"Every person wants to be happy, but in order to be so one needs first to understand what happiness is." Jean-Jacques Rosseau
Have you ever stopped and thought about what it is or when it is that you are at your happiest? Or even, what does that mean to you - to be happy?
But what exactly is this - happiness thing? Are we talking about things, fleeting emotions and specific moments, or truly about a way of living our lives and being that can bring profound and lasting fulfillment, and help us change the way we see each moment. Two people can look at the very same thing, like a sunset, or a river, or a particular moment of adversity and react, either positively or negatively, based on their own experiences and inner feelings, their frame of reference. You know those people who always seem to find the worst in situations no matter what - they base this on their own suffering. But generally, suffering, just as wellbeing is essentially something that is a mental state as much as it is a physical one. We choose how we react to things. There are many stories of people who were in terrible peril or who suffered imprisonment or worse, yet through it all, maintained their own positive state of mind, without resentment or anger. They did not let the suffering color their thoughts, because they knew that hatred breeds hatred, and that carrying that hatred would be like poison not to their captors, but to themselves.
Of course, it is not enough to say we are going to be like Pollyanna, with false optimism. We must cultivate our own minds, look at where we have our demons and toxic wastes that poison our minds, and purge them. We cannot be happy unless we develop our own skills to be so. We begin by seeing how negative thoughts and emotions are harmful to our own self, and use compassion and loving-kindness to negate these and move away from unhappy to happy. It takes time, and it takes work. Happiness takes understanding, and meditation, and more work. Yet, we cannot be truly happy without doing these things. It is not in "things", it is inside each of us.
A Tibetan saying goes - Seeking happiness outside ourselves is like waiting for sunshine in a cave facing north.
It is within our power to find that path. Get out of that cave and you have taken the first steps to understanding what happiness truly is.