Recipe for Happiness
The recipe for happiness is fairly easy, and one that even those who are not good in the kitchen can put together and still achieve some great results.
Simply begin with one large scoop of love for yourself, add in a good measure of acceptance and goodwill, then sprinkle generously with equanimity. Combine all the ingredients and place in your heart until all the ingredients have been completely absorbed, then allow to permanently rest in each breath.
I find happiness to actually be a very dangerous word, a moving target that changes from minute to minute. While in this moment, some additional income may seem to be what you would perceive as happiness, in the next moment your health or the health of a loved one can make all the money in the world seem completely irrelevant. This is not to say that it's bad to be happy, only that "happy" is a most transitory adjective. And so long as we can experience happiness without clinging to it we can greatly reduce any associated suffering. The saying "happy with, happy without" comes to mind. Conveying the ideology that mental states of happy and sad hold no significant difference when observed with impartiality (samānattatā).
Being impartial is fundamental to maintaining a state of joy, a more accurate way to describe this balanced view of happiness. The Pali word mudita conveys an even better perspective on this way of life. While mudita is often thought of as a meditative practice, on a deeper and more fundamental level it lays out the prescription, or recipe, for living a joyful and peaceful life. It is based not in some temporary state of excitement or happiness, but with a core shift in our minds as to how we understand enduring tranquility. Our joy is something that is shared, and does not belong to us individually or personally, but in partnership with all living beings and hence all living things. An understanding of the beauty of impermanence begins to unveil itself, and we become grateful for the coming and going of all things including the temporary states of happy or sad.
While many people have the misconception of Buddhism as being based on suffering, it is actually the clearer understanding of suffering that gives rise to a great expanse of friendliness, compassion, and yes even a great deal of joy that is available to each of us every day.
Just look around at your family and friends, and observe the positive things that are happening in their lives—babies being born, birthday celebrations, new jobs, new homes—abundant health and wellness is all around us. These are all ours to share and revel in. Without any selfishness or possession, these are reasons for each of to smile.
If any of us are to live healthy, happy, and fruitful lives, then we have to have a recipe for success—one which is not dependent on anyone else and not subject to the winds of change. Family, friends, money, and health will all come and go. But equanimity, with impartiality and gratitude, allow us to live in joy each and every moment. It's available always, and it's clearly a recipe for success. The key is an awareness of yourself and everything around you. And by pausing just for a moment, any of us can usually bring ourselves back to that connectedness with all things—opening our ears to hear the birds singing, looking out the window to see the gentle rain gracing the earth, observing the billions of stars in the sky as they reside comfortably alongside the brilliance of the moon, or watching the children playing in the street, riding their bicycles and laughing for no reason. Or just listen softly to your heart and feel the tender love of your dear ones who are with us now or have passed.
The entire recipe for happiness is predicated on not just any breath, but this very breath that we all are taking at this very moment—present, alive, and joyful, filled with all that life has to offer.
Don't ever be fooled into thinking the last one or the next one holds more for you, this is the one that matters. There is nothing to hold you back from putting a huge smile on your face right now. So go ahead, walk outside and share it with the world. You have the recipe, now get out there and pass it on!
David "Nissarana" Schmidt has worked in retail sales and corporate management and now runs his own online guitar business. Born and raised Roman Catholic, Schmidt left those roots to experiment with a religion of his own creation before becoming a Christian and then journeying into several Eastern philosophies including Sufism, Taoism, and Buddhism. He has published in his local temple's newsletter, and studies under Bhante Sujatha, recently named Chief Sangha Nayaka (Patron) of North America. David blogs at Well Happy Peaceful, a blog intended to share what he continues to learn as a student of the dhamma.