The Secret to Happiness

The Secret to Happiness

Felicidad by Incomplexity
Felicidad by Incomplexity

What is the secret to happiness?

We do not find happiness in things or in others. We find happiness within. It is in our very nature. The liveliness and song that give rise to our form and qualities is pure joy.

The secret to happiness is to break down the barriers to it.

The first step is to become more conscious of how we actually feel.

Then we can learn to stop fighting negative feelings. We’ll find this shifts in layers. We discover deeply reinforced habitual reactions, even patterns we associate with our sense of self. Our unhappiness can be part of our self-story that we protect.

We may feel we shouldn’t be angry if we’re a meditator. Or that we mustn’t be sad. But such subtle stories create resistance to our experience and keep those emotions around, unresolved.

It’s better to see emotions as messengers, as signals telling you how you are energetically. Like sensations in the body, they tell us where we’re at. If we don’t allow them some space, they fester. That leads not only to emotional challenges, but health issues too. Plus the energy that drives the monkey mind.

Allowing ourselves to feel the “non-positive” emotions is the surprising way into bliss. By learning to recognize and experience what is arising, it completes. As we allow what is arising in life, we can unpack our burdens and clear shadows. The veils and coverings over happiness fall away and we’re free to experience life as it is.

Your mind may not want to feel emotions as it can’t control them except through distraction. But your heart wants this. Feelings are your heart’s way of communicating.

Because this resistance is also resistance to completing old unresolved experiences, it is the essence of resolving karma too.

Learn how to feel OK with even your darkest emotions. Not to enhance or support them, just to learn to experience and complete. Then those old shadows can pass.

This will not always be easy. Some of it is big. We carefully defend some of it, unconsciously. Some of it is part of our sense of self. “Y did this to me because I am X.”

But as we learn to be OK, even our deepest shadows dissolve, revealing the inner light of our being and the happiness that is our essential nature.

Within every emotion, we find joy or peace or love. And then we find the same within everything. We just have to surrender the resistance and be with life as it is. In time, we heal and find joy – even amidst difficulty.

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  1. Peter

    Wiki how on being happy 🙂 Thank you very practical and to the point.
    It seems like the OKness needs to get big enough to surround and assimilate the feelings in order to bring them to wholeness. Otherwise, there can seem to be nothing but the feeling arising, without perceived space to hold it. The mind tries to say “this is ok” but the internal fight goes on…

    1. Hi Peter
      Essentially, as we discover our more universal nature, the OKness gets big enough to contain whatever arises. Then they can arise without overwhelm. But even before that, if we understand our own internal dynamics, we learn to better handle our responses to life. We create less drama and wind down what has been playing out. Life gets simpler and smoother and more enjoyable.

      And yes, this isn’t about pretending to be happy. That’s just another mask, another form of resisting what is arising. Often, it’s just minds idea of happy rather than happiness itself. There can be a lot of unlearning needed. 🙂

  2. In response to this article, a friend sent me this:

    The Guest House

    This being human is a guest house.
    Every morning a new arrival.

    A joy, a depression, a meanness,
    some momentary awareness comes
    As an unexpected visitor.

    Welcome and entertain them all!
    Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
    who violently sweep your house
    empty of its furniture,
    still treat each guest honorably.
    He may be clearing you out
    for some new delight.

    The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
    meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

    Be grateful for whoever comes,
    because each has been sent
    as a guide from beyond.
    — Jalaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

  3. Richard

    Thank you for this pleasant article. A beautifully simple description of what I consider the simplest formula for a satisfying life. An approach I tend to prefer over involving e.g. mantras or past life explorations.

    As such, could you share your thoughts on how those elements tie in to this secret to happiness of simply staying with all the emotions (the charge, not the stories) until they dissolve? Do you consider them essential – in general and once one has figured how to feel through emotions, perhaps as a result from awakening?

