Asking how happy we are, or wish to be, is an important question seeing that we spend much of life seeking happiness. Are you as happy as you would be if…? could be if…? should be if…?
The answers to these questions hinge on what you think will do the trick. This suggests why chapter 71 warns us… Not to know yet to think that one knows will lead to difficulty. The difficulty we have finding happiness stems from how easy it is to imagine circumstances that may possibly make us even happier. The promise of winning happiness keeps hope alive, similar to the gambler who keeps putting good money after bad.
Ironically, the act of giving is the only way to feel happier. Chapter 81 notes this principle, Having bestowed all he has on others, he has yet more; Having given all he has to others, he is richer still. Christ alludes to this paradox, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it”. Not surprisingly, these teachings can feel unattainable when taken too literally… so don’t!
Literally bestowing all one has on others, or losing his life for my sake, upsets the balance of nature. Zealots, blinded by passion, don’t consider such unintended consequences. On the other hand, can reasonable people comply with the spirit of these teachings, yet avoid the inherent imbalance when diligently pursued?
It is as simple and as difficult as letting go of expectations. It takes constant vigilance because emotion (i.e. innate cup’s half-empty fear) continually stirs up thoughts and expectations. The moment you start believing what you think, the thinking easily drags you off to the land of would if…? could if…? should if…? Note: Mother Nature induces us to feel life’s cup half-empty much more than the reverse. The fear of half-empty drives life to fill in order to survive and feel happy, at least for the moment. Conversely, a more enduring happiness is not determined by what you want or have in life, but rather by giving appreciation for what you have in life. Chapter 46 echoes this, Therefore, in being contented with one’s lot, enough is usually enough indeed.
Contented appreciation is not instinctive
Biology (bio-hoodwink) fools us constantly. Our innate hunter-gatherer instinct tells us that good things lie ahead, just beyond the next bush. In ancestral times, this is how we found our next meal and appreciated it until hunger returned. Circumstances have changed, but the instinct remains as strong as ever! “Bite the bullet” and accept the fact that nature is fooling us with an illusion that enduring happiness lies just ‘over there’. It isn’t, and so the less we look ‘over there’, the more we may find it ‘right here and now’. Because a ‘cup half-full’ sense (appreciation) isn’t instinctive, constant reflection is necessary.
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