How to be Happier Today!

Part 5 in a series. In the small town of Sebastopol in northern California, there is a little farmer's market each Sunday. Next to the market is a small town square with a beautiful fountain and sometimes music and dancers. One Sunday I was there sitting on a bench observing people and enjoying. Soon, several little girls about three or four years old arrived with their nanny; each child dressed in a fairy ballerina costume. Their costumes of different colors had little wings and were a bit torn and worn out. Perhaps a couple of them wore their costume every day, just for fun. One of the little girls, in her little tattered fairy costume, decided to get into the fountain. Climbing in, she marched around in a circle in the fountain, laughing and splashing as much water as she could! Soon the other girls joined her in the fountain. It looked like so much fun. My pleasure in seeing children laughing and marching, marching around in the fountain really made me feel happy! Maybe inside each of us, we are sometimes like four-year-olds in fairy costumes, wanting to experience the energy and joy that is being alive!

Have fun by flying a kite! Watch Bill Cosby, he is so funny. I can only watch him for a bit at a time, because he made me laugh so hard. Why not join a laughter yoga club and feel the release of knots by learning how to laugh.

Now we need to think about more serious dharmic remedies to make us feel happier. It is helpful to use remedies such as seven-point mind training and logical analyses such as Twenty Emptinesses of Chandrakirti to root out delusive components lurking within the mind causing unnecesary suffering. The enemy here is the cues and clues that mistakenly alert us of danger that is not there because of habitual over reaction. It is important to calm an over reaction as it acts to stimulate adrenalin rushes that have no physical danger to overcome. Much mental suffering comes from reactive strategies that damage sensitive nerves in the physical body. In addition, the emerging inner nerves of the practitioner can be shaken and damaged by rough adrenalin and chemical rushes.

Other Buddhist remedies for an unhappy mind that have worked for thousands of years include looking at the unsatisfactory nature and lack of benefits gained by indulging in wild sensory activities. These powerful and straightforward logical analyses regarding the unsatisfactory nature of many types of human activities help us make better choices about priorities.

Another way to overcome the obstacles preventing happiness is to understand how little time remains to reach a stage where you can live with a satisfied mind. Another important realization is the uncertainty of the end of life. Practicing these two remedies together causes us to desire to live a satisfied life for a very long time and not discover it on our deathbed. You often hear stories about someone who finally made peace with the world, and then poof, they are gone! What rotten luck! They could have had peace their whole life. They could have lived a happy life, but they waited until the last moment? Well, thank goodness they finally did that, but it's not good enough!

Someone with few wants and needs is happy. The grasping mind becomes exhausted from the programming to acquire objects. It makes you tired and causes you to need to sleep a long time to recover from mental stress. Not only that, but conflicting desires leave the mind even more tired. The body is not so tired, but the mind is. Instead, be someone who is easily satisfied. A truly satisfied mind brings a stable happiness, a mind that is not easy to shake off balance.

In monastic training, if someone offers something, for example, food or a meal, you eat it. You do not say “'
Oh, could you go back in the kitchen and get me something else?” You take what is offered, and practice feeling satisfied from that experience. However, most Western people have so many parameters on what will cause them satisfaction. “Is it organic? Don't you have any raw carrots? I only eat bread from a certain bakery. I need soy powder to put on this. I never eat this kind of food. I must have meat. I must not have meat.” When you recover your balance by being satisfied with what is offered, you will feel happier. Try to think, “ It doesn't matter. Food is food.” That is how we looked at it.

Another important technique to maintain happiness is to practice staying in the flow of the present moment. Life is actually only lived in the present moment, but the distressed and stressed mind pulls and breaks that flow. Please wake up to the living energies that surround and interpenetrate you. Allow yourself to touch life and be part of the living stream of learning and growth only possible if you are actually here.

Work toward arising bodhichitta, the precious mind of enlightenment that will change you into someone of profound value to myriad living beings. Working for the benefit of sentient beings is true happiness because it is in alignment with the values of higher being in alignment toward perfection, the actual goal of all living beings.

In summation, observing others needs and not looking at yourself gives the temporary happiness that prepares for understanding higher functioning life. Awareness of others brings you into the present moment mindfully and benefits both you and your evolutionary development, of course, but it also makes you valuable in this world.


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