Epilogue: What Does It Mean To Be Happy?

BY Parvati

A really big heartfelt thank you for all the amazing feedback I received this week from those who were sincerely and deeply touched by my experience this past year, and those who were touched by my blog entries this past week called The Miracle of Nature’s Healing. Many of you shared your similar experiences as the tsunami hit Japan and as the Earth changes. What Grace that we all walk this Earth together, both similar and unique, and all seeking love and desiring fulfillment in our own way. It is to me as though we are each a ray of light from a brilliant rainbow, important in our contribution and one within the whole.
When we open to each other, we connect and we feel the love we ultimately seek. Because of this, I encourage you as we move forward on this blog site to post more comments on this page so that we may develop this community of like-minded people. I can guarantee from all the feedback I am getting, that you are by far not alone in what you are going through. So let us help each other and grow together here.
I would also like to hear from you as to what you may need from me so that I may best serve you. It is my pleasure to be of service, so please let me know in which way I can best do that for you. I am preparing something new for this blog, however, I am always open to your input and ideas.
Today I write one last hoorah for Ask Parvati, which to me is more of an epilogue than a full entry. The person’s question was lost in cyberspace over the last couple of months and just came to my attention. So as a thank you for the submission, I wanted to answer it here.
On February 17, the new issue of Parvati Magazine will be published. So next weekend, you will have all the time you need to sift through the quality articles by a bunch of my friends.
The week following will be the first publication of the new material for this blog.
Thank you so much for your continued support and readership. I look forward to growing with you.
Dear Parvati,
Lately I have been considering what it means to be happy. For me it means pure vision and self-awareness in the literal sense of emptiness. But I’m still meditating on that. Just a thought. I would love to hear your answer to that question. Thanks.
I love this question, and what a wonderful epilogue for Ask Parvati. Is it not that we all ask this question, and are all seeking happiness in our own way? It is sort of the quintessential spiritual question that we would ask great masters like His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Buddha or Amma. To honour the greats, I have shared some quotes that touch me and hopefully will inspire you as well.
But before I get into those, I would like to say that to me, happiness is not the same as bliss, unconditional love and peace. I think that most people really are more likely seeking these than happiness. Think about it. Would you not rather be in a permanent state of bliss, feeling eternally loved, rather than happy now, and perhaps sad later? When I hear the word happiness, I think of the temporal. When we are happy, we eventually become sad. But when we rest in the infinite, we rest in a state of permanent bliss. (I will let you know when I “get there”. 🙂 )
Until such time, I practice the release of wanting to find happiness “out there”, and develop the internal quality of contentedness, which relates to non-resistance to what is. Through contentedness, I learn to remain in balanced equanimity, a steadiness of mind and of heart, which is not swayed by the ever-changing moods of the mind, the ego and individual will. Rather than being like flotsam shuffled about on ever changing tides, we become more like a quiet oak tree that is rooted in a loving, co-creative relationship with ourselves and the Earth, while our flexible branches and leaves can easily sway in the wind.
The roots of the tree are like our internal practice of faith and letting go, the knowing that we are part of a much greater whole than our limited ego or will. In this, we keep a big picture, and don’t get stuck on taking ourselves too seriously, should we feel life bristle up against us. Laughing is a really good thing! There is a reason that it is called en-LIGHT-enment and not en-heavy-ment!
The branches of the oak are like an open, clear mind that focuses on the space between things, so that there is lots of room for life to flow through, being moved by and dancing with life, but not getting swept up and carried away and falling off center.
You mention in this question that happiness relates to pure vision and self-awareness as it relates to emptiness. I agree that true contentedness comes when we are not attached, so that we may eventually experience lasting bliss. I also agree that self-awareness and a pure vision help us see our attachments and ultimately let them go. So developing pure vision and self-awareness are a part of cultivating lasting bliss.
When we become so passionate about (either by absolutely loving or absolutely hating) people, places and things, we lose sight of the whole. We become overly attached and make things into gods. We inevitably suffer. Happiness comes and goes as do all emotional states. But contentedness has the sweet fragrance of a radiant flower that is rooted and nourished. It quietly shines and is at peace with itself. It does not seek. It does not want. It is.
So perhaps, rather than seeking happiness, cultivate the state of contentedness as you practice non-resistance to what is. This moment is perfect, holding within it all the happiness we could ever want, and then some.
Here are some of my favourite happiness quotes that may help to inspire you living a life rooted in contentedness as you cultivate a life of permanent bliss:
“Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder.”
Henry David Thoreau, American author, poet and philosopher
“When all your desires are distilled, you will cast just two votes:
To love more, And be happy.”
Hafiz, Persian lyric poet (read a review of Hafiz’s poetry in Parvati Magazine)
“We can travel a long way and do many things, but our deepest happiness is not born from accumulating new experiences. It is born from letting go of what is unnecessary, and knowing ourselves to be always at home.”
“As I go through all kinds of feelings and experiences in my journey through life — delight, surprise, chagrin, dismay — I hold this question as a guiding light: “What do I really need right now to be happy?” What I come to over and over again is that only qualities as vast and deep as love, connection and kindness will really make me happy in any sort of enduring way.”
Sharon Salzberg, author, Buddhist meditation teacher, co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society, Massachusetts
“The supreme happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved.”
Victor Hugo, French poet, playwright, novelist, essayist, visual artist, statesman and human rights activist
“A spiritual person finds happiness in being loving and compassionate towards everyone, even towards those who are against him. He is like a tree that gives shade even to those who are in the act of cutting it down.”
Amma, Mata Amitanandamayi Devi
“It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.”
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader