HAPPINESS OF THE HEART
By Mary Cook, M.A., R.A.S.
True happiness comes from the heart, not the mind. Our mind typically judges, compares and places conditions on happiness, pointing out what’s wrong or missing even in the best of circumstances. In the midst of a wondrous experience, for example, the mind may remind us that a certain person is not present to share the wonder, and thus happiness is diminished. Yet the mind tells us that when we receive abundant gratification of a desire, we’ll be happy. It might be success, sex, money, power, leisure time, a mate, alcohol or other drugs. When we’re chasing after happiness, we’re also running away from problems, trauma, shame, loss and pain. And the mind tells us that these troubles will continue or reoccur at any moment. So we’d better capture and control the objects of our happiness. Addictions and compulsions are practiced with the intent to distract us from pain and stress and artificially induce euphoria or relief. This keeps the false self dominant rather than the spiritual self. This separation from an active conscious relationship with our Higher Power means that no amount of anything we desire can lead to true happiness, for we have disconnected from the source of pure love, truth and joy. Only unhappiness comes from this illusion of separation. Fear and attempts to control and possess what we desire, removes the very possibility of happiness.
Real happiness is not dependent upon anything. It is our true nature. We can see it in young children before we teach them otherwise. They amuse and entertain themselves. They are sensitive and empathic. They love without biases and prejudices. They experience joy watching a caterpillar, looking at ribbons of light coming through the trees, playing with dad’s fingers, babbling to mom, and jumping up and down. Young children can express more happiness from a box than the gift inside it. A box after all, can be a hat, a boat, a drum or a house. Young children still feel the kingdom of Heaven within them. They can remind us of what we have forgotten. Happiness is right now, it’s free, it’s within us, it gives and shares, it’s outside of time, space, distance and conditions. It’s creative, uplifting and contagious. Having a sense of lightness, playfulness and humor about ourselves and life, contributes to heartfelt happiness and reconnects us to our true selves, others and life. It also gives us resilience, adaptability, hope, courage and strength in times of trouble.
Happiness arises from relaxing and surrendering mental focus, and allowing our hearts to open and expand for no reason. In this place we can remember that we were created whole and holy and that we are interconnected with all of life. Correct bowing places the heart higher than the head. Feeling united with a healthy, loving Higher Power allows us to experience the power within our heart. A bedridden patient in pain can forget his suffering when a beloved child visits. All of a sudden we’re not sick when someone needs us. A crippled, arthritic man can lose all symptoms of disease when playing the piano because of his happiness in doing so. A petite, frail mother can lift heavy objects off her child to save her in an accident. Spontaneous acts of heroism, altruism and love spring from the heart, whereas the mind would say this is impossible or problematic.
Allowing our attention to be in the present moment and appreciating what exists right now, counting our blessings, being in loving service, enjoying nature, music, art, people, animals, and seeing beauty around us, is happiness. We can have a daily practice of identifying and surrendering to our Higher Power our small minded selfishness, harmfulness, willfulness and defensiveness, and ask for divine will to work through us. We can hold compassionate space for suffering and painful emotions to be expressed and released. We can begin this process by feeling compassion for ourselves and loved ones. We can accept our ignorance and transgressions, and honor our desire for redemption and transformation. Then we can practice feeling compassion and acceptance for strangers and for those who are harmful in the world, believing that goodness exists in the soul despite human expression. In most situations as adults, safe boundaries, straightforward assertiveness and healthy behaviors on our part suffice to protect us from those who might harm us. Forgiveness is an emotion of the heart that releases trapped toxic energies within us, creating greater space for serenity, freedom and joy. This is a rejuvenating practice and additionally helpful in placing more positive energy into the world.
It is vital to demonstrate principles that reinforce our spiritual nature, and to strengthen our faith when we are feeling lost and confused. We experience an even higher level and depth of happiness when we’re able to identify what goodness and joy exists in difficult circumstances, what opportunities for growth, character development, unselfish demonstrations of love, spiritual evolution and unity with the God of our understanding are present in trials and tribulations. Long ago I visited a poor village and asked the elder if he was happy with his life. He replied that yes, he was very happy. In some years, he explained, there is abundant food and no children die. And so we sing, dance and rejoice. In other years there is not enough to eat, and sickness and death visit us. In those years our love expands, we become closer and give our hearts to one another, for that is all we have. So, yes, we are very happy all the time. This village elder was abundantly rich with happiness of the heart, and this is a magnificent model for all of us.