Discovering Happiness

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, then the highway to heaven is littered with suicide, addiction, anxiety and fear. Why is it so hard for us to find our heaven, nirvana, happiness, and serenity? Why do so many people fall by the wayside while trying so hard to find it?

“The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.”

Eric Hoffer

We don’t find heaven, we don’t find nirvana, we don’t find happiness or serenity. They are not places that we can travel to, nor destinations or goals. How many of us seek a goal with the idea that happiness will come at a certain moment in the future. When I graduate I will be happy.’ ‘When I find the love of my life, I will be happy.’ ‘When I get the promotion, I will be happy.’ We look forward to a magical, mystical moment when, I don’t know, we think that the sky will open up and the bluebird of happiness will land on our shoulder. But that doesn’t happen. We graduate, get married and get the promotion and we do feel momentary happiness but then, it’s fleeting pause is over and we work for the next moment of happiness.

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There is also, of course, the obverse. Not everyone graduates, finds their soul mate or ever gets more than an entry level job. Are we living in a society where people will never attain a true feeling of Heaven on Earth? Is the seeking of that feeling of happiness the source of our own despair? When we reach a goal, we do feel that momentary jolt of ‘Yes, I did it’, which fades quickly. Like the wonder of Christmas fading before the week is out, we push toward the next ephemeral moment.

Perhaps our challenge is not to seek happiness. Perhaps what we need to do is to define what actually causes us to feel the emotion of happiness? What would give you not a momentary but a continued sense of wellbeing, contentment and serenity? Few people can answer that question. Sure, they can tell us that a party makes them happy, or a wedding or a birth; events and goals. They can tell us that being with other people and making them happy leads to happiness, but even this is an interim fix; what if they can’t make others happy? I don’t think happiness is a temporary state of excited emotional bliss, a goal or destination. Then what is it?

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Happiness is not something that we can seek. It is not something that we can do. We can’t pursue it. We can’t buy it. We can’t attain it. Nothing ‘makes’ us happy.

Happiness comes from within. I think that discovering our own happiness is the true purpose in life and our true measure of success. The recipe for happiness varies from person to person. It results from our choice to live a life that is congruent with one’s principles and beliefs. People who are happy focus on the people that they care about, the things that they value, a conducive environment and activities they enjoy. It requires self-discipline and effort to create it and maintain it within oneself. I don’t find happiness when I get my diploma or promotion; I feel it as a result of doing what I need to do to achieve those goals. I don’t find happiness when I make a certain amount of money or win the lottery; I experience happiness knowing that I am being true to myself and my the things that are important to me. I don’t find happiness by trying to control all of the variable that have a part in my life; I find it by focusing only on those things I have control over, and those things are within me. My attitude, my judgement, my actions, my choices and my perspective are all within my circle of control.

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Happiness is within my control as well, it follows. If I feel happiness, perhaps I can analyze why at this particular moment I feel it. I can pay attention to those things that result in feeling unhappy and maintain my distance in the future. If I know that I feel happiness when I take a walk by the ocean or through the woods, then why not do that more often? If sharing a deep conversation with a friend invigorates me and brings a smile to my face, then I should seek out times to have those conversations. I have to do the work. My answers won’t magically appear. But with time and practice I can make the right choices for me and my happiness.

Finding Nirvana, Shangri-La, or Heaven, as well as their opposites is a very Earthly proposition. Despite of all I do, I will sometimes feel fear, anxiety and suffering. But I don’t have to stay in that misery any longer than I wish to. I have a choice. I choose to be happy.

Becoming Extraordinary!

What makes a life extraordinary? Do you have to find a cure for cancer? End social conflict? Start a new company that will benefit millions? I suppose it depends upon who you are and what you wish to accomplish with your life. People like Richard Branson, Oprah Winnfrey or Elon Musk have made incredible changes in the world around us. Their net worth is certainly much higher than mine yet, they had the same or even less advantages in life than I have had. How are they different from me? Why am I not being driven in a Lincoln Towncar or jetting to meet friends at my private island in the Caribbean?

There’s a common thread in people who are leading extraordinary lives. They have, from an early age, declared that they ‘want something different’. They were not going to be satisfied with the status quo: theirs was going to be a different type of life than the examples around them. None of them knew where they were going to be twenty, ten or even one year down the road, but they were willing to try options that those around them didn’t or wouldn’t even consider trying.

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From an early age extraordinary people, seek something different and are usually encouraged and supported in their efforts by someone significant in their lives, and a poor role model can motivate as much as a positive one. Most don’t possess a superior intellect, or go to the best schools. Most of them have what we would call an average life in average home with nothing to really differentiate them from their peers except for one thing: a rebel spirit.

Most of these people possess a nature that encourages them to go beyond what is expected of them. It may be a desire for more, a personal vision that goes beyond the usual opportunities that surround them. Extraordinary people are risk takers. Their rebellious souls aren’t content to follow in the shadow of parents or other role models. They want something different. They are the ones who strike out on their own and dance their own dance in life. What others think doesn’t bother them. They see many of the ‘rules of life’ as bullshit rules and refuse to follow them, and they don’t really care what others think about what they are doing. They follow the beat of their own drum and accept the inherent risks involved in this journey.

