“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness”
I have been reading the book; “The Art of Happiness” by the Dalai Lama & Howard Cutler and for this month’s blog I thought I would share some insight into what really makes us happy, according to his holiness.
In this book, the Dalai Lama states that the purpose of life is happiness and the ultimate goal of every individual is a better and happier life. He believes that happiness is determined more by the state of one’s mind than by one’s external conditions, circumstances, or events – at least once one’s basic survival needs are met and that happiness can be achieved through the systematic training of our hearts and minds. The book also explores how to deal with suffering and transforming negative emotions. The book is split into four parts;
- The Purpose of life
- Warmth and Compassion
- Transforming Suffering
- Overcoming Obstacles
The purpose of life
The first section of the book encourages you to identify the sources of happiness in your life and in turn cultivate the factors which create happiness i.e. kindness, compassion and friendships. All the while eliminating the factors that cause suffering or unhappiness i.e. anger, hatred and envy. Training the mind for happiness involves firstly understanding how our emotions & behaviours affect us. We must recognise that negative emotions and behaviours harm us and positive emotions and behaviours benefit us. Then we apply the casual principle which refers to the relationship between emotions and events. We must increase events that cause happiness i.e. events that cause you to be compassionate or kind and decrease events which cause unhappiness i.e. events that cause you to be angry, selfish or envious. All of which can take time and therefore the Dalai Lama recommends that to be most effective you must review your progress daily.
Warmth & Compassion
The second section of the book talks about the importance of human warmth and compassion and how to establish this in your life. It refers to the importance of intimacy and compassion as they have been proven to improve overall human wellbeing. In order to create intimate relationships – he mentions three aspects that you can apply;
- Establish Compassion – by trying to understand the other persons suffering and putting yourself in their shoes or being empathic.
- Respect the other person’s background and views.
- Be honest, open and try to find common ground.
The third section of the book looks at transforming suffering. Here the Dalai Lama gives many ways to transform suffering i.e. accepting suffering as a natural part of life and something that all living creatures have in common. Secondly, he suggests that we confront problems that cause suffering and try to find solutions. Thirdly, be aware of self-created suffering. We can often cause unnecessary suffering by overreacting or taking things too personally. Fourthly, all things change and one must be aware of this and not try to resist it because if you resist change this can cause suffering too. Fifthly, find meaning in suffering as this can help make the suffering seem less overwhelming. Sixthly, dealing with physical pain. Here you have to understand that pain is essential to life as it prevents injuries and is an important learning tool and knowing the pains purpose can help you to manage it. Finally, he speaks about how Buddhism sees suffering. In Buddhism, there are three root causes of suffering; ignorance, craving and hatred.
In the last section of the book the Dalai Lama speaks about overcoming obstacles. Here he is specifically referring to negative emotions and behaviours and the process of change, which is a three-step plan.
Step 1: Education & Learning – understand why you want to change and what are the positive and negatives of this change.
Step 2: Determination & enthusiasm – remind yourself of why you wanted to change and use a long-term view to help create perspective and remind yourself of your own impermanence. All of which will help to motivate you and create a sense of urgency to create the change.
Step 3: Action – here you rely on habituation, consistent effort over time will create habits.
Next, he speaks about dealing with specific negative emotions. In Buddhism, one of the main ways to combat negative emotions is with a corresponding positive emotion i.e. in dealing with anger and hatred you should cultivate patience and tolerance. This can take time i.e. when you feel anger rising within you take some time out to analyse the situation. This is not an easy process and at times you may not be able to stop yourself but it will happen eventually. Secondly, dealing with anxiety and low self-esteem, the corresponding positive emotion here is sincere motivation but the Dalai Lama also gives a simple solution to fear and worry which is asking this simple question -can the problem be solved? If it can be remedied then there is no need to worry about it. Alternatively, if it can’t be solved then there is no point in worrying about it anyway because there is nothing you can do about it. Even after this concept you might find yourself still worrying so just keep reminding yourself of this question – can it be solved?
For anyone that is interested in continuing their journey to a happier life then I recommend picking up a copy of the book, sitting back and slowly observing all that his holiness the Dalai Lama has to say about; The Art of Happiness.
|If you are feeling down for long periods of time over the next few weeks or feel like you are stuck in a rut that you just cannot get out of, it is worth speaking to someone about how you are feeling. Reach out, do not suffer alone & remember…
“It’s Okay not to be Okay & It’s absolutely Okay to ask for help!”
The article is written by Leanne, Newly Qualified Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss how any of the topics mentioned above are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.