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My aim is to share my story in the hope it will inspire you, to find your purpose in life, make a living from your passion and live the life of your dreams.
Hi my name is Angela, I was born and brought up in England. I have lived in England all my life. Thank you for dropping by, I hope you gain something from my Blog. I am happy to connect with you. Lets talk about Holistic living – Remember Holistic living isn’t just about food, it’s about your whole being. That’s mind, body and soul. I believe that everyone can and should live the life of their dreams. Believe it or not it’s possible. Everyone has a purpose in life, your purpose is what you are innately passionate about. Your purpose in life is to use your passion to help others, some call it Destiny or living their dream. You know you are living your life's purpose when you can't wait to get out of bed in the morning to get started, you would do what you do, for free. You can't believe you get paid for what you do. I believe that if everyone did what they were passionate about the world of work would be a better place. Check out archived Blogs. Last year was a series of talks about how we care for our Mind, Body and Soul which focused on living holistically. We have had blogs that focused on the body, from what we do with our hands, where our feet take us and what we class as private, in the past we have looked at 'What you do for living' we also dealt with 'SELF=YOU' and ' The Exhorted Soul' all books can now be found on Amazon (https://www.amazon.co.uk/-/e/B01NBV5SA0)
This year we will focus on HAPPINESS! I will offer snippets of the book these blogs will form.
What is it?
According to Vocbulary.com - Happiness is that feeling that comes over you when you know life is good and you can't help but smile. It's the opposite of sadness.
Happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. When people are successful, or safe, or lucky, they feel happiness. The "pursuit of happiness" is something this country is based on, and different people feel happiness for different reasons. Whenever one is doing something that causes happiness, they usually want to do more of it. No one ever complained about experiencing too much happiness.
I propose that happiness is a momentary emotion. What makes you happy? A New Car? A New House? New Clothes? I propose that we are happy for a MOMENT. Let's look at going on …We become happy considering going on …..Shall I put a 'time' on this? Let's say 1.5 hours while we think about the possibility. While attending the travel agent or scrolling through the destination sites on the internet...Happiness is experienced every-time you think of opening the site or getting ready to go to the travel agent. During the experience you will remain happy...Let's put a time on it...approximately 80 hours, over a period of two weeks. You are happy when you view your chosen airlines' arrival and departure times for your destination. You are happy when you look for hotels and compare them. Some of us make excel sheets to plan the cost of the holiday, when that folder is open, we are happy! Some of us have a holiday tin in-order to save money for our trip. Every-time we look at the tin, we are happy, every-time we add money to the tin, we are happy. Happiness is a momentary emotion. As the holiday draws near, you find happiness in buying your holiday clothes, you perhaps change some money into the currency of your destination.
Getting the house ready to be left for two weeks, while you are away, may bring happiness as you remember the reason you are doing the work. This may consist of emptying the freezer and fridge, perhaps you will stop shopping every week, but eat the contents, thinking that you will be able to leave few items in the fridge and freezer! The plants and kitten can go to a relative and they can check on the house while you are away.
So the holiday is set, you have done a lot of preparations, most of which gave you happiness. The day of your departure has arrived, you are happy and endure the queue at the airport, the 5 hour delay of the flight, the terrible coffee and fast food you had to buy and eat.
No happiness there.
You eventually get into your seat on the plane, which is squashed between two people who were insistent on taking as much space they can steal from you. They then fall asleep, snore and felt more comfortable leaning in your direction! No happiness there.
You leave the plane and head for your hotel...OK let's assume the hotel is great and you have a wonderful holiday...You are happy whilst enjoying the hotel and holiday...The memories of the holiday minus the plane ride there, will be bring you happiness.
Are you getting the picture? Happiness is a momentary emotion.
Happiness is a journey not a destination- Ben Sweetland. As you saw above, most of the happiness experienced stemmed from 'getting there'.
Happiness confused with contentment.
There may be items around your home, that when you look at them, you feel happy! You feel happy in that moment while looking at, or walking past the item. Perhaps you reminisce about where you brought or the circumstance in which you acquired the item. The item could be a picture and as you look at the faces smiling back at you, you feel happy. A picture of my children and Grandson always, always make me smile. As I pass the bust I have of Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass, they look down at me from the top of my bookshelf, I smile as I am happy that I had them commissioned. Happiness is monetary.