Dwyer Manufacturing

I don’t have to look far afield to see this in action, and to be honest it wasn’t until I started writing this article that I came to realize that my brother is just such a person. While I grew up being the ‘best little boy possible’, he began life a rebel. Pushing boundaries was part of his character as was pushing our parents patience to limit. They were just happy that he stayed in high school for four years even though he didn’t earn enough credits to graduate. He took to the skills that he enjoyed and continued to learn from his work experience until he had enough of working for others and struck out on his own. Today he runs a successful manufacturing business that employs eight to ten people, depending on the workload. In addition, he has a wonderful family and is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to spoil his first grandchild. He broke out of the mold of those around him and followed his own path.

Becoming extraordinary doesn’t mean that one gains fame. It is setting one’s own boundaries and rules. It is saying I want something different in life. Most of us follow the well worn paths in life and don’t venture too far from the norms of conventionality. For others though, this is not enough. They say to themselves things like: I will do things in my own way; I will try new things and keep on moving myself forward; if I screw up, then I learn from it and try something else. And there is no guarantee that being extraordinary will ensure success as defined by most: monetary wealth. However, their wealth comes in a plethora of incredible life experiences, great relationships and an enjoyment of life. They don’t ‘retire’ but continually move forward to savour whatever life puts before them right until the end.

The Matrix

Extraordinary people don’t opt for the blue pill and go along following the rules. No, they take the red pill and open themselves up to possibilities. This doesn’t mean that only the rebel can be extraordinary. We all have that within us, but I think it takes more of an effort to learn to live a life with more risk, trials and change. For some of us it takes becoming so miserably uncomfortable in our ‘comfort zone’ that we have to make changes. I think for the rebel, it the excitement of the risk and the challenge; the carrot, if you will. For the rest of us it is often the stick: being so beaten up by the present situation that a move to unfamiliar situations becomes a better option. In the end, the choice to be extraordinary is up to me.

Health in a Time of Corona

For the past six months we have been living in a world of uncertainty. In truth, we always have, but today with the Corona virus lurking in unknown corners, we feel the stress and anxiety of the unknown getting us down emotionally, spiritually and physically. However, I believe that there are decisions we can make and actions we can take to keep positive, lift our spirits and boost our strength.

I am not expert. I am not a doctor. I have no guru credentials either. I have spent the last five months, since the reality of our world situation came into a sharp focus, informing myself through books and media about my options. I’ve learned that over the past couple of generations, our focus of control has shifted from within, to external factors. I get my health from a doctor. My emotions from social media. My spirituality is often ignored. We have opted for ‘likes’ and pills, forgetting that real health, in body, mind and spirit comes from within and that all three are connected. There is no magic elixir that can cure all that ails us.

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I have learned that I can take my health back into my own hands. I have learned that our reliance on mass food production, processed foods, along with slick marketing and labeling practices have fooled us into believing that the chemicals we are eating is food. Sugar consumption continues to climb and with it, obesity rates, insulin resistance and diabetes. Processed foods are packaged enticingly, belying their contents. Nutrition has become a secondary element of our trip to the grocery store. Our lifestyle has become sedentary and we don’t have the ‘energy’ to even go for a walk because we are not getting enough energy in our diet. We are living in a world where a child born today will have a life expectancy that is less than his grandparents. Our emotional and spiritual health suffer as well because we do not know or have forgotten how to nourish them because we isolate ourselves behind closed doors and digital screens.

I have learned that I must inform myself, make decisions for myself and act on those decisions. I believe that the best approach overall health is to address all three facets of our humanity: body, mind and spirit. What I am evolving is a program of physical, mental and spiritual fitness that is working for me. I will add and subtract items as I gain more understanding. A road doesn’t have to be paved and painted to get me to where I want to go. As long as I continue to investigate and learn, improvements will continue.

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So, what is my program? I have membership at a gym because I know I prefer to exercise in the company of others: they inspire me. I average four, 40 minute workouts a week. It’s enough to work each major muscle group once a week. I began a keto diet to reduce weight get myself out of the ‘overweight’ category of fitness. Mentally, I have drastically reduced the time I spent on YouTube and Netflix and I am concentrating on reading more books, both fiction and non-fiction for entertainment and information. I am also listening to informative podcasts, videos and online classes. And spiritually, I have developed a meditation practice that both keeps me grounded here and connects me with Consciousness.

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Before Covid 19 appeared on the horizon I was doing little to contribute to my overall health and well-being. I am now more than 10 kilos lighter. I’ve read more books in the last six months than I had read in the last two years. I can’t imagine my day without a spiritual practice, usually meditation. I have more energy, feel greater self confidence, and am more connected than I have been in many, many years. As an added benefit, I believe that by improving my overall health, I have fortified my immune system as well. It may not prevent me from contracting any virus or disease, but it will give me a far greater chance of battling it successfully.

I share these small bits of information to encourage others to seek their own answers and to discover their own definition of ‘health’. I am grateful for this ‘isolation’ time that I have been given to make these lifestyle changes. I know that these feelings of optimism, strength and happiness will continue as I push forward in my quest for knowledge and understanding as we continue through this uncertain time of Corona.

For further investigation:

The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey

The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani

Personality Isn’t Permanent, by Benjamin Hardy

Science and Spiritual Practices, by Rupert Sheldrake

www.mindvalley.com