I have always opposed being told what to do or the vice versa of it. Since childhood I have lived the life of a rebel who wanted to make, follow and bend her own rules and experience life on her own terms even if it meant failing at my own experiments.
As a teen, I hated to be told what to wear, what music to listen to, what to buy and when to get up. All I wanted at that time was freedom, freedom to do things I wanted to and live the way I wanted to. I was certain that the only thing that could make me happy is the freedom to take and execute my own decisions. Freedom was my own only goal.
As I grew up and started with my first job, I found my elusive freedom. I could finally take my own decisions,shopped all I want, go for my dream vacations and party late night. I was certain this is the best phase of my life and I couldn’t be happier.
But soon I realized the shopping, late-night outs and the movies didn’t excited me any more. There seemed to be something missing from the happiness link since even my new found freedom couldn’t make me happy any more.
So I concluded that I needed to get a promotion and move to a senior managerial role in my job and when that happens I will be truly happy…..from buying a big house to finding my life partner, I kept setting new goals and definitions for my happiness, only to get weary of them soon. I realized that no matter what I achieved or bought, it couldn’t make me happy forever.
And then it came to me as a revelation. “Happiness cannot be achieved , it can only be practiced.” It is not possible to achieve happiness not for me, not for you , not for anyone else .
Let me tell you a story and then maybe you will see my point….
A young man set out in search of happiness and to find the man who could teach him to be happy. After a lot of search, he got to know about a saint who lived in the mountains and was known for his vast knowledge and wisdom. He decided to visit him and find out the secret recipe for being happy.
After many days of long hikes, he finally reached the top of the mountain where the saint resided. He went up to the saint, bowed and presented his question. “Oh wise saint, please enlighten me, how can I achieve the illusive happiness, how can I be happy?” said the young man.
The saint looked at him long in silence and went back to his meditation asking him to come back in the morning the next day. The determined young man showed up early morning the next day.
The saint signaled him to a nearby tree.
“Sit under the tree and breathe” , he said. “And do what while sitting and breathing”, the young man ask astonished at the simple task.
“Nothing just sit there and breathe”, said the wise man.
The young man now doubting what he had heard about the saint, proceeded to follow the instructions. Many days passed with the same routine. The saint would ask the young man to sit under the tree and breathe.
Finally after half a month had been spent in the same routine the young man decided to to question the Saint, he walked up him one afternoon and said, “I have been sitting under the tree for the last 15 days and doing nothing but breathing, have you forgotten I came to you to achieve happiness, but it seems to me now that i have just wasted my time.”
The saint smiled at the young man and said, “I am sorry my son but I cannot help you to achieve happiness.” The young man now visibly angry upon hearing these words looked astonishingly at the saint and asked “but why?” .
Because I cannot make you find something you already have, he said reassuringly with a warm smile dancing on his lips.
Seeing the quizzical look on the young man’s face, he probed further .
“Tell me something, what have you been doing for the last 15 days?”.
“Nothing just sitting and breathing” replied the young man.
“Did someone taught you how to breathe” , probed the saint further.
“Of course not” said the young man, “I don’t need someone to teach me how to breathe, I already know that and can do that on my own. “
“In the same way, you cannot be taught how to be happy , because you are already happy and you can be happy on your own the same way as you can breathe on your own, and just like breathing, happiness cannot be taught or learned it can only be practiced ”, answered the saint.
“Happiness is like breathing my son, you are born with it, you are born happy. But as you grow up you let the outside world decide for you if you are happy or unhappy, a pleasant person or an unpleasant person.
“When someone points your mistakes, you become unhappy, when someone lets you down , you become unhappy, when someone makes fun of you you become unhappy, when someone doesn’t care for you, you become unhappy.”
In simple words, you give the handle of your happiness in other people’s hands and let them decide for you whether you are happy or not.”
When things go wrong or they do not happen according to you, do you stop breathing? If not, then why do you stop being happy? It is only when you take charge of your own happiness that you can be truly happy.”
What the saint conveyed to the young man is the story of our own life, the world is forever changing around us, presenting in front of us a plethora of situations some working in our favor and many that are beyond our control.
A passing compliment, a good meal, a lovely song , a promotion that you get can give you joy, make you feel elated for some time, but we need to understand that it is not happiness , it is just a pleasant feeling associated with a certain situation.
And as soon as the situation changes the feeling is over. Similarly, a bad situation can make you feel unpleasant , but then again its just a feeling that is associated to that particular incident and vanishes after it.
But while you go through these pleasant and unpleasant emotions associated with the different situations in your life, know in your heart that none of it is true happiness or the lack of it.
Happiness is a long term feeling, whereas joy or sorrow are just pleasant and unpleasant emotions that are associated with events in our life. We get confused when we mix the two!
On one hand, we hate to be told what to do, we love to make our own decisions and lead our lives the way we want to ..we find it revolting to have others tell us what will happen with small things around us but on the other hand, when it comes to the big things, the things that really matter in our life, we forego all control and easily allow every other person to decide what happens inside of us and control our state of mind.
Taking charge of your own happiness and choosing to be happy irrespective of the people and situations around you is the ultimate liberation you can achieve.
Be free, be happy!