|What are you feeding your mind?|
It's Sunita here.
Finding happiness is a concept that gets the press. We are taught and expected to find our happiness in people, things, jobs, accomplishments, hobbies, places and everything that connects us to them. Then why can we still feel empty when we find them? Why are we unhappy when we lose them?
Because these are all transitory and variable experiences. They are sources of happiness for sure, but can also generate great pain and suffering in our lives.
So then, what gives?
How can we find true freedom and happiness?
"There is no happiness without freedom,
and freedom is not given to us by anyone;
we have to cultivate it ourselves."
These words of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, affectionately known as Thay (teacher) are simple, yet encompass a truth that is powerful and not arbitrary. By freedom, he means, "freedom from afflictions, from anger, and from despair."
(2c) to improve by labor, care or study: REFINE
Source of definition.
Cultivation of true freedom is a process. There is a starting point, a method and a direction to follow. Every step leads you to greater awareness and enlightenment within your mind. That awareness flows not only to your own body and self, but to others around you.
You make the choice of living free.
And in that choice, you control how happy you want to be.
Finding happiness is another name for a Sisyphean task of finding an illusion. It is a wild goose chase with many disappointments and suffering along the way. And it can take a lifetime to figure that out.
Just think back of a relationship that you were convinced was going to bring you happiness. It could be with anyone in your life. A parent, a spouse, a sibling, a friend, a mentor, a religious leader? Let's take a spouse or partner as an example. With about 50% of partnerships ending in a divorce, how can that relationship be the model of the path to find happiness. Even the 50% of couples that stay together will tell you that freedom and happiness are not always the words they would use to describe their relationship all the time.
True freedom cannot come from any external source. You are the only one who can cultivate your freedom.
Our history has shown us again and again how tides of good fortune for an individual, country, group of society, and even entire mankind can change in a split second. So what can one do to be free, despite one's circumstances and place in life?
"Freedom is what we practice every day" says Thay. He believes that everyone has the ability to cultivate freedom and true happiness, but it grows only when we practice mindfulness. To avoid being a victim of anger, despair and affliction, we must not feed them.
"...Without mindfulness in our daily lives, we feed our anger and despair by looking and listening to things around us that are highly toxic. We consume many toxins each day; what we see on television or read in magazines can nourish our anger and despair. But if we breathe in and out mindfully and realize that these are not the kinds of things we want to consume, then we will stop consuming them. To live mindfully means to stop ingesting these kinds of poisons. Instead, choose to be in touch with what is wonderful, refreshing, and healing within you and around you"
I challenge you to ask yourself these 3 questions today.
- What are my motivations and reasons for wanting to be free and happy? (hint-what's my discomfort/pain?)
- What poisons am I ingesting that are stopping me from cultivating true freedom? (hint-what am I doing/watching/reading/etc. to feed my anger, afflictions and despair?)
- What poison am I willing to stop ingesting to start to cultivate true freedom? (hint- what am I going to choose to do to take control of my life in a concrete way?)
Be Free Where You Are by Thich Nhat Hanh is a small, but solid companion
book full of profound wisdom, delivered in an easily understandable, encouraging and simple way. It will help make the process of finding your freedom a joyful one. You will feel Thay's encouraging presence every step of the way.
Wishing you freedom, lasting happiness and a joyful journey,