True Happiness


The core drive in our life is to find happiness. We try to find this in whatever we are doing. Surviving is not enough for our existence as we also want to live, to live happily. Our biology of the brain and body are very good at helping us survive and learn to adapt to changes. But our biology is not very good at providing us a real life- life that is full of joy and peace. Our brain's reward system motivates us to seek physical sensation that provides pleasure. The 5 senses as well as our reproductive organs and vestibular senses all create sensation that is perceived and interpreted to provide us happiness. But, in reality sensation of sense organs doesn't create a feeling of happiness. It only conditions us to believe it is making us happy. Any physical sensation, if perceived mindfully, appears nor pleasant nor unpleasant. It is simply a sensation that has taken place. When we seek pleasant sensation, we create a positive loop of wanting more and more pleasant feelings. In reality, it is the anticipation of the pleasure that motivates us to seek it. The greater the pleasure, the greater the drive, and the greater the drive, the greater the feeling of relief when it is satiated. This classical conditioning actually reduces our ability to feel happy. Our brain's tolerance to any sensation increases thus we need to provide more of that sensation in order to feel that pleasure. All addictions are a result of the fallible reward system. So it can be concluded that physical sensation, ends up causing not only health problems but also psychological problems where you no longer feel yourself. The physical sensation becomes so strong that the autonomic nervous system starts to act on trying to get what it wants without your permission. Your brain controls you and you lose your patience and the will power to retaliate. In this way, your own biology ends up ruining your chances of ever finding happiness.

But not all of us are seeking only physical sensations. Fortunately, there is a psychological drive to feel emotions, which are not exactly physical sensations. Emotions and feelings arise due to a psychological phenomenon. For example the feeling of pride or self esteem generally gives us happiness. Similarly, the emotion of affection or friendship also gives us contentment and happiness. There are many emotions and feelings that provide us comfort, but they do not provide real happiness. All feelings arise due to external circumstances out of our control. So when circumstances change, we tend to suffer due to our loss of a pleasant or comforting emotion. In fact we have set a subjective value to happiness when we seek feelings. When we feel very happy at one moment, we subjectively define the value of happiness in life to match the value of the current happy moment. But in reality, that value is only subjective. When a more intensive feeling is felt, we change our cognition and thus change our perception of the value of happiness. For example, rich people have everything. But their value of what gives them joy is very different than the value of someone who is poor. If you give $2000 to a rich man, he wouldn't feel happy, because his value of happiness is $10,000. On the other hand, if you gave the same $2000 to a poor man, that man's life would be changed. He would feel that day to be the happiest of all the days. This example suggests that the value of happiness ultimately predicts how much happiness you will end up getting. A rich man is probably never going to feel happy even after he reaches the value he wanted. As long as there are better and richer people in the world, the man will always try to compete and try to get a greater feeling of happiness. Similarly, other feelings of pride, self esteem, affection, friendship, joy, suffering and so forth are all just subjective feelings with a subjective value. And the nature of our psychology is that so long as we have a subjective feeling of an emotion, there will always be a countermotion. When we categorize what is a pleasant emotion and what is an unpleasant emotion, we set ourselves up to feel both. When the value of our happiness isn't met, we feel unpleasant, and when it is met we may feel pleasant for a while but then we start chasing the greater feeling. In this way, when we categorize feelings, our base value of happiness just keeps increasing and we continue to feel discontent.

Thus, the wise monks suggest to live a very simple life, with few sensations and few emotional feelings. They advise us to be wary of desires because as soon as you have desires, you will have suffering that follows it due to creating a subjective value of happiness. The monks tell us to live a mindful life where each moment is cherished and is seen as the only moment of life. By living a simple life, your base value of happiness is really low. When you see happiness in the little things, you will start realizing that you can see happiness in every moment and in everything. True happiness is not acquired through physical sensations, nor psychological feelings, but rather from a mindset that is aimed to be mindful and see each moment in a balanced manner. Regardless of what occurs in the world, we view everything with a sense of calm because we have realized that as soon as we categorize things between good and bad, or pleasant and unpleasant, we have set ourselves a trap to feel contingent feelings. With a mindful attitude, and a simple life devoid of sensual and psychological pleasures, we set ourselves up to see joy in everything. This is the practice of happiness that all monks experience and teach others.