    1. Hi Richard
      In essence, it’s about removing the veils to our true nature so a fuller life can be lived. What’s needed to do that varies. For example, in my case, some past lives arose that helped heal and bring perspective. I didn’t seek them directly, they simply arose. For others, this would be meaningless. I’ve also used prescribed mantras for helping to resolve karma. But the bulk of the process has been transcending and gradually becoming more conscious. That allowed the awareness of unresolved emotional contractions, resistant stories, and so forth to be seen and resolved. And that in turn increases clarity, allowing more healing.

      I don’t seek out emotions to heal. I simply allow whatever is arising as best I can. Often, they simply arise, are experienced, and complete. Other times, a larger healing surfaces. Then I sit with it a bit and see what comes loose. Then I get on with life. Later, I circle back to where it was being experienced in the body to see if more is ready to resolve. At some point, it comes down to the core. It varies how long this takes.

      Emotions are a natural expression of our energy. The issue is when they get resisted and contracted and can’t complete. Then they burble along, creating shadow and reactivity. A little like sitting on a balloon. When we learn to be with them properly and do enough healing, emotions can express freely and fully and a richness comes to life greater than we might imagine.

      Healing helps with awakening but is a somewhat different process. We need enough clarity for the shift but awake people can have some serious baggage and quality of life issues. In many ways, healing is more important than awakening. Yet awakening is what allows us to take it a lot further.

      The greater clarity of awakening and detachment from the I-sense does accelerate the process. Not to mention being in samadhi 24/7. As we get further in the healing, the high heart opens up and our emotional life can be liberated also.

      When we get far enough, emotions are all experienced as expressions of joy, peace, or love. We can be joyfully angry, for example. (laughs) Or in a deep, peaceful grief.

      So yeah, they’re an essential part of life but don’t have to be uncomfortable.

  4. Richard

    My apologies for writing so unclear (I’m not a native speaker). What I was referring to in my question about ‘them’ being essential, were actually the practices such as mantra meditation.

    Nonetheless, I liked your reply, especially how you put the paradox of healing and awakening, both potentially benefiting from the other. And I get the feeling that your reply also implies that you regard other practices merely auxiliary, each only for those who feel inclined to use them (and only for as long as they feel like it). Am I correct?

    1. Hi Richard
      Your English is excellent. That thought occurred to me but recent articles led me elsewhere.

      The essential is transcendence or samadhi. The Yoga Sutra, for example lays this out. This is because going beyond the mind and into our true nature is what softens the bounds of attachment and sets the stage for awakening. There are many ways to transcend. And there are many forms of meditation. What I’ve found most effective for transcending is an effortless mantra meditation. Partly because it reliably transcends but also because the mantra soothes and heals in the process. I’ve seen many cases where the long term practice made all the difference in the unfolding. But each of us have our own path.

      Yes, if you check out the Recommendations page, you’ll see I place meditation first and everything else supporting that. I talk about emotional healing regularly because even meditators can have bad energy habits to let go of.

      The other stuff like yoga, pranayama, retreats, etc. supports the meditation. I would say it’s more what you’re able to support in your daily life rather than leaving them up to your mood. 🙂

  5. don salmon

    It seems it can be helpful for some to explore this with physical pain. One may have some capacity to attend, openly, without resistance, to whatever negative emotions are arising, but it seems that some find emotions so ephemeral, with so much of a seeming tendency to fluctuate, to “shift shape,” that they find it difficult to stay with the process.

    Physical pain seems (only seems!) to be more stable. It then is most interesting (as I’ve found in doing clinical work along the lines you suggest with people experiencing (appearing to experience!) chronic pain, is that with openness and allowing, the “pain” is no longer experienced simply as an “object” that “I” over here as separate subject am experiencing.

    People with no prior interest in anything to do with contemplative practice (but who have a very strong spontaneous motivation to meet the pain in a different way) often have moments where the subject-object split begins to dissolve, and what previous was experienced as “my” “pain” becomes an undulating, field of energy, no longer negative but at least neutral, and at times becoming blissful.

    There is usually very little stability in this glimpse of Field-like energy, but the fact that simply by gently, non judgmentally attending – without an attempt to manipulate or control – can give rise to such a moment, is, in my own experience as well as those of patients, quite beautiful and full of Grace.

