Happiness comes when we manage to escape our desire
Happiness comes when we manage to escape our desire is the second in a series of post discussing the concept of happiness. The first post; happiness as a measurement value for sustainable development, talked about how society today see well-being = money and economic growth are utterly regarded positive, however, research shows that economic growth mostly benefits that 20 % of the population that got it all, while the gap between those who has little or nothing getting it worse. Furthermore, the one-fifth of the population consumes 75% of the earth’s resources, despite nearly one billion people don’t get enough food on the table. Recommended post on economic growth last 20 years: Re-thinking sustainability for the twenty-first century, spirituality; the missing link
Still, leaders, politicians, and others continue a growth strategy that doesn’t work, isn’t it time to try another approach to solve global climate change, poorness, and inequality among the population on Earth? I believe reduction is one of the most important elements, and I am not alone, the finest example that is possible to do things better differently is the small country Bhutan, has made “gross national happiness,” not economic growth per se. It’s an official goal. His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck is leading the development of a program called GNP (gross national happiness) based on nine domains within four basic principles: economic development, environmental preservation, cultural promotion and good governance of Gross National Happiness (GNH). What is important is to find a way to live that puts less pressure on natural resources and at the same time maximizes human well-being for the largest number of people on Earth.
What will future generations say when they discovered that we knew that oil and gas will be consumed, and we did not do anything to prevent it?
The most important element of sustainable development is to make sure that natural capital is sustainable, that we manage the inventory of natural resources on Earth so that it’s enough for future generations. When global resources disappear our ability to make, sell and consume will be impossible, sooner, or later, we will face it, I wonder what next generations will say when they discovered that we knew that oil and gas will be consumed, and we did not do anything to prevent it. Maybe in school, they will hand out vintage travelling flyer’s from the early 2000s with prices on cheap flights (New York – London ) or show SUV commercials and the gasoline consumption.
Therefore, despite what many leaders (westerners) think or want to believe. Politicians and leaders do not dare to challenge it because taking the reduction approach will give them many enemies among their rich friends. Clear evidence of the lack of responsibility for Earth is the Kyoto agreement, hardly anything happens and if only smaller adjustment. If they really were committed, mandatory recommendations would be applied without trouble. Reduction and adaption of a simpler, lesser materialistic lifestyle are necessary; this can hardly happen when societies adapting money as their new god. Material wealth can bring some happiness, nevertheless, only temporarily as soon as we stop buying or when we have life’s basic needs (these are mostly recognized as physiological) more money is not a factor that makes us happier.
Maslow termed the state above self-actualization as the transpersonal level. Activity here is purely spiritual, characterized by meditative introspection, perfect contentment, complete unselfishness, feelings of harmony and oneness with the universe, and the experience of higher states of consciousness. According to Maslow, this model enables one to determine “best” or “poorer” societies, the best ones gratifying all the basic human needs of the population and permitting self-actualization. The three main pillars of sustainability is social, economic and environmental, if we look at the concept of happiness in this perspective, at least those three principal indicators of happiness needed to be put in place.
In order to function in a society, we need a set of personally developed skills that make us comfortable in communicating and at ease with other members, for example, a positive self-image creates social well-being, empathy towards others. Social wellness involves concerns not only on a personal plan but interest in humanity and the environment as a whole. Development of social wellness requires and put a great deal on how compassion, care and helping others outside your family. This can only happen when being comfortable with our own emotions and balanced life, it requires the self to tolerate and respect others. Buddhism, for example, puts a great deal of importance on keeping body and mind equally healthy. Healthy people are loyal and honest. Only social dimensions of wellness lead to the ability of permanent and close relationship with other people.
The effect nature had on our well-being should not be underestimated. The ecosystem of Earth is a fragile ecosystem. It depends on on-going recycling of its elements. It implies a human lifestyle that maximizes harmony with Earth and protects our surroundings. Air pollution, water and food contamination, chemicals, noise, second-hand smoke, ultraviolet radiation in the sunlight is only a few environmental threats. It includes as well bad relationship, poor and dangerous working conditions and lack of personal safety.
