Tag Archives: reality

Musings

Looking for everlasting happiness?

This post, like the previous one, might leave more questions than answers. Perhaps this is in keeping with my current state. :)

They say he only knows the taste of water who has traveled through the desert for it. If you are thirsty, water tastes sweeter than honey. But if you have a ready supply of drinking water, there is no excitement in the, now simple act of drinking it.

This seems to go for everything. There was a time when my father strictly restricted eating chocolates, watching movies and even TV. I craved for these things. Getting to experience them in some rare moments would make me excited and happy beyond all bounds. Now, when I have easy access to all of them, none of them feel as desirable. These are but a few examples of so many other things in life that loose there sheen once they become an easy and everyday experience.

So can the same be said of happiness? We all look for lasting happiness, I wrote an eBook on the topic. But is it possible to have everlasting happiness? If one has a ready supply of happiness, if one can be happy all the time, won’t happiness become boring, mundane and, consequently(and ironically), make the person unhappy?

If the only constant in this world is change, wouldn’t continuous happiness be an anomaly?

The happily ever after

Most of us, at some point in our lives, create a dream of a perfect life. It is the best that can happen, it is the point beyond which nothing would be needed. There would be no wants and nothing more to achieve. This dream, when realized, would keep us happy for ever, it would get us the kind of ‘happily ever after’ we come across in the stories.

But can there be a happily ever after? My experience says that a situation that I get to experience continuously, no matter how desirable in the beginning, does not keep me happy for ever. All situations become boring after sometime. When it did, it seems it was not the situation that gave me happiness, it was probably the challenge or the novelty of it.

Challenge is exciting and fun, when it makes me do something I have never done before, when it requires me to go up a level, when uncertainty of success is involved. Doing such a thing makes me feel alive. Probably, it is also the growth experience that this challenge provides. It is the process of my expansion, brought about by this situation, that gives me happiness.

Sometimes, happiness seems to come from an activity I love, like watching movies. Or it may come by being with some people I like, friends, family. But if I get to do this activity continuously or I get to be with these people all the time, the situation becomes routine and unremarkable.

I am tempted to say that trying new things and people gets me happiness but then trying new things and people all the time can become routine itself and become less desirable. :)

 The discontinuity of happiness

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity. -Carl Jung

Jung seems right to me here, happiness would lose meaning without sadness. Happiness, it seems, can only be had in bits and pieces, it comes only in highs and lows. The greater the elation you feel on the highs, the greater the sadness and misery at the lows.

I don’t completely see his point about how to face this reality though. If, as Jung says, you decide to face things with equanimity, you can avoid big miseries, but wouldn’t you also loose the highs you feel? Wouldn’t equanimity be boring? What would you rather have? – big highs at the cost of big lows, or an equanimous feeling? Or would you have something in between – where you probably stay somewhat grounded but allow some space for experiencing the highs and lows?

An acquaintance of my wife’s, told her that his wife, who is a classical singer, doesn’t like talking after she has sung for a while. She goes into a sort of a depression. This happens to many of the other singers that this guy has seen over the years(courtesy his wife) who, after going through the high elation of being one with a song, realize that it is gone now. They understand that there is no point in holding on to it for it cannot be continuously had. They cannot sing for ever, they will have to come back to it later. It leaves behind a vacuum that is filled with a lot of sadness.

This is the reason he thinks why many artists resort to drinking heavily or even drugs, they try to recreate that bliss through artificial means.

It seems the misery is the price for the high you get, and the level of the lows you can bear will decide the level of the highs you can have.

*****

So what do you feel about it? Can happiness be continuous? If it cannot, what attitude would you prefer to have towards it – would you accept the big lows to experience the highs? Or would you prefer equanimity?

Until next time…

Image: Lavoview

Personal Growth

Understanding and dealing with reality

Many people feel held back by the reality of their situation. Some want to get a more satisfying job but are stuck with the reality of their present demanding job that does not allow for preparations. Some want a peaceful marital life, but are stuck with the reality of an irate, un cooperative spouse. Some want to be rich but are stuck with the reality of their present poor lives that allows few options and opportunities. And so on and so forth…

The interpretation of reality is very personal and unique for each one of us

Most of the time, when we are talking of the reality of our situation, we are actually talking about our own interpretation of it.

What is also interesting is that all of us have our own different interpretations of reality.

