What is Happiness?

by | Feb 4, 2020

There is a deep connection between the nature of the mind and the nature of happiness. Mind, by definition, oscillates between the past and the future, so where is the experience of happiness? We know that happiness exists—it is something that we experience all the time. Happiness exists because of this oscillation; it doesn’t even arise from being in the present moment. Let me share an example to help you understand the source of happiness.

Let’s say you wake up in the morning, and there’s a cup of coffee on the table that either your wife has prepared, or your husband has prepared (if you are a lucky woman)! You drink the coffee and realize that it’s cooler than normal. You like your coffee hot, but this time it’s just warm. There is a response to that experience: You are a little agitated, and you express that emotion. You say, “This coffee isn’t hot, and I like coffee to be hot!” The next day there is another cup of coffee and this time you are expecting the coffee to be warm because of the previous day’s experience. This time when you taste the coffee, it’s the perfect temperature. Now there is a moment of happiness.

In this whole episode, where is happiness? Is it in the coffee? The coffee maker? The cup? Is it in your mouth? Where is this experience of happiness? Happiness is a very simple phenomenon. In this example, happiness is neither in the cup, the taste, nor the person who prepared the coffee; happiness is simply hidden in your expectations. In fact, happiness is nothing but another face of expectation. The first time you drank the cup of coffee, there was already an expectation that it would be hot. When it turned out to be cold, the response was unhappiness. What caused unhappiness? It was not the coffee, but your expectation of how the coffee should be.

Throughout the day, this plays along in every experience. Unconsciously, we have picked up expectations about who we are, about the nature of people around us, about our social interactions, and society. These expectations have become a part of our daily living, so when the events that support those expectations are happening, you are happy; if not, then you are unhappy. Happiness is a very simple, moment-to-moment response to expectations.

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