Happiness is also a journey, one becomes happy thinking about the destination i.e getting that promised gift, going on holiday, going to purchase something for yourself or a loved one etc. I found that most people use the word happiness instead of the contentment! 'Contentment is a state of happiness and satisfaction' Oxford Languages
Contentment is an emotional state of satisfaction that can be seen as a mental state, maybe drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind. Colloquially speaking, contentment could be a state of having accepted one's situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness. Wikipedia
Lee Serpa Azevado in his article 'Happiness vs. Contentment' states that 'Happiness is generally defined as the experience of frequent positive thoughts, such as joy, interest or pride. Contentment is generally defined as a longer lasting, but a deeper feeling of satisfaction and gratitude. Happiness is arguably viewed as having a temporary feeling attached to it'.
Some may say, if happiness is monetarily, why do so many people state, when asked, "what do you wish for your life?" They often say that they just want to be happy. We know that that statement is loaded and often mean that they want to be healthy, financially comfortable, which further means to be able to pay their bills, their rent or mortgage and to purchase what they want when they want it. This type of happiness, they want for themselves and their family. So just wanting to be happy means so much more. In fact in this instance, being happy means being in a state of satisfaction.
For me, feeling content means having all my ducks in a row. Everything in my mind at the time, feels in place. I must admit, I have have had very few episodes of contentment. The ultimate feeling of contentment came one night on a weekend trip to my parents' house. I had two children at the time who were with me. The children were asleep on the double bed we were to sleep on. I got in beside them and turned to my mother and said "If I died tonight I would feel comfortable leaving" I remember my mum asking me if I felt that I was going to die? I can not remember my answer to her, but needless to say, I didn't die, but that feeling of being satisfied with the world, the fact that my children were safe and should I depart this world, they would be looked after, made me feel content.
I have had other minor feelings of contentment, when my children were young and had a full day of play in our garden (this was usually during summer break). They would have eaten well, had their baths and are settled in bed, after which I clear the living room of their toys, as I did that task, I would feel content.
I could give you other minor feelings of contentment, but they all include my children being safe, fed, warm and happily asleep. Now my children are all adults, my minor feelings of contentment take the form of being grateful. I am grateful for waking up, grateful for being able to go out and purchase what I want, or having the choice to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. I try to be grateful as often as I can remember to be. I wouldn't call my minor bouts of contentment, moments of happiness, for me, the feelings are deeper than momentary or fleeting which can be attributed to being happy. Contentment, as mentioned above is an 'all is well' feeling. For me that would be all is well with my household and my world, I would feel that I am satisfied with my lot! Contentment like happiness is a moment by moment experience. I no longer feel great contentment that my children are safe, fed, warm and asleep. I can only assume that they are well and safe. Whether they have fed themselves and they are warm is now a wish I have for them, but if they decide they do not want either, there is very little I can do about it. As mentioned above, contentment for me, comes in the form of being grateful. The more I can feel grateful, the more I experience contentment.
What makes a person content, varies depending on their life at the time. I propose that, if like me, you are grateful for waking up in the morning, and for what most people take for granted you will experience contentment everyday.
Can you decide to remain happy? If so, for how long?
Think of a morning that you woke up late, you missed the bus or train that would get you into work on time. OR, you spill coffee on the cuff of your white shirt/blouse you are wearing, you don't have the time to change it as you have an important scheduled person to person meeting. You get in your car and hear a sound that tells you that something is not right with your car, you can't let it bother you right now, the car is still moving and stopping when the brakes are applied, you just need to get to that meeting. Needless to say, you hit traffic and know at this point you will be late.
How do you think you will be feeling while experiencing any of the scenario's above? Not happy I guess! Is it possible to remain happy, no matter what is happening or situation you are in?
I can not consider myself smiling (some may use as a visual sign of being happy!) when I am late for work or an important meeting. But I propose that we can eke out happiness in any situation. Remember that happiness is momentary! In order to eke out happiness in stressful situations one could use gratitude to get you there. In the scenario above, survey the situation. Tell yourself...It is not the end of the world as you know it. You are not running for your life. In fact being late does not threaten your life in any way or form. You should consider the situation at face value, or look at the whole 'scheme of things' In the whole scheme of things, you may say "I will be late, they may feel I am tardy, they may think I am not a professional. I may not get the job etc...These thoughts will surface, but if you do all you can, given the situation you are in, there is nothing more you can do. So in this situation you contact the person or the office of the person you are scheduled to meet, and explain that you are running late giving a time you hope to get there. Perhaps you will be told that the person you are about to meet is also running late, or you may be invited to re-arrange for another date. Our intention at the beginning of that day would be to arrive on time, but as we see, things do not always work out as planned. How do you feel in these situations? In my world, I remind myself that everything happens for a reason and that everything is actually working in my favour. My momentary happiness comes from the knowledge that this situation is just a hiccup in my day, and does not take anything away from me, especially not my happiness! Many people will use the scenario above to have a s*** day. If situations or even a spilt cup of coffee can cause some to decide to have an 'off' day, one can decide to remain happy although situations may not be the best, or as planned.
