Over the past few years, I’ve noticed several things changing in me: 1) a deep inner search for what makes me happy, and 2) an ever-growing stack of books next to my bed.
People read for a whole host of reasons, some need help getting to sleep at night, while others are living out their fantasies through fictional or non-fictional characters in exotic places, still others read for the educational value and the joy of learning.
My devotion for the past ten years has been purely based on the subject matter as I’ve discovered a passion for the philosophical.
Currently, I’m doing two books at the same time. It wasn’t a cosmic jolt that led me to do this, but instead, half way through book one another arrived in the mail. I started to review the second one and found it in some ways in direct contrast to the first. Then it became fun to watch the two authors do combat without knowing they were in a battle. Bear with me because this isn't a book review, but a way to show divergent views of acquiring happiness.
“Doing Nothing” by Steven Harrison (Tarcher/Putnam $16.00) and “The Art of Happiness” by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M. D. (Riverhead Books $22.95) are both enjoyable reading, if you are in search of deep thought and abstract ideas.
Harrison writes in a style that forces you to stretch your traditional bounds. Half way through his book, I found his discussion on quieting the mind during meditation completely opposite the Dalai Lama’s.
Let me quote: Harrison: “ What is the nature of meditation when using techniques? Through the use of meditation techniques, one can concentrate the mind. . . by bringing our mind back to the object of concentration, over and over again, we become less agitated. We bring our mind back to our breath or back to our mantra. . . this is not quiet, this is dullness. We are concentrated, but we have lost our sensitivity. ”
On the other, hand the Dalai Lama says: “When I say training the mind in this context I’m not referring to ‘mind’ merely as one’s cognitive ability or intellect. Rather, I’m using the term in the sense of the Tibetan word ‘sem', which has a much broader meaning, closer to ‘psyche’ or ‘spirit’, and it includes intellect and feeling, heart and mind. By bringing about a certain inner discipline we can undergo a transformation of our attitude, our entire outlook and approach to living. ”
Both men seem to have a sense of the movement of man towards happiness and away from suffering. They both do agree on the attributes of positive thinking.
If you have an untrained mind you will lean towards negative thinking and unwholesome acts. If you have taken the time to learn how “your” mind works you will, hopefully, have learned to recognized when it takes the negative road and when you have the opportunity to change to a more positive path. In doing so, we sidestep the unhappiness created by the acts brought on by the negative thought pattern.
Happiness is defined in so many different ways and by its diverse meanings becomes even more illusive. When you have too many choices of ways to obtain happiness, life’s complexities loom large. Gaining focus and concentrating will narrow the field and thus simplify your goals. But, happiness is still a state of mind that you create.
It may be the very process of discovery that brings you joy, rather than the ultimate outcome. Like the child that can’t cry hard enough for the ice cream or cotton candy, only to get sick from overindulgence. Where was the happiness? The untrained childhood mind hadn’t yet learned to weigh the choices and take the appropriate action, which was probably the frozen yogurt.
If we create our own happiness and learn to love life in the moment we’re living in, it has a tendency to slow down and become a continuous meditative state. After reading the Dalai Lama’s book, I think that is what he has obtained, an ongoing meditation during normal everyday activities.
I had the good fortune to see the Dalai Lama when he visited Denver a few of years ago and the man does give the impression of someone who has perfected the art of happiness. I, on the other hand, am getting closer, but I fear I have a long way to go.
How do you view your state of happiness? Are you striving to be positive and happy, or do you dwell on the negative and wallow in despair? I challenge you to take some quiet time and find out who is in charge, your soul or your mind.
No matter how you look at it, it’s fun to ponder.
Keith E. Renninson is a motivational speaker and co-author of the popular parenting tool and illustrated storybook “Zooch the Pooch, My Best Friend". Through the 1990's with much self-examination, academic study, bicycle racing, and mountain climbing, he discovered a renewed zest of life, which included a love of metaphysics, philosophy, humor, and writing and speaking. As Keith says, “Some days you're the pigeon and some days you're the statue. . . it's all in what you make of it. " You can read more about “Zooch the Pooch" or contact Keith to speak at: http://www.zoochthepooch.com