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Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Happiness Prescription


Taken from Deepak Chopra:

Today we’re going to discuss the secrets of happiness...I want to begin with a story:
[There was something very interesting going on when I was training in medicine.
We were beginning to study the molecules of emotion.
We could see the interface between what was happening in our minds and what was happening in our bodies.
 We found that there are certain chemicals (molecules of emotion);
and wherever a thought goes, a molecule follows.
Your thoughts affect your biology.
When I was examining patients, I would ask them simple questions:
"Why do you want to get better?" –"because I want to go back to my job." (their answer) 
"Why do you want to return to your job?" –"so I can make an income." 
"Why do you want to make an income?" –"so I can send my children to school." or "I want to buy a house." 
And this questioning of why went on until their answers came down to this:
"I want happiness." ...All we want is happiness.

 I had an insight: the ultimate goal of all goals is a spiritual goal.
If you keep asking people why, they’ll end up with wanting peace, laughter, harmony, love, happiness, etc.
 These are spiritual goals.

But then you ask yourself, what is happiness? Can we define it?
Yes, we can.
It is a subjective state of well-being,
A subjective state of ease,
 A subjective state of joy,
of effortlessness, spontaneity;
youre in the flow; things happen as their supposed to, etc.
If youre religious, you'd say “god is on my side.”
If youre spiritual, you'd say "I was in a state of grace."
If youre into coincidences, you'd say "I happened to be at the right place right time."
 Its good luck.
They all mean the same thing:
you are in tune with the elements and forces of the universe, of which you are an expression. 

Another thing I realized about my patients is that they think if they're healthy, they’ll be happy.
If they have money, they'll be happy.
It's actually the other way around:
If you're happy, you'll be healthy.
If you're happy you'll have better relationships.
If you're happy, you'll be successful, and more abundant in your living.
We are turning it around in our minds.
You don’t have to have this to be happy. You have to be happy to have this.
In many spiritual traditions they say this exact thing:
In the new testament, it says to seek the Kingdom of Heaven first,
then everything else will come to you.

So you ask, how can I achieve that kind of happiness?
We looked at the various things that make people happy.
We discovered that the happiest people are actually in Puerto Rico and Mexico.
The United States is very unhappy overall.
Russia had the lowest happiness rating.
Also, 39-40% of the people on the Forbes 500 list are less happy than the average person on the street.
However, people in poverty aren't happy either.

There has been fascinating research in the field of happiness by scientists:
In 1998, the American Psychology Association started a branch of psychology known as
“Positive Psychology.”
They have found that happier people are generally healthier people. 

Well-being is the number one trend in our civilization.
Think about the business world:
All business owners have to consider the well-being of various things like our environment, community, ourselves, themselves, the economy, etc.
That's the reason why new businesses and ideas emerge; for the well-being of us and others.

We really need to start paying more attention to our Mother Earth,
and getting rid of war, through our collective joy.
Through happiness, we can transform the world.
The world is as we are.
We have to be the change we want to see in the world.
If you want to see a happier world, be happy and make other people happy. 

The scientists came up with a formula for happiness:
They say that happiness depends on three things: 

Our biological/brain set point for happiness, what determines our behavior and perception:
(some people look at a situation and see a problem, others see an opportunity) 

This is genetically determined; however, you can do a few things to counter-act this:

 (OPTION 1): Take drugs that alter the molecules of emotion (serotonin, etc.) in your brain (like SSRIs). They change the chemistry in your brain and they make you happy, but they have side effects, and eventually stop working. A lot of people take drugs to feel happy. However, it's not the right way to go. It's just a temporary fix.

(OPTION 2): Meditation: this will cause your prefrontal cortex to be activated. From here, other chemicals will get turned on in the brain (like serotonin, opiates, etc.).
Together, these chemicals synchronistically orchestrate a dance.
This is the dance of your soul.
For example, when you feel the intoxication of love:
Chemical messengers are released into the brain which make you feel happy and other positive emotions.
Through meditation, you can chemically alter your setpoint for happiness.

(OPTION 3): Cognitive therapy: This is when you get rid of a false belief that was making you depressed. It is attaching to an idea that is false, and holding it to be true.
Cognitive therapists shift your perception so you can get rid of the false belief that was holding you down.
This is very effective.

{BUDDHA experienced nirvana, an indescribable happiness.
You too will find nirvana when you change your perception of who you are.
I mention Buddha because I consider him the original cognitive therapist.}

Your life situation:
Are you in a big house?, Did you win the lottery today?, etc..
Scientists have found that this is actually NOT a major determinant of our happiness.
If you win the lottery, you'd be excstatic for a few months,
 but in a year or two, youll be exactly as happy or unhappy as you were before you won.
The same is true for tragic events:
you lose a loved first you'll be very upset, but after a year or two, you'll be right back where you started for the most part.
 Its remarkable how our biology, minds, and psychologies adapt to major occurrences.
This component is responsible for roughly 8-15% of our happiness quotient. 