Many people around the world live in polluted and unsafe environments that affect our well-being, despite environmental justice, it’s those facing the worst elements is the poorest in any society. It might be a village in Africa or a suburb in New York. To make sure that the future generations can enjoy environmental wellness without getting sick, we are responsible to create education systems that can protect ourselves against hazards so that coming generations can enjoy the same clean and safe environment.
It is tempting to think that wealth brings happiness. But does it? Research shows that to a small degree, wealthier people are happier than poorer people. Money makes it possible to buy desirable things in life. It removes stress with unpaid bills or worries for not be able. However, it can’t buy a good life, only the desirable things. The overall association between money and happiness is weak. Research shows that when we live on a decent salary, and we get a rise of, for example, a 20% increase. We do not become happier, there is a limit and when it reached it not make any difference.
Six basic facial expressions that are recognizable by people all over the earth
From experience, I find travelling in south-east Asia the most pleasant, people genuine smiles when asking for direction, walking in the streets or sitting in a café, in Europe smiles comes more seldom, however, happiness is, in fact, universal and among the few emotions across culture barriers and time humans truly share. Studies into nonverbal behaviour by Paul Ekman ( Professor of Psychology) could find six basic facial expressions that were recognizable by people all over earth, these emotions; disgust, anger, fear, sadness, surprise, and happiness expressed themselves automatically to things happening before our consciousness has time to find out what caused the emotions.
Therefore, these emotions are by many considered powerful, in spite of more than what before thought of such as drives of hunger and sex. Two famous philosophers also from ancient Greek engaged in finding out what possibly could create happiness was Aristotle (325 BCE) and Socrates (470–399 BCE), Aristotle named four basic sources that matter: material (propraietari), sensual (hedone), logical (dialogike) and ethical (ethikos). While Socrates so famously said: “The unexamined life is not worth living,” meaning that above all, philosophy is to increase happiness by analyzing and understanding oneself. Of course, several other activities increase our well-being, such as being married (yes) and fitness regularly.
Furthermore, studies show that people who actively seek to socialize are happier than that not, Martin Seligman (1942) who observed the way people socialized noticed that extremely happy, fulfilled people tend to get on with others and enjoy the company. He called their role “the pleasant life,” that was one of the three main characteristic’s he identified.
Suffering is caused by desire and can be released by releasing it
Since the beginning of time humans has searched for purpose and the meaning of life, nevertheless, happiness could not exist unless we experience suffering. In India 600-500 BCE, Prince Siddhartha who later should become known as Buddha came to understand that suffering is caused by desire, and can be alleviated by releasing desire. Buddha, who means the awakened or enlightened, searched a lifetime before he found a way and method escaping the suffering cycle of samsāra, experience maximum happiness or what Buddha referred to as Nirvana.
Almost simultaneously, in the ancient Greek ( 458 BCE) dramatist Aeschylus explores the idea that “Wisdom comes alone through suffering.” One can, therefore, assume that when we reduce our ego and desire the changes to experience a happiness increase. Secondly that if we manage to learn and gain insight from our own bad experience, we somehow can understand and well-being. Buddha after his awakening was said to have ‘turned the wheel of the Dharma’ and given doctrinal expression to the truth about how things are in reality. These first teachings of Buddha were known as the Four Noble Truths, the last which is the Noble Eightfold Path leads to nirvana. The three divisions of the path – Morality, Meditation, and Insight.
The Four Noble Truths
- Duh˙kha – all existence is suffering.
- Samuda¯ya – suffering is caused by craving.
- Nirodha – suffering can have an end.
- Ma¯rga – The way to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.
