The Quest for Happiness
November 12, 2011
We oftentimes think we are unhappy because things are not going our way. Kabbalah teaches that in fact, things are not going our way because we are unhappy. Life can be a constant roller coaster ride of ups and downs because we believe that things like money, relationships, jobs and material possessions will make us happy. In reality, the only thing that will bring us unending happiness is connecting to the Light.
Here are 10 understandings that can assist us to live in a constant state of happiness:
1. Happiness is the cause, not the effect.
The Zohar says that happiness can only dwell in a place where there is already happiness. We cannot be unhappy and expect a miracle. Happiness is not a result of having, but rather is the cause of drawing in even more of what we want in our lives.
Being connected to the Light is the only happiness that lasts forever. Vacations, jobs, respect, and material possessions are fleeting. This is why we are in a constant cycle of happy/unhappy. We look to a goal, to something material, or to something to feed our ego to feel good, and then once we get it, we are left feeling empty again. To connect with continual happiness, our work is to build our Light every day as opposed to worrying about how we are going to get what we want.
2. Stop playing the Waiting Game
We can all too easily find ourselves in a waiting game to discover what makes us happy. “One day I’ll make it big, one day I’ll get married, one day I’ll lose weight… and then I’ll be happy.” But, again, nothing makes us happy but our connection to the Light. So if this waiting game becomes our thought pattern, no matter what we achieve, the future will always seem better.
Take a moment and ask yourself, how much of your life do you spend waiting, on both a small and large scale – waiting for the clock to strike 5:30pm so you can leave the office, waiting for Mr. or Mrs. Right, waiting to be recognized? Many people spend their entire lives waiting to start living, which leads to a constant state of unhappiness.
3. Be in the Present
Bringing ourselves back into the present moment is a sure fire way to get out of this waiting game and not seeing or appreciating our present moment. Focusing on the past or the future can bring up negative emotions. Within the present moment the opportunities are there for you to grow and connect to the Light NOW.
Being present can also connect us to happiness by allowing us to see a situation as it actually is, as opposed to making up stories in our heads. The stories that we make up often lead to negative emotions. By seeing a situation as it is in the present and accepting it, we become aware of the thoughts we are projecting.
Just as joy is linked to appreciation for what the Creator has given us, envy is a complete lack of appreciation. When we focus on lack and not on our blessings, we are disconnected from the Light and happiness. When you feel yourself starting to feel jealous, use it as positive fuel. Instead of thinking “it’s not fair. Why don’t I have what they have?” shift to the proactive response of “What can I start doing now to manifest my desire?”
Going through difficulties can be opportunities that keep us from taking pleasure for granted. The Ba’al Shem Tov, a great Kabbalist, said “Constant pleasure isn’t very pleasurable.” Going through hard times reminds us to be grateful for all the blessings we do have in our lives. Being grateful sustains happiness. To help you appreciate what you have, try keeping a daily gratitude journal, writing down at least five things for which you are grateful.
5. Use your Emotions as Indicators
When we experience a negative emotion, it is a signal to change something either in ourselves or our lives. We should not rush to suppress or ignore our emotions, as they are powerful tools. Our emotions are indicators of where we are spiritually, an indication that something needs to change in our actions. When we experience emotions of unhappiness, whether sadness, guilt, anger or anxiety, it is our soul telling us to wake up and to get on another track. When you are feeling negative emotions, ask yourself what the emotion is trying to show you.
6. Observe your Emotions, Don’t Become Them
Emotions arise in our consciousness, but they are not our consciousness. We can choose to be in control of our emotions rather than letting our emotions be in control of us. Instead of resisting your emotions, accept them completely, shifting your perspective. It then becomes a transformative experience, connecting you to the Light, and thus, to happiness.
7. Choose a New Response
We all have our inherent go-to emotional responses, such as anger, depression or anxiety, which were formed in childhood and have become habit. Now we have a choice to respond differently. When a situation comes up, instead of immediately reacting and going to the place of negative emotion, we can choose to pause and allow the truth to come in – the truth that nothing outside of us can make us feel a certain way.
Challenges or obstacles will always arise in life, but it is our perspective which makes them better or worse. We will never connect to continual happiness if we are always choosing a negative perception. We can choose to accept challenges as beyond our control or we can accept them as an opportunity to grow and change.
8. Happiness is Contagious
Nicholas Christakis of Harvard University did a 20 year study proving that emotions can pass up to three degrees of separation among a network of people. Choosing to surround ourselves with people who are serious about connecting to the Light and who are already living in continual happiness may therefore help us connect with our own happiness as well, just as being around negative people brings us down.
Furthermore, acknowledge that your unhappiness affects other people negatively and make a concerted effort to be happy so that you can be a positive force for Light and joy in others’ lives.
9. Stop Complaining
How many times a day do you catch yourself complaining either in thought or speech? Each time we complain, we keep ourselves disconnected from joy. To complain means we do not accept what is and we make ourselves victims, which keeps us from experiencing consistent joy.
Next time you catch yourself complaining, you have three choices: remove yourself from the situation, change whatever you can about the situation (even if it is changing your perspective of the situation) or accept it.
On a physical level, simple acts of sharing boost our immune system, relieve pain, and even make our hearts stronger. On a spiritual level, acts of sharing expand our vessel to create more room for the Light to come in, which in turn connects us to happiness. In Kabbalah, we call this type of sharing transformative sharing, where we share with those whom we don’t want to, when we don’t want to, and in ways that are uncomfortable.
Kabbalah teaches that nothing will make us feel good in the long run if we are not going outside of ourselves to help others. When you feel unhappy or negative emotions, practice random acts of kindness.
Since we are all connected to each other, there is no difference between being kind to others and being kind to ourselves. The most effective way to connect to our own happiness is often not to pursue it directly, but rather to help free other people from fear and pain, and to contribute to their happiness.