Voluntary Actions:
The choices we make.
These choices could be giving us pleasure, gratification, or fulfillment.
Pleasure could be chocolate ice cream, a glass of wine, chicken wings, sex, etc.
These pleasures, while they give you immediate gratification, only last a few hours.
Therefore, although pleasure contributes to your happiness, it is transient. (not permanent)

Fulfillment actually makes us very happy.
It's when we feel like we have accomplished something:
making a difference in the world; expressing our creativity.
Every time we feel intuition, insight, or express our imagination;
 when we feel inspired, when we make very conscious choices that are fulfilling to others, this brings great happiness.
The best way to be fulfilled is when we make other people happy;
 if you want to be really happy, you must make someone else really happy.
That is the golden rule, in all spiritual traditions.
You want to be happy? Make someone else happy.
You want respect? Treat others with it.
 This is the most important part to our happiness.
This deeper fulfillment comes from recognizing that we are part of a wholeness.
We are part of the whole universe.
Inseparably one with all that exist.
We are all contained in one mind and one consciousness.
If you're religious, you might say we are all contained in the mind of god. 

But as human beings we realize, even if we had all the above,
 it wouldn’t give us the complete happiness we strive for.

Buddha was known for articulating the 4 noble truths:
[this is actually what every doctor does when examining patients:] 

What's the diagnosis? 

What are the causes?

What's the outlook? 

Whats the prescription? 

Human beings go through the experience of suffering.
Life is not all suffering (it is also joyous, and many other things);
However, human life contains suffering within it.

There are several causes for suffering:
not knowing the true nature of reality,
not knowing the true nature of yourself,
grasping and clinging to that which is impermanent,
being afraid of that which is impermanent,
identifying with a socially induced hallucination,
a false sense of identity (also known as a “skin encapsulated ego”)
and finally, the fear of death. (because we all know we are going to die.) 

All these causes are really contained in the first cause:
we do not know our true nature, or the nature of reality.
In order to know it, we must have a shift in consciousness.
 Consciousness is awareness.
We are conscious sentient beings who are aware;
The more expanded our consciousness is, the more aware we are,
and the more likely we are to get in touch with reality.
Consciousness is at the basis of everything:
How we think, behave, feel, even the way our biology works.
Consciousness is the root of our being.
We are human BEINGS, not human thinkings.
Our essential state of being is consciousness. 

If we have a shift in our perception of who we are, then everything changes.

One of the most important things to know about consciousness is that it’s a field.
We are part of this field.
Consciousness is a universal field.
Our individual consciousness is a part of this field, so it is affected by the universal consciousness.
In turn, the universal consciousness is affected by our individual field.

It is interesting to note the differences between us and animals:
 they live in the moment; we live in imagination. 
This has both huge advantages and disadvantages: 
(The worst disadvantage being existential suffering.)
This is a very important difference: we have the capacity for imagination.
Imagination allows us to step out of the present moment, 
to step out of what is really happening, what we call reality, 
and start living in a world that’s not happening.

Here is another interesting story: 
A philosopher goes to India to study.
He comes across a holy man who seems very unhappy.
The philosopher approaches him and asks him if he's happy. 
The holy man says he is not, so the philosopher asks why. 
He answers, that he has practiced spiritual technologies for 40-50 years, and is still unsatisfied. 
He is wanting to know where thoughts come from and if theres any meaning to our lives...
are we just randomly mutated species in the universe? A spec of dust in a mindless void?
Did we just randomly mutate into beings out of a junkyard of infinity? 
Do we have a soul? Does god exist? Does god care about us? 

No other species ask these questions, but we do.
When were confronted with these dilemmas but no answers, we are unhappy; 
we experience existential suffering.
Or are we special, do we have a role to play, for our species, and for life on earth? 
These are questions that we have, and the holy man had these questions as well.

Of course, the philosopher could not help him, so he went on his way.
 Later on, he came across a fisherwoman who was incredibly happy. 
She was singing, dancing, laughing, etc. 
he went up to her and asked, 
“do you know where thought comes from?” ... she replied, "WHAT?"
 “do you experience existential suffering?” -"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?!
"do you know if you have a soul?" -"Leave me alone. I'm the happiest person in this world. Im having the time of my life, I'm playing with my children and grandchildren...I don’t have the time for these questions."

So the philosopher goes back to the holy man and says, “you should be ashamed of spend 40- 50 years pondering these questions...this woman has not given a thought to those questions, and shes the happiest person in the world!
And the holy man answered:  “I do not want that happiness.”

So there comes a distinction:
We can have happiness in ignorance, or happiness in enlightenment. 
Animals live in a state of ignorant happiness. 

[You come home to your dog, and he's incredibly happy to see you...
you leave for 15 minutes, and when you return, he's EQUALLY happy to see you!]

 Most of us live our entire lives in ignorant happiness. 
We are like bundles of conditioned reflexes that are being turned on and off by every stranger on the street. Someone says something nice to you, and you're flattered. 
Someone makes a rude comment about you, and it affects you the rest of your life.
We're at the mercy of every stranger on the street.

But existential suffering is worth the price if we start to ask, can we go beyond this suffering? 
Can we find happiness in enlightenment instead of happiness in ignorance?
This was Buddha's journey.