Meditations of Shamata and Vipashyana
It makes clear that insight knowing who you really are important for establishing inner peace, develop compassion and generosity. Buddha said that it was merely possible to escape suffering, achieve and experience some form of happiness through practice, it was not enough to read books or receive teachings. The practice he referred to be meditation. Furthermore, he said only two forms of meditation exist. The first form comes from the classic Indian language Sanskrit and is called shamata (Tibetan word shi-né. shi means peace or peaceful, and né means rest or stay).
Practising shamata meditation is a very important step towards insight, The second form of meditation vipashyana (Sanskrit) means insight, deep insight into our understanding, to see things how they really are. This insight gains tranquillity, the mind becomes stable and peaceful, in other words, inner peace makes it possible to understand who we are.
Meditation is to bring mind home. Fortunately, we live in a time when all over the world many people are becoming familiar with meditation. Meditation seems to cut through cultural and religious barriers. We waste incredible time on thoughts arising from a modern, hectic lifestyle. Most of us live intense, with many responsibilities both towards work and privately, burden ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations. The high speed and aggression, grasping, possessing and achieving seems to be more the normal way of life than not, no wonder our streams of thoughts in many cases are coloured with negative emotions and anxious struggle.
Meditation is the exact opposite. To meditate is to make a full break with how we usually manage or operate, it is clutter-free from all care and concerns, no desire, or grasp at anything. The intense and anxious struggle, no fear or hope, acceptance or rejection exists. The state of meditation is not positive or negative. However, the simplest place which we slowly start to release the emotions and concept that have imprisoned from seeing the world as it is.
The resting in this peaceful state, even if purely for a very short time is effective and is achievable for all, even those claiming not able to sit still for a minute. at the same time, a skilled master or instructor is needed. The art of meditation and different techniques cannot be attained without. Meditation is to stay in the present, not pass nor future when you eat breakfast, you do not do the dish-washing. Meditation throughout the day is the ability to do so, the need for any pillow to sit on disappears.
The reason for my heavy references to eastern philosophy and especially Buddhism is simple, Buddha’s teachings managed for Buddhism to implement his philosophical thoughts throughout Asian societies for more than 2500 years with great success at least from my viewpoint. In the West, philosophers manage only to establish their ideas on an intellectual level as they did not have any software for implementation. Buddha added another practical dimension to the intelligent approach, meditation. The importance of practice should not be underestimated, Buddha said only through practice meditation can help the mind cultivate inner peace and liberation from suffering. Now, in our time do people finally understand the gifts of meditation, the tremendous flow, inner peace, release, and stabilization of energy.
Western professionals began appreciating and scientifically understand what it is. The book “Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”, was originally published 1999 by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi based on research into the links between meaningful, engaging activity and happiness. Four years later, another book of importance was published; “Wherever You Go, There You Are”, introduces the concept and ideas of mindfulness meditation, to cope with pain, illness, and anxiety by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Buddhism is a way of thinking, a complete philosophy. It’s possible of course to pick the preferable bits. However, it will only be like taking the bus one or two stops on the road to nirvana. The next post in the series will discuss and explain meditation from a Buddhist as well scientific approach giving the evidence that it works.
- Psychotherapy and the Quest for Happiness by Emmy van Deurzen. Published 2009 by SAGE Publications Ltd
- The Buddha’s Way of Happiness healing sorrow, transforming negative emotion and finding well-being in the present moment, by Thomas Bien, Ph.D. New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
- The Biology of Happiness by Bjørn Grinde. Published 2010 by Springer Briefs in Well-Being and Quality of Life Research Energy and the Wealth of Nations.
- Understanding the Biophysical Economy by Charles A.S. Hall and Kent A. Klitgaard. Published 2012 by Springer Science+Business Media
- Energy, sustainability, and the environment: technology, incentives, behaviour edited by Fereidoon P. Sioshansi. Published 2011 by Elsevier Happiness.
- A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill by Matthieu Ricard. Published 2006 by Little, Brown, and Company New York
- Re-thinking sustainability for the twenty-first century, spirituality; the missing link
- Happiness comes from harmony, not money or fame
- More about The four noble truths
- More about Gross National Happiness
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