The Key To Your Happiness is…”nothing”

Breckenridge | Colorado

If you ask 100 people on the street or even across the world for that matter, what they want out of life you may hear things like “make a lot of money, start a family, buy a house…etc.” If you keep asking questions however you are going to get down the the core of what all of us truly want, and that is to simply be happy.

Regardless of who you survey there is a universal drive for this elusive state called happiness and honestly it appears like very few are actually getting there. It’s a neverending search for this state that slips away from us the moment we feel like we have it nailed down.

Happiness is like a butterfly: the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder. -Thoreau

But, what if.

What if it was not the state of happiness that was elusive, but rather our assumptions on what will actually make us happy in the first place. I would contend that as humans we are exceptionally bad at pinpointing what will actually make us happy over a long period and thus we spend most of our time chasing ghosts. Money, promotions, a spouse, a child, a house, a vacation. All of it, be it material or other may or may NOT make us happy and it all comes back to a concept that the Buddhists call “nothingness”.

Now, there are many interpretations of this concept and I also know it sounds fatalistic, but track with me here.

What this concept is essentially saying is that everything inherently is not one thing or another. Neither good nor bad. It is neutral and has nothingness, meaning it contains within it both the elements of good and bad.

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So how does this play out in our daily lives? Let’s take a look at a few examples.

You Do Not Get A Promotion at Work-

Your initial gut reaction is this is bad right? A promotion means more money, more prestige and more happiness, so this event is bad because it did not lead to that. Now, what nothingness says is that your not getting the promotion is a neutral event and it is merely your viewpoint and ego will shape this event to be either good or bad.

Think about it, what if because you got this promotion you started working more and then started neglecting your family and got a divorce. Would the promotion the still be a good thing. In that case would NOT getting the promotion be a good or bad thing? How about the person who DID get the promotion when you did not? Same event, but good or bad from their eyes? Do you see how it is our personal views of the world and what we choose to believe that are shaping our opinions of good and bad? Another example.

You Are Being Yelled at By Someone-

You think this guy is a real piece of work. Does your thinking that make him a bad person? Do his wife and daughter think he is a bad person? How about his mother? He is looking at the situation as he is trying to save the company because you are putting it at risk with your actions. The board members all see it his way, but your employees see it another and everyone views the same experience with a different lens, but the experience itself is neutral, it has nothingness.

You Win The Lottery-

Good or bad? Sounds good, right?  Now you have money, but how many stories have you heard regarding the windfall of a large sum of money and families coming unglued, lives being ruined, alcohol, drugs and depression. Now that said, it could be a good thing for a time as well, you can help a great many people and feel fulfilled, but the point here is that the event itself is neutral and we shape the reality. One last example.

A Young Man Gets Into a Car Accident-

This young man is now paralyzed from the waist down. Good or bad? Bad right, this young man had his whole life ahead of him and now he is confined to a wheelchair, what a terrible thing to endure, but what if… What if in that wheelchair he discovers the things that truly matter in life and his calling to help poor children who are in a similar situation and has never been happier, would it not then become a good thing? Well, what if he becomes obsessed with helping these children and it makes him ill over time because he is so worried about the kids?

You see every event carries within it all possibilities.

The same way a moment in time carries within itself infinite possibilities. Do you take a step left or right. Do you ever wonder about that? You are standing on a sidewalk and if you take a step right at this moment, you will get hit by a bus.  It’s only a simple twitch of your muscle away at any moment. The same with depression, despair, happiness, elation, joy and gratitude, there are all here and available at any moment, you just have to decide if you are going to take a step left or a step right.

Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. -Thich Nhat Hanh

We get to decide what things mean. In business, in life and even in our personal search for spirituality (or lack thereof). I had a friend text me the other day down because he lost a key employee at work. It interrupted the flow of his growing business and had caused him to delay a trip he had been planning for a long time. Good or bad? He was most certainly taking it as bad when we spoke.

I had a friend text me the other day down because he lost a key employee at work. It interrupted the flow of his growing business and had caused him to delay a trip he had been planning for a long time. Good or bad? He was most certainly taking it as bad when we spoke.

Fast forward 15 minutes later and we began discussing what opportunities it might open up for his business, who else he might be able to hire with enhanced or superior skill sets and how he might be able to use this as a springboard to the next level. I know it all sounds very “silver linings” in this instance, but things become trite typically because there is a lot of truth in them.

Now most people would not say “silver linings” is a Buddhist teaching and I am not suggesting that either, but I am saying it is one-half of the coin and knowing that there is always another side will help you objectively look at situations you come across in your life to not overreact and live more deliberately.

Every day I, like you, have 100+ events that come into my life that I immediately label as good or bad.  And everyday I try to catch a few more of these events before becoming too emotionally charged either way.  I try to remember that this is only my opinion, my lens of life being displayed over a neutral series of events and to not get taken along for the ride, but to rather watch it all unfold in front of me, be grateful just enjoy the ride.

Talk soon,

mat

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