It's a Choice
“I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.” Groucho Marx
Happiness is the firm conviction, the strong resolve, the courageous stance, the damn-the-torpedoes-full-steam-ahead attitude that no matter what comes our way we are going to refuse to be anything but happy. Happier than a puppy chasin’ butterflies on a warm spring day! That’s it! Well, that’s not quite all of it, but that’s the foundation. That’s the most important part. We make a vow to ourselves and to the universe to be happy.
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln
Happiness is not something that will come to us without our making an effort and so the pursuit of happiness must be a willful decision on our part. With that said, we can note that some people seem to be naturally happy, upbeat and positive. This is due to effort made in past lives which is now manifesting in their current life. Other people are the opposite. Nothing goes well for them, they are depressed, sad and living lives of hopelessness and despair. This too is the fruit of past actions.
Some people will have to make more effort than others but all of us are capable of learning to be truly happy and in all circumstances. Eventually our pursuit will bring us to perfect equanimity or evenness of mind which is enlightenment and that is perfect happiness.
As we progress, our happiness will grow step by step which will encourage us to continue our efforts. As the bulb begins to shine brighter and brighter, we are filled with a sense of aliveness and our awareness grows. Love and compassion bloom in the garden of our hearts.
If happiness is our true nature, why must there be an effort to arrive at it? The answer is that most everyone in this world lives in a dream that is based on fear. This dream is a kind of self-hypnosis or psychosis which means we are all delusional and we are all sharing the same delusions in a general way of speaking.
The root fear of all fears is the fear of non-existence but it manifests its alien, parasitic shoots in countless other ways. This is the nature of our delusional minds which harbor the illusion of being separate from everyone and everything.
This illusion of separateness we will call the ego or the sense of “I” and “mine.” Since the ego is an illusion, it is quite naturally fearful of its own inevitable non-existence due to the fact that it never existed to begin with! It is all quite a charade!
“Why are you unhappy? Because 99% of the things you do, think and feel are about yourself and there isn’t one.” Wei Wu Wei
We put the clothes of our likes and dislikes on the framework of “I” and “mine” in order to enhance the illusion thus making our ego seem all the more real. This is much like putting clothes on the invisible man so we can see him. Examples of these clothes might be our political persuasion, religious beliefs, social position, our house, our stable of friends and acquaintances, identification with a football team, gender and last but most importantly, we have an intimate identification with our own physical body. This fabricated list of I-am-this and I-am-that has no end.
“Is it not important to you to know whether you are a mere body, or something else? Or, maybe nothing at all? Don’t you see that all your problems are your body’s problems -- food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, name, fame, security, survival -- all these lose their meaning the moment you realise that you may not be a mere body.” Nisargadatta Maharaj, I Am That
The prospect of diminishing or losing any of these “clothing items” creates an inordinate amount of stress, fear and discomfort. In some cases, we will defend these to the death rather than unclothe our phantom ego. This sense of “I” and “mine” is the source of all our suffering.
The whole world is engaged in this nightmare and being born into this world assures that we will be indoctrinated, domesticated, shackled and trained to conform to the illusion.
It is somewhat like the movie The Matrix in which the bodies of human beings are encased in a capsule in order for the ruling artificial intelligence Machine to siphon off power. All the while the humans themselves are oblivious to their actual condition as the Machine controls their minds and implants a dream that is like the common world we experience today with houses, jobs, cities and nature.
We are caught in a delusional, fabricated, culturally imposed reality now and don’t realize it. The Sanskrit word for this delusional, dream-like condition is maya. The concept of repeating this delusional existence time after time through a succession of incarnations is called samsara. The goal is to bring an end to the seemingly endless rounds of being born, dying, being born again and the suffering that accompanies our passage.
In the book The Four Agreements, Dr. Don Miguel Ruiz does a wonderful job of stripping away maya and revealing the true nature of our human experience in the first chapter titled Domestication and the Dream of the Planet. Here is an excerpt:
“In the dream of the planet it is normal for humans to suffer, to live in fear, and to create emotional dramas. The outside dream is not a pleasant dream; it is a dream of violence, a dream of fear, a dream of war, a dream of injustice. The personal dream of humans will vary, but globally it is mostly a nightmare. If we look at human society we see a place so difficult to live in because it is ruled by fear. Throughout the world, we see human suffering, anger, revenge, addictions, violence in the street, and tremendous injustice. It may exist at different levels in different countries around the world, but fear is controlling the outside dream.”
Because of maya, unhappiness, sorrow and suffering are the lot of most every person on this planet. People may appear cordial on the surface but looking a little more deeply we see minds that are agitated, stressed, anxious, worried, bored, fearful, depressed and caught up in the burning hell-fire of various cravings and desires which can never be satisfied. The author’s book Rama’s Most Excellent Dispassion explores this condition in more detail.
To be happy, an effort is needed. We will study the nature of the mind in order to see clearly the mechanism of unhappiness and then we will take action to control and purify the mind. We will remove the unhappiness and what is left will be our own true, happy nature – uncovered and revealed.
All the while that we are removing the causes of unhappiness, we will be practicing the feeling of being happy. This includes the feelings of joy, bliss and love. So we will have an effort to abandon the spoilers of happiness and we will have an effort to fan the flames of happiness. We push away from unhappiness and pull ourselves toward happiness.
In this way, we begin to move the ship of our lives away from the shallows and shoals of discontent where it had long ago run aground and we will sail into the vast, deep, open sea of unbridled, unfathomable and all-pervading happiness. In fact, this happiness is radiantly alive and is constantly calling to every one of us to abandon our fears and desires and embrace the love, bliss and light that is our very nature.
In summary, happiness is a choice. We will want to commit ourselves to this path and resolve to be happy no matter what. Come floods, flames of hell, or failing finances we’re gonna...