“As human beings we all want to be happy and free from misery… we have learned that the key to happiness is inner peace. The greatest obstacles to inner peace are disturbing emotions such as anger, attachment, fear and suspicion, while love and compassion and a sense of universal responsibility are the sources of peace and happiness.” – Dalai Lama
There are times when no matter how hard I try to be happy I just can’t shake that feeling of discontent. Are you ever like that? You try to do everything right, living a well-balanced and holistic life, but still feel like something is missing? Ironically, this is the exact reason we aren’t happy and peaceful! Happiness is like sleep, the more we try to force it happen the more elusive it becomes. Sure there are certain things we can do to be more content in life, but when it comes down to it, we don’t need to change anything to live a life of emotional freedom and happiness. We just have to allow it to happen. We have to get out of our head and into the momentary experience of life. Living a life of freedom and happiness starts on the inside when we drop our ego and personal expectations about how things “should” be. There are two main disciplines to follow in order to live a life of emotional freedom and happiness. 1) Living in the present 2) Killing your “Self.”
Live in the present
Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present. – Bil Keane
If you haven’t noticed yet, when you’re not content and peaceful, you’re not in the present moment. We can be in the midst of the most amazing experience in life and still be full of stress and disappointment. This is because your thoughts are either wandering off to the uncertain future or fixated on the unfortunate past. Let’s take a mundane example like working a 9 – 5 job. What are you focused on when Sunday night rolls around? You are probably fully focused on the week to come, the schedule you have to meet, or the person you really don’t want to have that appointment with. You aren’t in the moment on Sunday night, and therefore aren’t experiencing the joy and freedom available to you. When our mind is focused on the past or future we are not able to fully access the joy of our current experience. We aren’t at our best. We aren’t engage in life.
How to live in the present
Get out of your head and become aware of the world around you. When you are stuck in thinking traps, catch yourself and acknowledge that it is just a thought. As Michael Neill points out in his new book The Inside Out Revolution, out natural state is one of clarity and well-being. When we are out of this state we are caught up in our own story, we are stuck in the drama in our head. Instead of getting caught up in thinking use your five senses to keep you grounded. Turn your attention to the sights, sounds, physical sensations, smells, and tastes in the environment around you. Notice the extraordinary in the ordinary. Really recognize the beauty around you. Really taste your food. For one day, just slow down and be willing to do nothing. Experience what’s it’s like to be present.
Kill your “Self”
Our ego gets in the way of everything. When it’s all about “me,” life is really stressful. We personalize the fact that the economy is bad or that someone having a bad day was rude to us. Life doesn’t happen “to us,” but so many people take bad things personally. We say, “Why is this happening to ME!” instead of realizing that nothing is happening to us. We really aren’t that special. Things just happen, they happen around us and we can respond accordingly. That is why people have different feelings about similar situations. It is not what is happening as much is how we perceive what is happening. When we take it personally it becomes a threat and negative emotions arise. If we let go of the ego and stop making ourselves the center of the world, the more happy we will become. This concept is referred to as “no self” in Buddhism, and it allows us to let go of the emotional baggage and attachments we cling to.
How can you kill your “self?”
- Focus on serving others
- Do something kind for a stranger
- Find joy in another’s good fortune
- Get involved in other people’s lives
- Try to understand someone who is different
- Say thank you and be grateful
- Truely listen to someone
- Connect to nature
- Pray and meditate
“If you want to reach a state of bliss, then go beyond your ego and the internal dialogue. Make a decision to relinquish the need to control, the need to be approved, and the need to judge. Those are the three things the ego is doing all the time. It’s very important to be aware of them every time they come up.” – Deepak Chopra
I have written a lot on happiness and well-being in the past, and continue to utilize the techniques and strategies presented by the field of positive psychology. But, on a much deeper level I’m realizing that experiencing happiness and emotional freedom comes down to the disciplines of present moment awareness and “no self”. Begin your journey with these disciplines today. This is where true bliss lies.