The other part of the question in the title was...How long can we remain happy? As happiness is momentary, and the scenario above may to make one feel a little low the whole day, if that is the case, can one remain happy for the whole day? Sure, just as one can decide to to feel s*** for a day, it can be substituted for happiness. You may feel that being happy after turning up late for an important meeting does not make any sense, no one would feel happy after a morning like the one described in the scenario. For me, it makes no sense at all to allow one thing or situation that does not threaten my life, to dictate my whole day in a negative way. So deciding to be happy instead of unhappy for the day, answers our question...Can you decide to remain happy, if so for how long? One certainly can decide to be happy for the whole day if they so wish.
Is happiness something that happens to you?
"Did she have a happy life"?
"She had a happy life".
"He had an unhapppy life"!
"He's whole life was unhappy"!
The statements above are instances where people have attributed life situations to happiness or unhappiness.
Lets look at the statement made about the man, his name is Mark, he started his adult life mixing with what some would call, the wrong crowd of people, who encouraged him to indulge in illegal activities. He was arrested and incarcerated for four years. Returning to life outside, Mark got married and later had two children. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last and his partner left taking the children. Mark turned to drink and found it difficult to secure any long term employment. He succumbs to kidney failure and dies. At his funeral a friend states "he had an unhappy life"
The woman, let's call her Wendy, who merited the statement "she had a happy life" started her adult life much the same as Mark in the above scenario, however she met a partner who didn't live the same care free life she had been living, and enabled her to take a look at her life and where it could lead. They later married, but had difficulty conceiving. Wendy took stock of her life again and dedicated it to teaching pre-school children. At the age of 95 she dies, at her funeral most can be heard saying " she had a happy life".
Considering the scenarios above and the statements that were made about Mark and Wendy, one may ask the question - Is happiness something that happens to you? We know that happiness is momentary and an emotion, so how can happiness be ascribed to someone's life? Perhaps we assume that a person is happy when they are not constricted in any way, in regards to health issues, financial issues or as Mark in the scenario above, incarcerated. Or do we assume that a person is happy when they have/get or find what they feel they want in life? for example good health, no financial issues and free to do what they please?
As we saw, Wendy didn't have everything she wanted as she was unable to conceive! She made her life appear happy by finding another love of her life, teaching pre-school children. Would you agree that she made herself or her life happy? "mek you self happy" is a saying Jamaicans use when telling someone to cheer up, or is applied to themselves when outwardly, the situation does not look as good as they would have liked. The saying then is, I just "mek myself happy" As happiness is an emotion, it has to be created and experienced from within. Perhaps Mark couldn't find a place of happiness within himself or another love to dedicate his life too as Wendy did!
I believe that we create bouts of happiness throughout our day. Let's start with our home, the place during 'lockdown' we spent most of our time. Are there items around your home that make you smile when you look at them? For me, its the busts of Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass, the pictures of my children and grandson. I do not smile each time I walk pass these items, it is when I take the time to glance up at the busts or on my table that contain my family pictures that I smile, feel happy (and warm).
Are there pieces of clothing that makes you happy when you wear them, perhaps a pair of slippers that make you feel comfortable, nice and cosy, warm and happy?
Perhaps its the curtains that you open and or close making your room feel and look luxurious, that make you feel happy!
Is there a particular meal or foods that make you feel happy preparing or eating it?
Are there smaller items that make you feel happy? like the rug you place your feet on when you get out of the shower or bed in the morning?
Is there a particular time of the day that make you feel happy when it appears? I love twilight!
Maybe it's feeling the breeze on your face, the sounds of nature or even sitting in your car, that makes you happy. Perhaps it is the smile on the face of another, especially when you caused it! I could go on, but you get the jest.
As mentioned earlier, gratefulness gets you there. Being grateful for the small things, helps to evoke happiness. Is it possible that Wendy was grateful for the ability to work with pre-schoolers, that kept her working with them for as long as she was able. In doing this, Wendy appeared happy to the people around her, thus the expressed thoughts "she had a happy life". Was Mark ungrateful then? to warrant the comment " his whole life was unhappy". Was he ungrateful that he was alive, that he could feel the breeze on his face, a worn in pair of slippers, his partner, his children or his freedom? Or did his mindset have something to do with the expressed thoughts at his funeral? In my book 'Love live holistically-A Concept of Self Love' in the chapter 'Mindset' we learned how our mindset may determine our life. An open minded person may have such a mindset regarding life situations and willing to keep trying new things, in order to change unwanted situations. A closed minded person may decide that whatever life throws at them, is their lot in life and there isn't much they can do about it. Could mindset have contributed to Mark and Wendy's life? Maybe the answer lays with the original question asked ' Is happiness something that happens to you'?
