What is Real Happiness?

For this article, I’m going to ask you to put aside any beliefs you have about happiness. It may seem like a strange question to ask, what is happiness? Or what is real happiness? As if there is such a thing as fake or false happiness. What we’ll discuss in today’s article are the misconceptions that many of us have surrounding happiness, and how these ideas are created in our society. Furthermore, we’ll delve into the true meaning of happiness, and try to guide you in the best direction for achieving that form of happiness.

So what is real happiness? You might think that when you smile or laugh, that this is an indication that you are truly happy. Or maybe you’ll convince yourself that if you bought a new top, or started a new relationship, or landed your dream job then you would be happy. The downfall of these attitudes towards happiness is that they all rely upon an external trigger, something to create a reaction of happiness within us. It’s great to have goals and aspirations, especially ones that we are passionate about and believe will improve our quality of life. However, if we are dependant on external factors to ensure our happiness then we can never feel secure in that emotion in case we lose that dream job, or perfect relationship or we get the urge to buy another piece of clothing because the last one no longer brings us the same joy that it did when we first purchased it. We attach happiness to things, places and people without attempting to consolidate and form lasting happiness within ourselves.

Surely, with centuries of inquiry, we would have completed the search for pure and lasting happiness by now. And yet for most of us, the search continues each and every day. Of course, this isn’t to say that none of us has ever felt happiness, or even that these external influences can’t bring us a form of happiness. Rather we are going to find out that there are many forms of happiness, but some are more long-lasting and pure than others. These moments, which we call real happiness, go by many different names depending on who you ask. Some examples are:

  • Awakening
  • Enlightenment
  • Peak Experiences
  • Flow States
  • Buddha Nature
  • Pure consciousness 
  • Discovering your True-Self
  • Non-Dual Awareness 
  • Satori
  • Rigpa

Peak Experiences

In psychology, these moments are referred to as peak experiences and they have a few notable characteristics:

·       A sense of connection.

In moments of peak or awakening, the structures of the “ego” dissolve and with them we remove the separation between the “I” and the world. We no longer view ourselves as a singular point or awareness, distanced from everything around us by space. We take in the whole space and see everything that surrounds us, including sounds, smells and sensations as connected.

·       A sense of clarity.

When we achieve clarity in these moments everything seems more vivid, brighter, even simple objects are caught in our attention. Steve Taylor, the author of Waking from Sleep, believes that the majority of our lives are spent in a kind of sleep that we can wake up from. These wakening moments are seen as higher states of consciousness and are in a sense exactly what we are talking about in this article, moments of real happiness.

One of Steve Taylor’s research volunteers was quoting saying, “Everything suddenly becomes more clearly defined. Images, sounds and smells take on a whole new meaning.”

·       A sense of serenity.

Here, serenity can also mean calm. And what we might experience is the calming of our usually busy minds. Our inner dialogue might become quiet, so we are not passing judgement on our surroundings or on ourselves. We will also experience thoughts and emotions floating through our awareness rather than getting stuck in our minds for us to obsess over. We will be at peace in the moment, and experience no judgement or negative emotions towards ourselves or others.

·       A sense of completeness.

If we are feeling a moment of peak experience and we could stop and assess the situation, what we would find is that there is nothing missing from the experience. Everything would be perfect as it is. Because there is very little mental chatter in these moments, there are no voices in our minds comparing what we are currently experiencing with what we think we should be experiencing, or what we have viewed others experiencing.

·       A sense of flow.

Possibly the most important feature of a peak experience is it’s sense of effortlessness. You will not have to tell yourself that you are happy, or you should be feeling happy about the experience – you just will be. You might lose track of time or other unimportant factors and exist within a moment that goes beyond you as a person. Everything happens naturally, without effort, without the need to think too much.

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“The real meaning of these experiences is that they are an ‘awakening’. They give us a glimpse into a world of beauty, meaning and togetherness that goes beyond the normal human state of separation and suffering – they show us a new way of living.”

Can we exist in a peak experience indefinitely?

Returning to British psychologist Steve Taylor, he says about these experiences: “The real meaning of these experiences is that they are an ‘awakening’. They give us a glimpse into a world of beauty, meaning and togetherness that goes beyond the normal human state of separation and suffering – they show us a new way of living.”

So what you might have realised at this point is that the experts all agree that these peak experiences are not our everyday mental states. However, through meditation, we can create an experience of real happiness that we might never have had before or may have only experienced a handful of times. This happiness will be unrelated to what we are doing or what we have and will therefore be a sustaining kind of happiness, it will be real happiness. Living in the 21st century comes with a multitude of worries and stressful scenarios for everyone, so to combat this and train our minds to be more receiving of peak experiences there are some things we can do surrounding our management of negative emotions and thoughts. What we need to remember is that these moments of real happiness are not intrinsically linked to what we are doing at the time, they are instead made possible by our state of mind.