As a kid, I would often visit my mother’s village(some 3 hours train journey from New Delhi). I met an old lady there who was convinced that the moon is not very far from the Earth and is inhabited by dwarfs. These dwarfs live by drinking water off a well. She could see and point out the well on the moon. No amount of passionate explanations from me and my brother, backed by our geography and physics lessons, would make her believe otherwise.

For those who believe in God, no amount of scientific explanation is enough to make them believe otherwise. In fact, a lot of them have their own, ‘scientific’ explanations of how God is an irrefutable reality. Come to think of it, the idea of God itself has so many different interpretations.

Why are we so obsessed with reality?

And why do we, the humans, seek to understand reality so badly? Animals don’t seem to be bothered by it, they just take and respond to whatever comes. It is perhaps because we can see that it affects how our lives go, how we feel, what we are able to do, accomplish, experience.

So, to ensure our own happiness and peace, we try to understand the reality of things around us. We want to be able to manipulate and control it.

This is a concept agreed upon by many. Understanding reality is a big part of growing up. We are encouraged by everyone to get a better hold of reality and learn how to manipulate it.

In the wake of this popular ‘common sense’, it is interesting to note that there have been some great minds who have pointed out that this approach is upside down. They say it is not the external reality that affects our internal state but the other way round – it is our internal state that affects the reality outside(or, at least, our interpretation of it).

The outer world represents our inner world

According to the people who believe in this, each one of us is creating our reality by the thoughts, feelings and emotions we hold dominantly.

There are 2 schools of thought among those who believe in this maxim. One can possibly be called the extreme believers, who say you are fully responsible for creating all your life experiences and situations. The other group, the moderates, say that you are responsible for the emotional and physical response you have towards the situation.

So, for example, if you have an irate and un cooperative spouse, the extremists would say you have manifested him/her in your life with your own thoughts. You have created this experince with your thoughts. The moderates might say that, while you can not control fully whom you come in contact with and how they behave with you, you sure can control how you respond to their actions. They might not agree that you are fully creating your reality with your thoughts, but they will agree that your thoughts(your emotional response to situations) decide how you ultimately end up feeling about yourself and your life.

So, whether it is a moderate or an extremist, both agree that…

It is just a thought that we are ever dealing with

What ever the problem with your reality, it is just a thought that you are dealing with. The problem because of an irate spouse, or a bad boss, or your low image of yourself, or your guilt over a life not spent well, or your unfulfilled desires for riches… they are all just thoughts in your mind.

And thoughts can be changed, at the drop of a hat. If you are unhappy about something right now, you have a choice to replace these thoughts of unhappiness with something else that you can be happy and grateful about.

Well, maybe I over stated. It is not just a simple change in thoughts, it has to be a bigger change in thinking habits and thought patterns. And breaking old patterns and habits takes conscious, continuous effort.

But the point here is not that. The point is, it is always and always just a thought. Your regrets of the past, your worries about the future, your anger, guilt, sadness, longing.. these are all just thoughts. And you have absolute power over them.

Now since you are habituated to them, you might disagree with me here, you might feel you are not in control. A simple test can prove the truth about this. Repeat slowly in your mind the words that follow. Feel their meaning, do this for a minute.

I am grateful that, of all forms of life, I have recieved a human form that gives me infinite possibilities.

I am grateful for living in a time when life has been made so easy to live that I don’t have to fight for every next meal. I have time to pursue higher goals.

I am grateful for having facilities and comforts(internet, phone, TV, automobiles, air travel, running water, electricity, air conditioning, ready made clothes, toilets with a flush!) that people just a couple of hundred years ago could not have imagined.

I am grateful for having been born into a such a privileged life, a life privileged not only among other animals, but among humans as well.

Now, how do you feel? Is sadness, want and anger still there? If you really tried to feel the words, the answer is probably ‘No’.

What you just witnesses was the absolute control you have over your thoughts, and hence your experience of this world. You made a conscious choice to read this post, you made a conscious choice to feel the words written above, just as you make a conscious choice sometimes to think of the people and situations that hurt you, just as you sometimes focus on all the things that are not right in your life.

*****

It is your own thoughts that decide how you feel. You have the power to completely control your life experience. If you believe the extremists, you can mould your whole life just with your thoughts. Even if you don’t, you will probably acknowledge that a change in attitudes will render you better prepared to make use of whatever opportunities life presents you with.

Until next time…

Image: Salvatore Vuono