Having something happen to you, sounds like an experience that is dependant on external factors. We know that happiness is an emotion (something internal). So can we agree that we sometimes decide to conjure up happiness in response to external factors? Like a new bag, clothes, car, house presents etc...Happiness is an emotion that you decide to experience and or display.
Have you given someone a gift or did something for a friend, who appeared ungrateful? They may have been happy for the gift or what you did for them, but choose not to display happiness. Consider another person you have given a gift or did something for, and this person jumped up and down, gave you a hug or showed their appreciation for what you did for them. Did happiness happen to both these people? or did they conjure up the emotion and displayed it or not display it to your satisfaction?
Happiness is an emotion that is as personal and individual as we are. Happiness does not happen to us, we build it. We touched on being grateful and noted that, for some, a cosy warm worn in pair of slippers evoked happiness. They, in fact attributed happiness to a pair of slippers!
We internally conjure up happiness to external stimuli, but should thrive for those moments that make us smile to ourselves and remain grateful.
Can you remain happy, when your situation is in congruent to the display of happiness?
Why would you attempt to remain happy when your situation is far from ideal and happiness may be the last thing on my mind?
In order to answer that question, you would need to ask yourself 'are you reacting to unwanted situations in a way that benefits your well being'? And is this possible? This chapter will ask the above questions, it will also ask, what has equanimity got to do with it?
What would happen if we took a deep breath, and reacted to unwanted situations on it's merits, in such a way that would be of benefit to your body and those around you?
In my book SELF=YOU chapter 7- Patience, I mention a client that became so upset at not being able to find a document that she vomited! This was her body reacting to an unwanted situation. I also mentioned in this chapter, a friend of mine at the time, acted as if the world had stop spinning because she received a tax bill, having paid the said bill only a few days ago. Both people reacted as if the unwanted situation was bigger than it really was. Both people were, perhaps extreme in their thinking regarding their problem.
Throughout the chapter I mention the feelings and thoughts I had when my teenage children were late home or didn't return for days!Perhaps I could have calmed my thoughts and feelings, perhaps my client and friend could have reacted differently to their situations. Could we have displayed happiness instead of panic? Maybe not. While reacting negatively to unwanted situations our body also react. Our body releases hormones that prepare us to run away or fight, and the longer we stay in that state the more we stress our body. Which could lead to further unwanted situations, namely health issues. Think about the last few times you had an unwanted situation, how did you react? What did you do that was conducive to reifying the issue? Here is a scenario, how would you react? Think of someone driving and they are 'cut up' by another driver at the lights! They rant and rave, make hand gestures and do not stop thinking about the incident until the next morning! As they have had to tell everyone they interacted with that day, about 'what happened'. The ranting and raving did not get the other driver driver back or teach them a lesson. The negative reaction did not get our driver to their destination any quicker, in fact it made the rest of the journey unpleasant, not to mention what it did to their body during the fist pump, yelling and shouting as the other driver drove away. We have looked at the reasons why we should remain positive and not intentionally stress ourselves out, especially when we are unable to change the situation or bring about the desired outcome.
Using the examples above, our question is 'can you remain happy, when your situation is in congruent to the display of happiness?' We are aware of many professions (Police, Nurses, Doctors, Fire fighters etc) that remain calm in situations where, the lay person, runs shouting and screaming for the hills. It is their training and knowledge that enables these professionals to remain calm in any given situation. Imagine what your life would be like if you adopted some of their (calm in adversity) traits! You would not 'fly off the handle at a drop of a hat' (meaning, you would not immediately become angry, or react in a negative way to unwanted or difficult situations.) Start today, here are three steps: 1) Survey the situation, 2) Decide what you can do, if anything, to change the situation. 3) Realise that this, whatever the situation is, will not be the end of the world as we know it.
What has equanimity got to do with remaining happy, when your situation is in congruent to the display of happiness? Firstly, what is equanimity? It is a state of calmness and composure, especially in a difficult situation. According to Wikipedia, Equanimity is having an even mind;It is a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.
In order to answer the question asked, we need to go back to the 6th century and the beginning of Buddhism. Equanimity or (upekkha) is one of the four great virtues along with compassion, loving kindness and sympathetic joy or empathy. The word (upekkha) means to 'overlook' i.e to look over . Thich Nhat Hanh in his book 'in the heart of the Buddha teaching' p161. He states that “ You climb the mountain to be able to look over the whole situation, not bound by one side or the other” As mentioned earlier, if one surveys (look other) the situation, you may note that there is no roaring lion. Decide what you can do to change the situation, if anything. Realise that this, whatever the situation is, will not be the end of the world as we know it.