    1. Hi Don
      That framing of emotions sounds like mind trying to control the process. It can be subtle. Emotions are ephemeral and will dissipate as they resolve. They also morph as we go through the layers. It’s a fine art of learning to allow whats there and let it go. We learn one level of it, then deeper still, etc.

      Yes, physical pain is much the same. It’s a signal something is wrong. If we resist the signal, it continues. If we allow it, the signal is heard and eases way off. Good insights. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Kerri Heffernan

    Hi David.
    I have a ton of emotions all the time. Just like writing now – I want to cry. Watching tv… I want to cry, watching a little girl on her bike (because of the beauty of it) sometimes makes me want to cry. Do I really have to allow all of these crazy emotions to happen? On any given day I am processing what I feel like is all the time. I am always heavily seeing the Ego and always feeling the anger etc… Until reading your article I never thought about all the times that I wanna cry over what seemingly seems ridiculous. I am a huge MUSH BALL about everything. Lol.

    1. Hi Kerri
      Many people are quite plugged up and have difficulty allowing. Others as you describe flow freely. That’s a good thing. So yes, you want the emotions to happen but you want to learn not to be driven by them or have them overshadow you too much. Having emotions isn’t the same as being emotions, being lost in them.

      We are currently in a more challenging cycle of time that is bringing a lot to the surface for some people. It can seem endless. But its just a cycle and will ease.

      Being able to recognize the ego means you’re not it. Thats an important step.

      It’s a process of growth. If we can engage it effectively, the ride is smoother. Hence articles like this.

  7. T rami

    I used to know exactly what you mean when I was younger. Underneath every emotion was joy of Being. People used to ask me how I was so happy and optimistic. I would used to wonder why all these adults were stressed out and depressed all the time. Didn’t they know those things were just situational and that who they are is pure Joy? And now, I’m that adult who can’t feel that innate pulsating natural joy. Nobody tells us that if we take it for granted, it may fade. Hopefully with all the work I’ve been doing it comes back soon.

    1. Hi Trami
      Yes, that’s quite common. As we go through life, there is a lot to process. If we don’t have effective processing techniques, we develop a backlog and those veils develop over our inner joy. So yes, spiritual work and healing will dissolve those veils and restore it.

  8. Gina

    I have found that True Happiness is not dependent upon the vicissitudes of life. It’s not dependent upon outer experiences. You know True Happiness if it’s there even when you’re not happy. This has been one of the greatest gifts of awakening for me.

  9. Harrison Snow

    Love that thought that true happiness does not depend on certain objects, or conditions or people and how they behave. I know at a feeling level Being is the source and expression of happiness. The Self resonates with being sufficent in its self. Yet, I also feel challenged a lot recently by contracted feelings and thoughts that spring from my “survivial” or wounded self and perhaps the collective self as well. Thoughts that embody suffering instead of bliss must be false or based on untrue beliefs. Yet they are sticky enough to limit my sense of “in the moment Being. ” I am thinking the way through this is agreeing to “what is” and being patient with the process and the general discomfort and reactivity that’s arising. My capacity to be in the Being, no matter what, is not at the level where the impressions are written on air. And that is okay, if I can remember to be kind and tolerent towards myself and others as a way to realize that level of awareness. What else might help one stay with or regain connection with Being besides the wittnessing and allowing process described in the other posts?

    1. Hi Harrison
      Yes, purification can indeed affect the quality of experience, as can the collective. Recently, I found the collective was heavy and dominant enough to affect quality of life. That finally lifted. It depends some on what we resonate most with and what we’re called to process.

      Essentially, there are two aspects to the one wholeness: the silence and the aliveness. The aliveness is where we experience bliss and the qualities of expression. The trick is, even those contracted feelings or heaviness are qualities of bliss. That’s very much not always clear. It’s much harder to feel the aliveness in sticky sludge. (laughs) But even then the silence is always there, undisturbed. We can fall back to the silent presence.

      It’s not complex. Just being with what is here and allowing. Then taking a break and being with what is here on the surface. Mind wants to fix it by adding something more. 🙂

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