Contemplating two ways to chase happiness in our lives

By Lindsay Advocate

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Does the end of summer really mean an end to fun and happiness? File photo.

Naresh James, the author, is the retired executive director of the former Canadian Mental Health Association Kawartha Lakes branch.

The beginning of September means an end of summer fun. Life takes a turn from being unstructured to a structured and a predictable routine. Tourists and cottagers begin to pack their belongings and head towards their so-called daily grind. Does this really mean an end to fun and happiness?

It has taken me 50-plus years to figure out that the pursuit of happiness does not bring happiness. Happiness is not something tangible enough to chase after, or hold onto.

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. Happiness is not an object, but a by-product of many factors working collectively within us such as right thoughts, perceptions, feelings, emotions, attitudes, beliefs, values and actions, such as sharing and caring for others. The impact of external forces matters as well, from the political, economic, technological, and socio-cultural, not to mention our physical environment.

Everyone experiences adversities in life, yet not everyone loses their inner peace and contentment. For example, the death of a loved one may cause grief, but wise ones know that death is a part of life, and that the grief itself will be temporary, or at least in its intensity. The wise ones also capitalize on the grief in terms of self-development.

I have found that there exist two paths to happiness.

The first one is to fulfill our needs, desires, impulses, and to enjoy life with power, prestige, wealth, status, luxuries, sex, drugs, and achievements.

The problem with this path is that needs and desires by themselves are unsatiable. Therefore, no matter how hard we try to fulfill them, new needs always line-up to get fulfilled.

Once we get used to the new gadgets, soon we get bored. Then we look for newer gadgets to bring us happiness. Such happiness is temporary and can cause dependency and addiction.

The market tries to control our needs with new innovations and new promises. Slick advertisements are persuasive. As much as we may feel we are not in control over the manipulation, the fact remains we still have control over ourselves, our decisions and our choices.

The second path includes, practicing the art of managing our mind, preventing it from being distracted by the seductive world. We can control our needs, wants, desires and impulses through a disciplined life, by choosing not to get get attached to worldly objects and by letting go of worldly matters.

The basic idea is that when we need nothing, then nothing can tempt us. Least expectations, least disappointments. Own nothing, lose nothing. Live for others, be content forever. Share peace, live in peace.

This is the path of contemplation, meditation, living mindfully, with compassion, gratitude, and forgiveness. It allows us to focus on those things which bring contentment value. They can bring stable peace and happiness. But it is a narrow path. It demands control over our monkey minds.

I am not suggesting one path over the other. Each path has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Of course, an alternative may be a healthy balance of both the paths, exercising moderation.

As we enter a busy period of life on our calendar, this September gives us the opportunity to reset our lives and contemplate happiness in a potentially new way.

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