Here is an early Buddhist poem from the Therigatha. “ If your mind becomes firm like a rock and no longer shakes. In a world where everything is shaking your mind will be your greatest friend and suffering will not come your way”. This poem is a reminder that when unwanted situations arises we are not to allow our minds to 'run away' with us, we are to stand firm in the knowledge that there is no lion, and that our current unwanted situation is not the end of the world. One should stay in the here and now, right now, this minute. In Toni Bernhard's article 'Equanimity - The Key To Happiness' she states that accepting life as it is 'right now' even if the present moment is a sad or difficult one, is equanimity, it is Inner peace and it is happiness. Being present enough to overlook the whole situation, enables us not to be bound by one side or the other, which creates less stress.
Another great teacher comes from Socrates (49 399 BC) 'Pursuit-of-happiness.org ' discusses the 'history of happiness' in which they state that Socrates had certain beliefs, chief among them is the concept that “happiness is obtainable and teachable through human effort”. That is taking stock, being aware of the present, (human effort) for example, I am standing here in my house slippers and dressing grown with this bill in my hand, that I may not be able to pay. I am not face to face with a roaring lion! Our bodies, by the way, does not know the difference between a bill we can not pay and being face to face with a lion. If you act or react as if your world is about to end, because you have received a bill, your body will certainly follow your lead and jump into action. By training or teaching the mind to react positively, according to Socrates would “produce a divine-like state of inner tranquillity that the external world could not effect.” Remember the early Buddhist poem from the Therigatha: If your mind becomes firm like a rock....Which is the display of equanimity.
“The key to happiness, Socrates argues, is to turn attention away from the body and towards the soul. By harmonizing our desires, we can learn to pacify the mind to achieve a divine-like state of tranquillity” So slowing down that mind from 'I won't be able to pay this bill' or like the client mentioned above 'I can't find that document, I can't find that document' to, 'This bill will get paid, I'll call the utility company and tell them what I can afford to pay now' or 'I will have another look for that document, and if I can not find it. I will call the company that produced it, and ask for another copy'.
Pursuit-of-happiness.org goes on to say that “Socrates makes it clear that the key to happiness is not to be found in the goods that one accumulates, or even the projects that form the ingredients of one’s life, but rather in the agency of the person himself who gives [her/his] life a direction and focus”. What type or agency of person are you? Quick to react with negativity or are you more laid back in stressful situations?
Socrates felt that we should find harmony with the body and soul, when this is attained “one possesses psychic harmony, no matter what life throws at the just man, he never loses his inner composure, and can maintain peace and tranquillity despite the harshest of life’s circumstances. [Equanimity]. Here Socrates effectively redefines the conventional concept of happiness: it is defined in terms of internal benefits and characteristics rather than external ones” So what type of person are you? Someone who allows unwanted situations to dictate their behaviour or someone who realises that xxxx happens and I have to deal with it, the best I can?
“The price Socrates paid for his honest search for truth was death: he was convicted of “corrupting the youth” and sentenced to die by way of Hemlock poisoning. But here we see the life of Socrates testifies to the truth of his teachings. Instead of bemoaning his fate or blaming the gods, Socrates faces his death with equanimity, even cheerfully discussing philosophy with his friends in the moments before he takes the lethal cup.” Source: https://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org/history-of-happiness/
We may not all have the strength and convictions of Socrates, but we can learn from his teachings and note that it is not the unwanted situation that causes our body to evoke the hormones that race through it, in readiness to fight, but our perception of the situation, and by using taught behaviour one will create equanimity or happiness, thus creating a more stress-less life.
