have often said that in any scenario when it seems like one thing alone is right and everything else is wrong, one should look at the one thing [at least momentarily] as suspect. I’ve come to realize through my practice of the Buddha’s teachings in general that this idea can be applied to our own conceptualizations of self. In other words, if everyone is irritating me constantly and I find blame everywhere around me but perceive myself to be the only flawless feature in the situation, I have to consider the possibility that my own perception is wrong.

Certainly, the teachings will refute any idea of self I may have (whether conscious or subconscious), but I’ve learned that tackling all of the notions of self is not at easy as picking up the intellectual knowledge that can be read in the suttas. One of the ways I’ve learned to look at the stress of life is precisely this — to look at my own view of the situation as the possible error and work my way out of it from there.

When I think this way, I often find that my view is based in hatred, greed, or delusion, which itself either forms or is formed on some idea of self.

So what brings about happiness?

When all of the stuff in life has failed to bring happiness, leaving me to look inward in an attempt to look closely at my view of the world, I have found contentment, gratitude, and patience bring the greatest happiness. It isn’t the fault of the manufacturers of the goods I bought, or my employer for not offering me a sufficient wage, or even a random thief who might happen by one night and take things off our front porch.

Knowing that no one has any responsibility for my happiness (or lack thereof) in any particular situation allows me to make my own, and it is a happiness that no one can take away without my permission. It can be difficult at times, when mindfulness lapses and the chaos of the world starts to sink in a bit, but it is certainly worth the effort.

May you all find tranquility of mind and the happiness that comes along with it. The more so, the merrier.  Be well, friends.


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