Looking into Happiness
Being Human appears to be the wrench in happiness.
This is not a new thought, the Buddhas first Nobel Truth is after all, ‘life is dhukka’. Dhukka translates into ‘being stuck’, not free functioning. Who here has ever been happy while being stuck?
The self is a cacophony of identities or aspects. We know this without any great feats of spiritual experience. Our employee-self is different than our spouse-self, lover-self, parent-self, child-self, alone-self, buddies-self … so on and so on.
The magic of being human is that we can switch them at will, mature them, merge them … and ultimately we integrate them into one ME. The ‘magic’, or more correctly managing the magic, is also the problem. Identifying with the child-self, at work or with a spouse seldom is the wise position to take and they often leak out.
In Zen we say there are 84,000 aspects. Translators know this is just means ‘very large number’. For brevity, I will just assert that you have an identity or aspect, we can call the ‘unhappy-self’. Therefore, the self can never be completely happy. Throw in the aspects of damaged-self, jealous-self, guilty-self, etc… and you can start to see the inherent problem.
In Zen practice we first work to recognize the ungraspable, which is Being. Then work on living with the paradox of being both Human and Being.
Happiness appears to be well inside the realm of ungraspable. It can only arise and be experienced, think about it and it disappears. The self can hold onto the story about how it felt or bask in the after glow, but it cannot capture it.
What actually makes us happy is not being identified as self, if only for a moment. Only the self attributes happiness to the activity we were doing at the time. I was happy when I was with Bob. Of course this is not true, you broke off with Bob for a reason, but what you mean is that I had more happy moments when I was with Bob.
Fortunately, we can cultivate moments free of the self, we dance, play a musical instrument or get lost in music, paint, run, climb, read, make love, meditate, chant … anything that puts us in the moment.
Of course all our happy-drugs of choice are not long term healthy. Each of the above can emerge immaturely. Random hook-ups vs a conscious couplings jumps out of the list above as an example. Any of them done only as escape is not good long term and of course actual drugs and alcohol can be hard to manage.
I like to think I have matured and cultivated my drinking into something that makes me happy. I futz over selecting wine, storing wine, pairing wine, etc… I may still may just be a wino, but I enjoy it … it makes me happy.
So, in a nutshell: find your ‘things’, work on maturing them and be happy.
May your life go well