His journey was very interesting…
he was born a prince, Siddhartha Gautama, meaning “one whose wishes will always come true.” 
When he was born, the astrologers predicted that he would either become a great emperor, 
or he would choose a monastic life and become a monk.
Of course, his father did not want him to be a monk. 
He wanted him to become an emperor.
So he asked his advisers what he should do.
His advisors told him to surround him with pleasure and to never let him see any suffering. 
So they surrounded him with pleasure...he had everything life could offer. 
His father even built him a pleasure palace when he became a teenager 
to introduce him to the sexual pleasures of life. 
His father surrounded him with everything you could imagine. 
For a while, the prince was happy, but then through a series of circumstances, 
he happened to go outside the palace walls.

And for the first time in his life, he saw an extremely old, decrepid man…
and  he asked his best friend, the stable boy, "what is that?" 
..the stable boy answers, "that is an old, decrepid man."
..and Buddha asks, "does that happen to everyone?"
...the stable boy replies, "yes, if you live long enough."

The next day, they saw a man with extreme infirmity and disease…
Buddha asked the same questions..."what is that?"
"a man with extreme infirmity and disease."
and "will it happen to me?"
...the stable boy replied, " could."

The third day, they saw a funeral precession. 
Buddha had never seen a dead body before… 
he asked, "what is that?"
 "A dead man." replied the stable boy.
 "Does that happen to everyone?"
" ..yes, that CERTAINLY happens to everyone."
"…will it happen to me?"
 "Yes, it certainly will…"

So we are the only creature that is knowledgable about our death. 
We fear death.  
We know that the prince of death is stalking us. 
If we look behind at any moment, we are that much closer to it.
So, this troubled Buddha very much…
He decided he wanted to explore reality. 
He set out on a journey to explore our consciousness… 
And he discovered that the spirit/awareness/consciousness inside us is the basis of all reality. 
That consciousness creates our reality.

So, going back to Buddha's four noble truths, we have already covered the diagnosis and causes. 
Below are the outlook and prescription:

Is the patient going to survive?...answer: Yes.

The 8-fold path to enlightenment,
Which is not to be looked at as a behavioral code,
 but rather as the spontaneous unfolding of a path 
that appears before us as we expand consciousness in the direction of enlightenment
…sometimes referred to as "the way.” (the way to happiness).

Change your perception,
 to have what he called 'right view.' 
You cannot have right view unless you're defenseless, 
you're non judgemental; 
you can see things contextually;
 in relationship to one another;
without a win-lose orientation. 
We have to start giving up being right all the time;
 If you want to see things, you have to see them from different perspectives…

On one level, a flower is just a flower. But on another level,
 it is rainbows, and sunshine, and earth, and water, and wind, and air, and the infinite void,
 and the whole history of the universe pretending to be a flower in this moment…

From this, he concluded that theres no such thing as separation. 
Everything is connected to everything else. 
We are all a conspiracy of the total universe. 
The first thing you have to do is question your perception.

Question your thinking. 
There are two kinds of thinking: 
one that comes from fear and separation, 
and one that comes from love and unity. 
And you have to pay attention to what kind of thinking youre participating in. 
Ask yourself, any time you have a negative thought, is it really true? 
Who would you be if this were not true?
 How would you turn it around and look at the world in a fresh way? 
So his second path was correct thinking.

 Wholistic speech:
Speech can heal, or speech can damage. 
Listening is one of the most important ways to communicate. 
When we listen carefully, and respond without the fight or flight response. 
(fight or flight response occurs because we are wanting to always be right, and always be sure of ourselves)
 …When we actually observe our own selves speaking, we become conscious. 
In that, we make correct choices, which brings us to the next path.

Actions: (Karmically Correct Choices):
Doing the right thing in the right moment without anticipation of a response. 
Understanding that your choices are true when you have the assumption that 
they come from the infinite and return to the infinite.
 That you don’t worry about what youre doing as long as 
you assume that every choice comes from that universal domain of consciousness. 
You do things impeccably, and leave the results to the unknown.

Right Livelihood:
Living by nurturing the ecosystem instead of destroying it.
 We are seeing a resurgence of a wisdom-based economy in our world now. There are many organizations around the globe that are helping contribute 
to this new 'green', eco-friendly, environmentally conscious movement. 
The intention is there.

One-pointed intention, and regular practice.

Look at your own soul and ask yourself, 
Whats my purpose? why am I here? whats my contribution to the world? 
What are my unique skills and talents?
 and how can I help humanity with my unique skills and talents? 
Who are my heros and heronines in history, mythology, and religion? 
What are the best qualities that I express in my relationships? 
What are my dreams for the world? 
What are my aspirations not only for myself but for the world? 

When we ask ourselves these questions, we go into the discontinuity, the space between our thoughts. 
Then, nature blossoms, and fulfulls your desires; nature helps you move to the next stage of evolution.

The highest form of human intelligence is the ability to observe yourself without judging yourself. 
And in that comes a transformation. 
To witness your thoughts, behavior, perceptions, biology, breath, 
and as you begin to witness, you'll realize, you are the silent witness to all that is happening. 
You are the seer, and not the scenery. 

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