Put the word ‘Happiness’ into Google and it churns out an eye-popping 49,600,000 results. In 0.22 seconds. That made me smile. Type the same word into Amazon and it suggests no less than 35,793 books you could read. As a human race, we are fascinated by it. But what exactly is it? Look up ‘happiness’ and the definitions tend to include phrases like ‘sense of well-being’, ‘flourishing’, and ‘quality of life’.
Anyway I hope that some days you feel so bouncy and excited just to be alive that random strangers come up to you in the street, squeeze your (possibly) chubby cheeks and declare: “Wow, you are bursting with joy and scrumptiousness, thank you for being in the world.” Admittedly this doesn’t happen too often in my bit of Leicestershire. Yet.
Happiness is of course the purpose of Buddhist practice and in a way the whole of this blog is trying to define it and inspire more people to discover it. And after 29 years of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo and 9 years as a Life Coach, I thought it might be time to sit down with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit and attempt to pin down this nebulous concept. So… here is my little list, happiness is:
- the soundtrack of your mind
- the purpose of your life
- creating value from every situation
- feeling grateful for your ‘problems’
- being “neither elated by prosperity, nor grieved by decline”
- treasuring your own and others’ life
- right now, a cup of tea and a biscuit
I also love this quote by Daisaku Ikeda: “True happiness is not the absence of suffering; you cannot have day after day of clear skies. True happiness lies in building a self that stands dignified and indomitable like a great palace – on all days, even when it is raining, snowing or stormy.”
Stop and listen to the music of your mind
When I first start coaching a new client, the ‘soundtrack of their mind’ is one of the main things I listen out for because it reveals so much. I have worked with people who feel grateful even when they have very little money. And others who feel frustrated and empty even when they have all the trappings of success. You can feel restless in a tropical paradise. And uplifted in an inner-city slum. Such are the subtleties and apparent contradictions of the human mind.
So, we always have this soundtrack playing in our subconscious. A background mood music. Stop and listen (how often do we take the time to do that in our frantic lives?). Is it excitement, hope, love? Or anxiety, regret and frustration? Is it well-being, amusement or compassion? Impatience, cynicism or boredom? A mixture of all the above? Something else altogether? Something you could not describe in words very easily at all?
Talking of words, books also have their own ‘soundtrack’. I have recently been re-reading The Naked Leader, by David Taylor and The Art of Being Brilliant by Andy Cope & Andy Whittaker. Both are mighty fine personal development books and the contents are illuminating. But more importantly, both are written with such irrepressible joy, warmth and bounciness that you really do wanna go out and do that thing to the chubby cheeks of random strangers.
Whatever your soundtrack or ‘dominant life-state’, the essential point is that it massively influences your reactions to situations, it guides your choices and over time, it decides what you achieve (or don’t) and therefore who you become. And ultimately, how happy you are. Quite important then, would you agree? The good news, says Buddhism, is that Nam Myoho Renge Kyo is the voice of your Buddhahood, the rhythm of life and the vibration of the Universe at its most joyful. In short, the most powerful tool for transforming the soundtrack of your mind.
A happiness formula
I love this quote by the late, great Shin Yatomi of SGI-USA: “Put simply, Nichiren Buddhism shows us how to create happiness in the past (appreciation), in the present (fulfilment) and in the future (hope) by challenging our lives in the here and now.” So: appreciation + fulfilment + hope + challenging spirit = happiness. That sounds like a powerful formula! And a bit quicker than reading 35,793 books.
Now then, who’s eaten my last chocolate digestive?? Please feel free to share your thoughts below. And also your biscuits. Thank you. And be happy, it’s what you were born for. Honest. You might even get your cheeks squeezed.
PS. If you liked this post, you may also enjoy reading ‘How to become the master of your mind’ and ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo – because it takes prayer to transform a heart’.