Happiness Is Not An Emotion

I have been doing a very deep study in Buddhism for the last few weeks. One of the common themes is this idea of happiness. It is said to be the thing we are all after. I think all of you would agree. We all want nothing more than to be happy. We spend our whole lives looking for this elusive happiness. Only to see it as just out of reach.

I think we are looking at happiness in the wrong way. We think that happiness is an emotion. Like all emotions, it is dependent on outside circumstances to exist. When those circumstances change the emotion changes. Now yes we can have some level of control over this. We can make a conscious choice to change an emotion but in the end, it is triggered by external events.

I have a theory that happiness is, in fact, not an emotion but a state of mind. One we can choose to live in no matter what emotion we might be feeling at that time. In essence, then we can be angry and happy, scared and happy, hurt and happy, sad and happy. I know this sounds absolutely crazy. Stay with me though just a bit longer and I think I can help this make more sense.

When I think of being happy I have an idea that happiness is about acceptance. We accept things for what they are when they happen. Now I don't mean to say that we are complacent. Not at all, I think complacency only leads to more anger. Instead what we do is see the current situation for what it is and not what we would like it to be. For instance, if I am stuck in traffic on my way home I might get angry because I wish for there to be no traffic. It is this desire that is the thief of my happiness. If I see this traffic for what it is, inconvenient but survivable, I can still be frustrated but with a happy mindset.

This is why I think that some people, no matter what life throws at them, can still maintain a sense of happiness. They can find acceptance in all situations. They can see that all situations are only fleeting. They are not permanent, therefore they don't allow the emotion of that moment to overtake the happy mindset. They feel the emotion at that moment and they are able to let it go. Without this need to hang on to it, to make it a new part of their mindset. When we can do this we can find a real sense of peace and calm in all things.

This is why I no longer see happiness as an emotion. This is why I think that in Buddhism we say that all people seek happiness. It is not that we want to be emotionally flat. To be a person capable of only one note. Instead, we want to be someone capable of all emotions. We allow that emotion in, feel it, and then let it go. We don’t choose to hold in and make it a new part of how we identify ourselves.

I ask each of you to explore this for yourself. To explore your situation right now. To feel the emotion of the current moment and then release it. To see happiness, not as an end goal that must be reached to win. Not as this idea that is so far away that no matter how hard you try it stays just out of reach. Instead as a way of being. As a way to approach all things in your life. Find that happiness is always present in you. That it fills you and makes your emotional life much more vibrant.

Thank you for your time and have a HAPPY day.

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© 2021 by Matthew Plotner

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