Great Philosophers Part 1
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33(KJV)
Happiness – What is it? We have learnt that it is an emotion, an emotion is a strong feeling deriving from one's circumstances, mood or relationships with others - Source Oxford Languages
This emotion is something evoked or conjured from within. I believe happiness is a fleeting momentary emotion as we are 'happy' when we see someone we love, when an event we have been waiting for happens, when we think a pleasant thought, when we are grateful . This list is endless. As you will see from the research undertaken for this book, happiness for one person can be very different for another. That being said, I feel that most people confuse happiness with contentment. A classic example of this, is when a parent of grown children are asked what is their wish for their children, their answer is often “ I just want them to be happy” The wished for happiness include, finding a loving partner, having a good paying job, being able to enjoy life etc. Their description of happiness does not fit into my fleeting momentary emotion does it! It does not fit because the parent is wishing contentment on their child, which is longer lasting. I tried to explain my concept of happiness to my niece a few month ago, when I took a 7 hour journey to visit her. We hadn't seen each other for over a year. It was a busy work day for the mum of 4, and I knew that on my arrival she would be running here and there with her children. So would be left to visit with her husband and older children while she was out. Let me set the scene, on my arrival, I rang the door bell, she answers the door with a huge smile on her face, she has a child's' coat in her hand as she greets me and my son, who travelled with me, we are given a big hug and a kiss, she hurriedly says that she has to take her two youngest children out for a planned visit to a museum. My niece then runs into the kitchen, she asks her husband if the packed lunches are ready, as she puts the coat she has in her hand onto her toddler. She receives a nod from her husband which indicates that the lunches are ready, my niece then turns to her 7 year old and asks, “do you have everything you need for the trip”? She suggests he carry a coat. I watch as she darts in and out of the room gathering this and that for the trip. I sit down and smile (a fleeting sign of happiness) as I am reminded of a younger me trying to get my children out the door and to school on time. The hours past, I attend a few appointments I had arranged for this visit and return to my nieces house. As the house has quieten down I sit at her dinning table to do a little work, I am amidst several pieces of A4 paper, my laptop is open and my phone is beeping, my niece is sitting on the sofa, enjoying a moments quite. After several minutes of me tapping away on the laptop and shuffling a few bits a paper around the table, my niece asks me, “What are you working on?”. I explain 'Happiness' I give her my definition of its fleeting qualities and she disagrees, stating that happiness allows you to be happy all day long, if you start your day with it. I give an example of getting a new car in the morning, by the afternoon the car starts to leak oil. I ask her if she is still happy? I then gave her the example of her seeing and greeting my son and I this morning. I state that she was happy to see us and happy that we would be there when she returned that evening. However as soon as the greeting or happiness was over, she focussed on getting out of the house with her two sons. Her initial happiness subsided and contentment surfaced, as she may have had thoughts of coming home to her cousin and aunt that evening. These thoughts may have brought a smile to her face and the emotion of happiness.
What is the meaning of happiness for you? Do you feel like I do, that happiness is momentary, fleeting? What makes you happy? What makes for a happy life? Can everyone be happy? It is interesting to find out what the greats felt about happiness. In the last blog I mentioned the belief of Buddha and Socrates, in regards to equanimity. Both felt that happiness requires inward activity and once activated or learnt will provide happiness.
The Chinese philosopher Confucius (551 – 479 BCE) also felt that happiness lays within in the form of ethical pleasure. Confucius believed that living a good life leads to happiness, that is, to live a morally, ethically prudent and virtuous life. According to Confucianism being a good person will lead to health, wealth, power and honour. This will take a conscious effort, working inwardly to create happiness or contentment.
For Aristotle (384-322 BC) happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of life, he also believed that acquiring a moral character would lead to a happy life (a contented life).
Epicurus (341 -270 BC) On the other-hand felt that happiness is pleasure. All things are done for the sake of the pleasant feelings associated with that pleasure. Epicurus made it clear that we should be aware of what is necessary and unnecessary desires or pleasures. Thriving for ataraxia (free from worry) will ensure we seek necessary pleasures.
Above I have given a very brief synopsis of the teachings of our greats. What can we learn from their teachings? How can we use what they taught us, in today's world? Firstly we may be able to come to an agreement that happiness occurs from within us, as opposed to expecting something from outside ourselves to make us happy.
The philosophers above all felt that if we do what makes us feel good about ourselves, we would live a happy life. They also felt that happiness is a journey, a lasting emotion, further note, that I feel they are describing contentment, a feeling of all is well with my soul. How then does a virtuous or good life lead to happiness? You will worry less! In other words you will suffer less. The Buddhist call this suffering 'Dukkha' and use the Eightfold path to eliminate dikkha, and consist of being mindful of one's thoughts and actions in every encountered situation. By following this path, ones thoughts and deeds are constantly under self scrutiny to ensure that their best is always offered.
Socrates tells us that we should train ourselves to feel good in everything we do, thus practising equanimity. There is some value to living a virtuous life, as there is no faking a feel good sensation, you either feel good about what you said or did or you don't!
Both Confucius and Aristotle say be good. Epicurus maintain that you should do what brings you pleasure, however you should consider what is necessary feel good activities or actions and whether they are long lasting. Let's give some everyday examples of what Epicurus meant by necessary desire. One would agree that eating is a necessary desire and may be a pleasure. However the same desire exploited, becomes an adduction and would be seen as an unnecessary desire. Buying a new car brings with it a certain pleasant pleasure, however going into debt and being unable to pay for other essential items in order to have this car, would be an unnecessary pleasure.
