Is it possible to be consistently happy and peaceful for no reason or cause whatsoever? Would you want this for your life? And if this is possible, why does sustained serenity and happiness seem so elusive? Where is it hiding?
For millennia very wise individuals across diverse cultures and time have explored these questions. They have carefully, through contemplative practice and reflection, examined their own experience. Remarkably, they arrived at the same conclusion: happiness is innate to human life. It is not acquired. It is given.
But then you might ask, "Where is it?" The problem, they discovered, lies not in its absence, but in our human tendency to look in the wrong place, mistaking ordinary and transient pleasure for a resilient and enduring happiness. And that is a common and pivotal mistake.
Pleasure is the experience of satisfaction and delight that we attribute to outer experience. It is accompanied by an ephemeral happiness. Because it is ephemeral, we are always chasing it. We find certain people, objects, and experiences to be satisfying, and others unsatisfying. We orient our self towards what is satisfying and avoid what is unsatisfying. Pleasure is seen as residing in an outer circumstance. It always depends on an outer reason or cause--a person, object, or experience.
Authentic happiness is quite different. It’s the experience of peace, delight, and joy that naturally arises from a healthy and wise heart and mind. Its source is internal rather than external. It‘s naturally present rather than sought after in the external world. And unlike pleasure, it’s stable and enduring.
Pleasure is a momentary thing. Because all outer experiences are impermanent, pleasure always dissipates and leads to loss and suffering and an endless and exhausting cycle of searching in the wrong place. Authentic happiness is a permanent trait.
As it is not dependent on anything external, it is resilient, steadfast, and remains a stable touchstone of serenity and happiness throughout life’s challenges and adversities. Much as the depths of the ocean are undisturbed by the movements of surface waves, so is an authentic happiness and serenity untouched by day-to-day annoyances and difficulties. We remain calm within while dealing effectively with complexity outside.
An enduring happiness requires that we turn inward and discover the ever-present natural ease and contentment of a still and peaceful mind. It’s like moving away the clouds to see the sun. It’s always there. The happiness and serenity that resides within has no cause or reason. It’s naturally present at the center of our being. We call this happiness without a cause or reason.
To discover a sustained happiness and serenity we must first calm the mind and then rest in the natural spaciousness of our inner being. We achieve this through the meditative lifestyle. Properly taught and practiced, meditation, both as a sitting and daily life practice, leads to this extraordinary state of well-being and inner harmony.
As a physician I can assure you that the distinction between life chasing pleasure, with its ups and downs, and a life marked by a sustained inner calm, is reflected in both our physiology and our physical health. You can assess this yourself by just feeling the body when you are in the cycle of pleasure and striving, and again feeling the body when it is resting in its serene nature. There is a seamless connection between mind and body.
The dream of a resilient peace and happiness is a timeless human quest. It began centuries ago with the inquiries of the ancient philosophers and scholars and continues into the present time through the efforts of modern day neuroscientists and contemplatives.
Yet it is you and I, right now, who can undertake our own 'adventure of a lifetime' that realizes a special type of permanent happiness and peace that surpasses reason or understanding. That is the promise of the meditative process and the growth of our inner life. The choice is yours.