When happiness is conditional, we are happy when we are having pleasurable experiences or the satisfaction of having things go our way. Conditional happiness is dependent on factors external to ourselves.
Authentic happiness, on the other hand, is not dependent on anything outside of ourselves. It is the simple joy of being, the happiness from within that we see in young children. It is the joy that is uncaused and spontaneously bubbles up from inside for no particular reason.
Conditional happiness is characterised by the belief that: "I will be happy when _________________ (fill in the blank) happens."
Always waiting for external events to be a certain way, we live in a state of 'becoming' happy, rather than being happy here and now , whatever the circumstances.
When happiness is conditional, it is seen as a goal to be attained rather than a simple expression of who we are. Children (and more conscious adults) are happy for no reason. Authentic happiness is no more than an expression of our true nature.
When we forget who we really are, something strange happens.
We begin to look for happiness outside of ourselves
In the pursuit of happiness, we attempt to control and manipulate situations and people in order to create what we believe are favourable circumstances for happiness to flourish.
We get caught up in the endless dance of chasing after pleasurable experiences and resisting or pushing away those that are uncomfortable.
You may be familiar with the saying: "what you resist persists? Unhappiness caused by "undesirable" experiences does not come so much from the experiences themselves but from our resistance to them.
We suffer to the extent that we resist what IS
Suffering is life's way of teaching us the wisdom of surrender - teaching us to drop our resistance to the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Many people, myself included, have discovered (or more accurately, uncovered) authentic happiness through experiencing difficult or challenging circumstances and thereby reaching a place where the futility of resistance is deeply realised. If there is one secret to happiness, it is to practice non-resistance, or allowing what is to be as it is.
Regardless of how it may seem, the very same authentic happiness which is present in the child, the happiness from within, is also present in the adult, undiminished in any way. Our essential nature cannot change ...but it can certainly SEEM that way.
"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." - Matthew 18:3
Here is an analogy:
Picture e a 500-Watt light bulb shining brightly. Imagine if you were to put a cloth over the bulb, then another cloth and then another and so forth.
As each additional cloth is added, the light from the bulb APPEARS to become dimmer and dimmer, from a surface perspective. Underneath the cloths however, the bulb continues to shine as brightly as ever. The dimming of the bulb is only an APPEARANCE created by the presence of the cloths.
Being free of a conditioned self-image with all its associated ideas, beliefs and concepts (cloths) of what happiness is and what it SHOULD look like, children are closer to the natural state than most adults.
The light of their inner Being has not yet been covered up by complex layers of programming. Even concepts such as happiness or unhappiness are absent. We cannot know unhappiness unless the concept first exists.
Authentic happiness is simply that which remains in you remove all our ideas about who we are and how our lives SHOULD be. It is not something to be found, rather something to be uncovered. That which we seek is already there within us, seeking us. Happiness is an inside job.
The following are some of the main blocks to experiencing happiness now.
The average adult has around 100,000 thoughts per day. Preoccupied with past and future, our busy minds continually pull us out of the awareness of the present moment (see happy here and now).
True happiness can only be experienced right here, right now. Through learning to become more present, we access a deeper level of our being, from which our natural joy springs.
Take some time regularly throughout the day to STOP and be aware of Now. (see mindful meditation)
Allow yourself to simply feel the subtle "I Am" presence which is always present beneath the noise of the mind. Be still and feel the subtle life force inside your body. Be aware of the underlying space that never changes. (see how to stop thinking)
Self-Image vs Unconditioned Self
Children experience the joy of Beingness because their perception is undistorted by the myriad beliefs, ideas and concepts of who they are and what a happy life should look like.
Experiences are not labelled as good/bad, right/wrong, desirable/undesirable. They simply are what they are. When we identify with ourselves as being an unhappy person or not being good enough ...or when the picture in our head of what happiness SHOULD look like doesn't match up to the reality of what we see, it is easy to conclude that we can't be happy with things as they are.
Authentic happiness naturally arises when we challenge the false beliefs we hold about ourselves and learn to accept ourselves as we are. We don't need self-improvement to be happy, only self-acceptance. (see Finding Inner Peace)
Resisting Our Experience
One of the greatest lessons I have learned regarding happiness is to learn to say YES to everything life brings - to adopt an attitude of welcoming everything.
Fighting against Life pollutes our inner space and causes us no end of trouble. The next time you find yourself resisting something you cannot change, Stop, take a deep breath and make the conscious choice to allow it to be OK. If you are unable to accept it, allow your inability to accept it to be OK too. Either that, or simply choose to put your attention on the present moment.
In my ebook "Kick The Thinking Habit" - How To Make Peace With A Busy Mind", I go into each of these topics, and much more, in detail.
All unhappiness ultimately stems from our identification with thinking.
Our thoughts, feelings and emotions are all events that come and go within a field of awareness which is constant and unchanging. This field is the ground of our authentic happiness.
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