There are other parts of our lives, we can use the advice given to us by our greats above. Once we alleviate suffering in our lives, we may be free to think of how we could live a better life and create a better future for ourselves and our families. Confucius has us covered here. When he endorsed the idea that anybody can become a noble man, as it did not depend on your parentage. I believe he meant that if your mindset is positive, you can become who you want to become .i.e a better person, a richer person etc. With our knowledge of the law of attraction, think of the life you could create, if you followed the teachings that resonate with you, and applied them to your life!
Socrates reminds us to feel good or make ourselves happy, this is not faking the idea that you are happy when you are not. This is actually feeling good. Consider what makes you genuinely happy....There is a saying, find what makes you happy and do that! Now consider what does not make you feel happy, but you do it anyway. Like going to a place of work that undervalues and underpays you, coupled with all the other variables that go along with going to a place of work that you dislike. I would suggest you leave that work place, find and follow your passion, here you will feel good about attending a place of work that gives you pleasure.
Aristotle's teachings include the advent of being a morally good person, which often mean being a good person to others, what about being good to yourself! I am not about to tell you to take time out for yourself every now and then, you already know this. I am considering how we feel, when we do something we would rather have said NO to doing. Being morally a good person should include being morally truthful to ourselves. Let's say you have been asked to attend a gathering which would take you away from your home for two days. You would rather not attend, but you attend the gathering anyway! Are you genuinely acting in a virtuous way? Attending the gathering showed the other attendees that you was present, but secretly you wished you stayed at home.
Here's another scenario – You state that you will not be lending a certain friend or family member any-more money, as s/he constantly asks for hand outs. In fact you have worked out that you lend this friend or family member at least £100 every month. Their plead for money comes in the form of 'oh I forgot my purse/wallet when you go out for a meal or a drink, to getting a call from this person stating that they are at the petrol station, they have just filled their tank, and found that they have not got enough in their account! You do the honourable thing by helping them out of the situation they found themselves in. But secretly wished they had called someone else, in-fact you feel that this person should be kept at a distance, or perhaps part company! You may appear to be an upstanding person outwardly, but within you experience disdain, even anger. No one is suggesting that you cut people off, but we should thrive to become morally true to ourselves too!
Epicurus tells us to do what makes us happy, what is pleasurable. For Epicurus this was being with like minded people, chewing the cud, if you like, or talking, discussing philosophy. And not what many of his day, felt he meant by his teachings of indulging in pleasurable activities! Epicurus followed his passion and built, what we would call a commune. In doing this, Epicurus was able to live (at least in part) a pleasurable life. Today it is even easier to find and follow your passion. A positive mindset should be your first step in achieving what is a necessary pleasure.
In this blog, I described my thoughts on happiness to my niece. I stated that for Buddha and Socrates, happiness requires inward activity, for Confucius we should seek ethical pleasures. A Moral character is needed for a happy life, according to Aristotle. Epicurus encourages us to seek pleasure, which will lead to happiness.
I then attempted to use what we learned from the greats above, and incorporate it in our everyday life.
Using the Buddhist teachings we found that eliminating suffering using the eightfold path would set us in good stead to a worry less life. Confucius and Aristotle also advocate that living a virtuous life may lead to less stress, as you would make a conscious effort to do good. I suggested that we need to be ethically good to ourselves, in doing this, we will alleviate the need to please or say yes to activities that do not serve us. The teachings of Socrates encourages us to be happy. That is genuine happiness, which would not have you staying in or tolerating a job or relationships that you despise, as you feel that your circumstance will not allow you to leave, following Epicurus's lead, you would find and follow your passion to a better you and happy life.
Great Philosophers (Part Two)
Mencius and Zhuangzi
Psalms 23:6 9 (Kjv)Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
Continuing with the teachings of the great Philosophers in regards to happiness, I will introduce Mencius and Zhuangzi.
Mencius was born in the Warring States Period (roughly 4th Century BCE), a little less than two hundred years after Confucius, during the same era as the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi and the Greek philosopher Plato. Like Confucius, he was born in the area of modern Shandong Province, was a teacher by profession, and travelled extensively to provide philosophical and political counsel to various rulers during a very tense period.
Mencius was a deep person as he often spoke of our deep innate feelings. And how these feelings, once cultivated can be shared with others for a better world. Among the most celebrated of these, are the stories of the “child by the well”, where he argues that the most callous human would feel alarm and pity seeing a child teetering over a precipice, and the tale of “King Hui and the ox”, in which the king cannot bear the plaintive cries of an ox being taken to sacrifice. According to Mencius, if people nourish these “sprouts” of identification and sympathy, they would be happy.Mencius felt that happiness is innate and one should water that feeling or sprout, so it may grow “and extend such feelings to broader social and political relationships,[in doing this] they are filled with a growing sense of irrepressible and intoxicating joy (“the feet begin to dance and the hands begin to move”). Does that sound like happiness? I think it does!
