All of us want to be happy. Everything that we do (or not do) is to gain a greater fullness and joy than what we are feeling now. In fact, happiness is the ultimate goal of all human pursuits.
It’s funny how we never get enough of being happy. No matter how happy an experience is, we never say, “This is it. I’m totally happy. I will never need anything else ever again.’”
Vedanta tells us that happiness is our intrinsic nature.
If happiness is who we are, why are we constantly chasing after happiness outside?
The problem is that we have forgotten who we really are – our spiritual nature, that is. You and I are pure spirit, ever free and blissful.
But, since we think we are what we look like, feel and think, (our personalities), we look to people, things and experiences to satisfy this ever-elusive happiness. What we don’t realize is that nothing in the world outside is going to satisfy our deep inner yearning for true and permanent happiness.
Why? It’s because true and permanent happiness is within us, not any where else. We’ve simply forgotten it. It’s like looking for your key every where except in your own pocket where you had it all the time.
The truth of the matter is, things, beings and experiences in the world outside don’t make us happy. They simply trigger the spring of happiness within us and suddenly we are filled with joy.
Wouldn’t it great if we could all tap into the permanent source of happiness that is our nature? That’ll bring an end to our endless seeking and bring us the permanent happiness that we all so desperately want.
How to find happiness within?
To journey within ourselves and tap into that source of happiness there, we need to prepare our minds because the thoughts of the mind veil happiness from us. Happiness lies deep within and beyond the mind.
Right now, the mind is never still nor completely clean. It is constantly plagued with endless thoughts, worries, concerns and many negative emotions such as anger, greed, jealousy, hatred, etc. The mind has to be carefully and patiently cleansed of these so-called, ‘impurities’. Once cleansed, the happiness that was already there behind the mind shines forth.
Think of a pool of water. To see the bottom, the water must have two qualities – stillness and a clarity that comes from a lack of impurities in the water.
Similarly, the mind has to be made still and cleansed. This doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be patiently and carefully prepared for the inner journey through spiritual discipline.
Spiritual discipline to cleanse the mind
What is a spiritual discipline? A spiritual discipline is a practice that you cultivate to outgrow your ego and evolve spiritually. Growth begins by rehabilitating the mind.
To accomplish this goal, we have to start with one very fundamental and vital spiritual discipline – self-reflection. This is the discipline of taking some time everyday away from all our activities and reflecting on our daily experiences.*
Why is this important? Only when we create some mental space in our lives for self-reflection will we be able to better view our lives. Otherwise, where is the time to think? The mind is kept busy and running from one thing to another.
A daily practice of quiet self-reflection helps in becoming self-aware and looking honestly at our behavior, interactions and motives. It will bring the clarity needed to sieve away what is is unimportant and unnecessary and change what we are doing wrong. Once we recognize and accept our failings, we naturally want to do something about them.*
Over time, by steadily calming and improving the quality of the mind, we become ready to go behind the mind. This is done in meditation.
Meditation is the practice of consciously slowing down the thoughts until there is a peace and calm within. In this quiet, peaceful state, we can journey within to find the highest happiness.
*I have written two articles on the importance of self-reflection and how to start doing it everyday . You can read them here:
To start meditating, learn how to stop
The importance of Self-Reflection
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“Great post Manisha! I hear you advocating for that ‘down-time’ when we can self-reflect. In today’s world, when things are so rushed most days, how do you suggest I find that time for myself? Do I schedule it? I understand its’ importance but I’m stuck!!!”
Thanks Debra. You have a good question. Yes, you have to keep a dedicated time aside everyday. That’s why it is a spiritual ‘discipline’. The best time is first thing in the morning or last thing at night. But whatever time of the day that is the quietest is your best time. Keep to the SAME time everyday to cultivate this habit.
Personally, I prefer the mornings because my mind is fresh. If this works for you, wake up at least 30 minutes before your normal time. Give yourself a few minutes to freshen up and then sit for about 20 minutes. Start with just 10 minutes.
Sit and do nothing but watch what comes up in your mind. The tendency is for the mind to re-play past experiences. At first, the thoughts come fast and furiously. Don’t run and hide! Stay with it. Just watch. Promise yourself you will withstand this flood for at least 10 minutes everyday in the beginning. Do this for as long as it takes for the flood to subside – could be a week, could be several weeks. Just stay with it.
Then, gradually you will find that the thoughts die down. There is more space between them and you will start getting a clearer and clearer picture of your behaviour, inner desires and intentions in all your daily interactions. As you become more and more self-aware, you will naturally have greater and greater clarity on what you can do to improve your daily interactions and responses to the world.
You will become a ‘Conscious Evolver’ and not just living life on autopilot.
Please read my post, ’To start Meditating, learn how to stop” https://www.manishamelwani.com/2013/11/25/learn-how-to-stop/
Good luck! Let me know how it goes.
Nice article Manisha. You’ve summarised all that we need to do to get to where we need to be, starting from exactly where we are. Now to find the motivation! Thanks for this…
Thanks Kalpana. Like everyone else (me included) you are having ‘starting trouble’ when starting something new. It may be simpler than you think. Simply schedule it in your daily calendar and follow through. The best time to do your daily self-reflection is in the morning before you start your day. Think of it as a duty that you have to do. That way, it’ll be done and out of the way, leaving you feeling happier throughout the day. The bonus is you’ll not have to contend with that little inner voice that will keep reminding you that you haven’t done it that day…