Peaks, plateaus and valleys

It often makes it easier to understand this concept of peak experiences and real happiness if we find a way to visualise it. A great way of doing this is to picture a mountainous landscape, with peaks, plateaus and valleys. The geographical shapes correlate with our emotional and mental state in terms of these feelings of genuine happiness.

For most of us, we experience the majority of our lives in the valleys. These are times when we feel incomplete in some way and are seeking something to make us feel happy – the examples from earlier still stand: a new piece of clothing, a new relationship or our dream job. When we have gained these things we will experience a peak moment of happiness where we feel complete. However, nothing lasts forever and so when the joy of this peak experience passes we return to the valley position and the cycle continues. Think of it like you are standing at the bottom of one of these mountains and your deepest desire is to reach the top and take in the view. Once you have struggled to the peak and enjoyed a well-deserved feeling of accomplishment you must come back down again – and then what do you have. Eventually, the need for that feeling of accomplishment and completeness will return and you will seek out another mountain to climb.

For those who have trained their minds, it becomes possible to identify the characteristics of these peak moments and to incorporate that into their day-to-day lives. With this mentality, which does require training and commitment to achieve, we are able to create a new normal in our mental state which we refer to here as a plateau. Using meditation we can all achieve this baseline emotional state of peace and contentedness without relying upon external factors to create our happiness.

We have mentioned many names for real happiness today, however, the overarching description is always consistent. There is a sense of internal completeness and fulfilment that is necessary to real happiness. We have identified that this is not our natural state in today’s fast-paced and highly comparative society, as we have all become too dependent on external objects, people or experiences to create our happiness for us – and this kind of happiness just doesn’t last! So what we need to work on now, which you can do through our Real Happiness course, is separating those peak experiences from any external influences. Accept that the happiness they bring you is always going to be temporary, and release yourself from the hold this cycle of peaks and valleys has over you. Meditation can help us to create a deep sense of contentment within ourselves, so we can exist on the plateau of peace and real happiness indefinitely. 

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In order for us to move into the true depths of meditation we need to let go of our control over our experiences. 🍃

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Acceptance doesn’t mean giving up or resigning yourself to negative experiences and events without taking any action.

It just means accepting the things that are in your control and identifying the things that aren’t. 🌦️️

Making those distinctions can prevent you from wasting time and energy denying or resisting things, and allow you to focus instead on the things you can actively change. ☂️

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"It is better to try something and fail than to try nothing and succeed. The result may be the same, but you won't be. We always grow more through defeats than victories." - Soren Kierkegaard 🏔️

Your journey to better mental health will be different to those around you, which is why it is important not to compare or get disheartened when something doesn't work for you. 🍃

Never give up on your journey. 🏕️

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How do we develop a higher consciousness? 🧘‍♂️

Certain thinkers break down our experiences of conscious content into six key levels of consciousness:

1. Life happens to you - you react to experiences, defending yourself, avoiding things, and rarely living in the present moment.

2. Life happens by you - your dissatisfaction with this sense of powerlessness drives you to feel as though you can control life. This can bring great personal power, but it can also lead to a misguided effort to control everything, which can cause anxiety, and dissatisfaction.

3. Life happens in you - here, you see that all your reacting and controlling hasn't brought you the happiness and peace you'd hoped it would. You begin to realise that life is experienced through your thoughts, meaning that your hardship is not caused by what happens to you, but by the stories your mind creates about those experiences. This is a U-turn towards higher consciousness.

4. Life happens for you - as your curiosity about your experiences and observations grows, you start to accept the natural flow of life, thinking of it less as something to mold, and more as something to openly experience without judgement. 

5. Life happens through you - you understand that there are no ordinary moments in life. Every single moment is an opportunity for a positive experience, and this all happens through you, your body, and mind.

6. Life is you - the final level of human consciousness develops after a gradual evolution, as you continually cultivate a more accepting, non-judgemental approach to life, viewing yourself as intrinsically connected to everything around you. 🍃

Read more about higher consciousness in our newest article 🦉

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The first step towards improving your mental health is often the hardest. 💭

So, remember self compassion and acceptance on your journey, always be kind to your mind.❣️

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And that's okay, mindful meditation is a practice after all. 🌱

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Turn off the movie and awaken in the present. 🌿

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Rumination begins when we try and 'solve' our emotions or negative thoughts, we find ourselves in constant cycles, trying to 'fix' the thought. 💭

Often the negative thought persists and may even get worse as we can get lost in this endless cycle. 🔄

Acceptance and letting it be is a more proactive way to move pass this negative emotion, without getting sucked into it. 🍃

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The Lotus Flower, a symbol of awakening in Zen Buddhism, blooms in the murkiest, muddiest swamps. 🧘‍♀️

Its roots begin to grow under the swamp water and its buds reach their way to the surface where they bloom into stunning flowers. 🌿

If you want the beautiful lotus flower of happiness, you must also deal with the dirt and the mud of suffering. 🗯️

Our latest article explores 'No Mud, No Lotus', Thich Nhat Hanhs' book about this way of understanding life, click the link in our description to read. 💛

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