How can we harness this ' irrepressible and intoxicating joy' we call happiness? As some people seem to display it all the time.
Have you ever caught yourself smiling because someone near you was laughing and seemed genuinely 'happy'. A ray of sunshine, comes to mind. Just like that contagious 'happiness' , we can spread its effects with others. Another example is knowing that one person that always brings a smile to your face or just make you feel calm and contented whenever they are are around you. That person may be you! Mencius teaches us that we all posses these qualities which can be grown by the accumulation of righteous acts. (being virtuous) and self-realization.
For Mencius self-realization is keeping the “lesser self” (the physiological self) and the “greater self” (the moral self) in check, as personal growth is stunted and unhappiness pursues, if there is an imbalance in the relationship between the two.
'Mencius was convinced that the mind played a mediating role between the “lesser self” (the physiological self) and the “greater self” (the moral self) and that getting the priorities right between these two would lead to sage-hood and personal fulfilment.'. It is this personal fulfilment that leads to happiness.
What Mencius is saying is, if we balanced our wants and needs, whilst adhering to our innate pull towards humanity and sympathy, we would feel happier and this happiness can be spread among the people and animals (the ox)! We encounter.Zhuangzi who was born during the same era as Mencius, but felt that “Running around accusing others is not as good as laughing. And enjoying a good laugh is not as good as going along with things.” ~ Zhuangzi (1968, pp. 88-89) Zhuangzi was a humorous and self-deprecating follower of Laozi. Ultimate happiness for Laozi is nothing but wuwei, the skill of doing nothing against the “Way” (Dao) or going with the flow. Zhuangzi compares the wise person or sage to an expert swimmer, who can survive a powerful torrent by freely swimming with it.
Zhuangzi felt that we are not born with this virtue, but can learn to go with the flow by exercising our unique skills. An example of this is depicted in a Han dynasty tomb mural and features Butcher Ding who achieves happiness by perfecting the skill of chopping ox carcases. And is said to find great pride and pleasure the more skilful he becomes at chopping meat, the more skilful he becomes at 'going along with things' the more he harmonizes with the Dao. Other reports of this encounter between Butcher Ding and Zhuangzi, claims that Zhuangzi was watching Butcher Ding at work, and asked why he was able to cut the meat so skilfully? Butcher Ding is reported to say that he doesn't go against the line of the ox, the ox's body shows him where to cut. On hearing this Zhuangzi further understands Dao. (going along with things). Maybe, Butcher Ding was merely following his passion! As mentioned above, it is said that we are not born with this virtue, but can get there by exercising our unique skills. A unique skill, sounds like a God given talent to me! Butcher Ding took pride and pleasure in his work, bear in mind that this was one of the most despised professions in ancient China at the time. This didn't seem like work for him as he enjoyed it so much. Does this resonate with you? For me that would be writing! I get lost in the moment, as I write or read what I have written. Hours can pass and I am unaware of the passing minutes. The more I engage in this activity the more skilled I become, and the more pleasure I derive from it. This pleasure could be classed as happiness.
For me, 'going with the flow' is staying in the moment, which I do not believe this is what Zhuangzi meant. Daoist have been compared to Winnie the Pooh, for me Pooh would say 'It's just the way it is, it's just the way its gonna be' and one will find happiness in this way of thinking! Zhuangzi does however draws a clear distinction between two kinds of happiness. Most people value wealth, fame, and physical comfort, through delicious tastes, beautiful colours, attractive clothing and music. Once they dip their toes in these fleeting joys, they try to obtain more, and become uneasy if they cannot do so. But by following Dao and harnessing its power a much deeper form of happiness can be found.
What have we learnt from our two philosophers mentioned here? Both feel that once we acknowledge that we have that something deep down inside us (sympathy, a sense of humanity and a unique skill) we can find happiness by following these innate urges.
Both state that we are to nurture these innate abilities to find (the wuwei) a better way to live, for Mencius once cultivated it can be shared with others for a better world.
Both give us a different way of achieving or reaching the same goal in life. Both wants us to live happy. Do you live happy? Is most of your day filled with happy moments or is it mostly negative? Mencius asks us to consider our physiological and moral self constantly in-order to stay on the task of living a more fulfilled life. Zhuangzi also asks us to continuously follow the wuwei (way) to a better life.
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As you may be aware I publish a book a year. This years' theme is HAPPINESS. In order to gather some data,(research) can you please let me know what makes you happy?
I'll Start........My Children