Philosophy of Happiness - The Route to Being Happy May Not Be What You Think

So many of us want to be happy. We want to be really happy. Yet, it tends to elude us. 

Here is the problem:  It is our western culture and the philosophy of happiness within western culture that is the problem. 

The thing is, that in the west, we are all about consuming happiness, relaxing, experiencing the pleasures of life and buying things we feel we deserve. 

When there is a challenge put in our way we think “Why me?” and believe we will be happy if only: 

  •             We were not in the process of a separation
  •             If we had more money
  •             If we had less financial trouble
  •             If we had better health
  •             If our co-wokers were nicer to us
  •             If I were able to buy that really awesome dress (or car, or Iphone)          
  •             If we found true love 

The problem is not that we have problems, it is that we expect not to have these problems. This way of thinking is a huge disservice to ourselves and all the humans around us.

We have to embrace the difficulty that faces us in our lives because it is that difficulty that teaches us. 

There is another, more interesting, philosophy of happiness that shifts our western perspective. Many people believe that to be born a human is an amazing and remarkable privilege. To be born human means that we are sent to this earth to learn and evolve.

So when things come our way that are challenging, hurtful, devastating, and painful, we are to not only expect such things to occur, but that we are to see the learning the universe is offering us when such things occur. 

In his book, The 5 Things We Cannot Change and the Happiness We Find by Embracing Them, David Richo writes about this philosophy of happiness. He says there are certain facts of life that we cannot change. He says that once we stop struggling against these facts, we will be released from the pain of asking “why me?” and will be able to instead embrace the learning we experience. We will also be able to enjoy moments for what they are.

These 5 things are: 

  1. everything changes and ends,
  2. things do not always go according to plan,
  3. life is not always fair,
  4. pain is a part of life, and
  5. people are not loving and loyal all the time. 

We have such a deep-seated resistance to these givens, we can find liberation and discover the true richness that life has to offer if we accept these truths. Richo blends Western psychology and Eastern spirituality in his work in order to show us a powerful philosophy of happiness.

Although I continue to operate within Richo’s philosophy of happiness, I want to demonstrate how profoundly I have experienced the learning associated with the truth that “Pain is part of life.” 

Here is my example. I was betrayed many months ago very deeply. It was devastating and I felt pain like I did not believe was possible to endure. Every time I thought I was there in terms of my learning, the betrayal had not stopped and neither did the pain. The betrayal I experienced triggered the actual physical sensations of abuse I experienced as a child. 

At first I thought the pain was offered to me so I could finally deal with scars left on my being as a result of the experience I had as a child. Although I lived with this feeling for many months (the actual physical sensation of the abuse I experienced), the pain and the betrayal did not let up. What did let up was that I learned that the abuse I experienced had ended, that it hurt me, and that I had been continuing to carry that pain to my detriment into my mature adulthood. Once I was able to really see this, I was able to ride the waves of pain and know I survived these feelings of abuse in the past and that I could teach my inner being that I no longer needed to experience those feelings. The incidents were over. 

Instead of hiding from the pain by ignoring it or using various substances, as I have so brilliantly done in the past, I met it head on. Now it is 8 months later from the time these experiences first arose. I have done a meditation practice (among other things) twice per day for many months and this has allowed me to heal. Do I still get the abuse feelings? Yes, I do. Has my relationship to these feelings changed? Yes, they have dramatically. They are now bearable and I realize that the adult me is in charge of dealing with this pain I experienced in my past. 

Healing this pain has been powerful. 

Yet, did it end there? No it did not. Just when I thought I had mastered the pain of my past, I learned that the betrayal that had triggered the pain was ongoing. When was it going to be enough I wondered?! How much betrayal and disgust could be loaded onto one person?!

So, now I practice O’hoponono regularly and I focus on whatever person I am out of alignment with. It is the power of truth and love that comes from the strength of our hearts that transforms us and is the true gate to happiness. It has become my philosophy of happiness. 

When going through this journey, I have learned that there are steps we can take to develop our philosophy of happiness: 

  1. We accept that pain is part of life;
  2.  We accept that we are offered tremendous pain in order to learn, and to learn is the purpose of our life on earth;
  3. We learn that the only way to deal with pain was to live through it rather than numb it;
  4. We can actively search for the lessons that the universe wants to teach us. Even when we think we have learned our lesson, the universe may not be done yet. We have to continue to search and learn until the answer is provided and some relief is felt; we can’t just sit back and wait, we have to actively search for our answers;
  5. We learn that the hatred that occurs in the world is as a result of the hatred in our own hearts. In order to be part of the transformation to healing, we have to take personal responsibility for the hate and violence in the world by curing the hate within our own beings.
  6. We do a dedicated and disciplined forgiveness practice.
  7. We learn that this forgiveness practice will have us embrace the belief that all humans are ultimately connected;
  8. And that this forgiveness practice must continue as a discipline.

So, now in order to embrace a philosophy of happiness, ironically, I embrace the fact that pain is part of life.

I remember saying in anguish:  “I feel like the universe is expecting me to be F—cking Ghandhi here.” The person I said it to agreed. There was more to learn for me for the pain to stop. 

Now what?! I thought. When is this pain going to end? 

The universe was expecting me to learn from what Gandhi was able to do. He took down the British Empire (and yes this is a simplistic view of what he did) by refusing to hate and by refusing to be brought down to the level of his oppressors. 

He meditated daily on love and forgiveness.

Although Gandhi was far from perfect as a human being, it was his practice of love and forgiveness that gave him the tremendous power to lead his country to its freedom after hundreds of years of rule and oppression by the British. He looked into himself to heal the violence and oppression around him. 

He said that "The only devils in this world are those running around in our own hearts, and that is where all our battles should be fought." 

He believed that all of the violence in the world began with the violence and hatred we, as individual human beings, feel in our hearts. 

This was the next lesson I had to learn. 

So, I began the forgiveness practice of O’hoponono and it changed my life. 

It helped me see the connection of all of us as human beings on this planet. When I look to another human, even if I don’t particularly like them, or believe them to be terrible, I am connected to their humanity. It was this lesson that I was meant to learn.

Written by Val Hemminger, the nonconforming professional

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