Are you a collector of ‘things’ ?
We generally imagine collectors to be people who collect stamps, postcards, china mugs and so forth, and maybe don’t consider ourselves to be a collector, but look a little closer………..
Do you have a collection of shoes, ties, handbags, gadgets? More than you actually need, with some gathering dust or maybe relegated to the attic?
Maybe an ever-growing collection of CD’s, DVD’s, Video games? Or even an ‘achieved list’ of countries visited, mountains climbed or exams passed?
You may even recognize this scenario: its been a long day at work, you have to do the supermarket shop on the way home, the trolley is full, the list complete, but you have a feeling that you need just one more thing, one more extra little treat to take home, whatever is already in the trolley just isn’t quite enough, so you set off for a wander for ‘just one more thing’.
Have you ever wondered why we have the compulsion to gather so many ‘things’? We can go through various levels of reasoning such as ‘I like listening to music’ , ‘I enjoy a DVD at the weekend to relax’ ‘Climbing keeps me fit’ etc, and there is nothing wrong with any of the activities or reasons, but have you ever looked at what is the baseline below all these reasons?
We assume all the above are going to make us happy, or we wouldn’t do these things would we? For longer than we can remember we have searched for things and activities to make ourselves happy, so are we now perfectly and completely happy 24/7?
Generally we think we need ‘just one more thing’; a partner, new home, job, hobby and everything will be fine. Or we need to get rid of something we dislike from our lives and we will be happy…..forever?
The big problem is that none of these things can make us permanently happy, the reason being that happiness is a state of mind (as is unhappiness), it is internal, it is not something we can find outside ourselves in a box on the supermarket shelves, on ebay or amazon. We can only find it within ourselves, external things can never give us real happiness, we only need to look at the obvious……….
1. If happiness were to be found in our favorite thing i.e that thing itself were the possessor and source of happiness, then everybody could derive pleasure from that same thing. Take marmite for an example, some love it, some hate it. If it were the source of happiness within itself, everybody would love it, but you can see clearly it depends on our mind not the jar itself as to whether it makes us happy to eat it. All our activites and things are the same, some love hang-gliding, some love knitting! Whether these things make us happy depends on our mind.
2. If these things were a source of true happiness, the effect would be permanent, we would be happy, full stop. So we wouldn’t need to collect things, have a new version or updated model, we would just be happy with our first model. Our attics would not be full to brimming and there wouldn’t be clothes at the back of our wardrobes gathering dust, attic sales would be non-existent! There would be no surplus things we acquired that just don’t hit the spot anymore. But we can all think of the new shiny gadget or handbag we bought which was great when we first acquired it, then the novelty wore off and we looked for something else. If they had been the source of true happiness within themselves, we would still be happy with ‘Mark 1’.
3. The activities we expect to gain happiness from are not reliable i.e. they are not guaranteed to provide even temporary happiness every time. Can you remember looking forward to a holiday, or a special night out with friends yet somehow you were not quite enjoying it as much as you expected, maybe even felt downright miserable, for no apparent reason? We may say ‘Oh it was just the mood I was in’, in other words whether we were happy or not depends on our mind.
4. True happiness is the complete opposite to unhappiness / suffering, so therefore one can’t change into the other. We all know if we hit our thumb with a hammer when doing DIY, it isn’t going to improve things if we continue to thump it with the hammer. The more we hit our thumb the more we suffer, it isn’t going to change into happiness no matter how long we continue. In the same way true happiness cannot turn into suffering, happiness is the opposite of suffering.
So take a few examples from your own life, the things we really enjoy and believe to be the cause of happiness. If they were really a source of happiness then the more we had the happier we would feel. So imagine your favorite meal, first plateful great, really happy, favorite food, second helpings good, third helping getting a bit overfull and bloated, fourth helping in need of a trip to the bathroom maybe. Where did that happiness go?
Imagine your favorite past-time, whether listening to music, mountain climbing, shopping for shoes……if it were a true source of happiness then we would be ecstatic if someone suggested we did an extended marathon for days on end, just merely shopping, shopping, shopping, shopping without rest……..I think you get the idea, think of the throbbing feet etc etc. We would soon realize the activity itself was not a true cause of happiness!
So if these things are not the causes of happiness then what is?
True happiness comes from having a happy mind, having a happy mind comes from Inner Peace. It’s really very simple but we overlook that one simple fact.
We rarely give our mind a chance to be peaceful, even when we rest our bodies our mind is on the go surfing the web, reading, playing video games, watching movies…the list is endless. No wonder we sometimes lie in bed with our mind spinning with this, that and the other, it really doesn’t get a chance to learn to be any other way.
So the answer is to have a short break, not for our body but for our mind. We need to decrease the constant chatter in our mind by simple meditation, to allow our mind a chance to become peaceful.
As Geshe Kelsang Gyatso says in The New Meditation handbook:
“When the turbulence of distracting thoughts subsides and our mind becomes still, a deep happiness and contentment naturally arises from within.” (p12)
When we develop a positive peaceful mind we are capable of dealing with life’s crises and stresses while remaining calm and unruffled. Our mind does not get irritated so easily, we become less angry less often, we enjoy people and relationships much more, we become more accepting of difficulties we cannot change and more able to solve our problems objectively.
How to develop a peaceful mind.
Make a small amount of time to sit quietly and comfortably somewhere, in a chair or cross-legged on a floor cushion. Pay attention only to the sensation of your breath entering and leaving at the tip of your nostrils. Notice how the air entering is slightly cooler than the air leaving.
It takes only 5 -10 minutes a day and it is called “breathing meditation”. (for more details see this article)
It really couldn’t be any simpler, it costs nothing and it can make a tremendous difference to your life.
It’s the best way to get one of these………………….