By Ayesha Chopra July 2011 Being gloriously joyful is invariably a matter of choice. It is ours to have, where we are, to who we are, and in this very moment. Happiness is a matter of choice!” Fifteen years ago, I would have dismissed this claim as mere platitude. But now, after having struggled and successfully come out of years of depression and unhappiness, I feel qualified enough to assert that if I can make it, so can you and anyone else who is seeking inner peace and happiness. I now have sufficient reason to believe that happiness is not the prerogative of a few enlightened souls. It is available to all who are willing to make that choice. Granted, when we are grappling with life’s struggles and hardships, happiness can certainly feel like an elusive quality. It took me personally almost a lifetime of struggle with intense emotional disturbances to realise that real happiness is a self-existent, unconditional state. It doesn’t depend on external conditions or extrinsic factors but is an internal state of peace and calmness, harmony and intrinsic well-being. It lies at the very core of our being, available to each one of us but lost perhaps under layers of negativity – of violence, anger, hatred, greed and fear. What a liberating discovery it is to find that happiness could really be just a simple matter of choice! I hasten to explain that choosing to be happy doesn’t mean that we never feel sad or pained, or struggle with difficult emotions, or face conflicts from time to time. Nor does it mean that we deny or suppress painful emotions. Being human we are bound to feel all the emotions from time to time, both positive and negative. Indeed, we are enriched by the range and depth of our emotional realm. In our world of opposites where there are negative influences of violence, hatred and anger, there are also the positive aspects of love, compassion and generosity. Each of us is capable of choosing and manifesting both in our personal reality. Ayesha Chopra: Choosing happiness consciously Choosing wisely Happiness is a matter of choosing the positive over the negative. It is a matter of consciously choosing peace over violence, compassion over hatred, forgiveness over anger, generosity over greed and faith over fear. Of cultivating a state of mind that remains strong and stable, content and peaceful in the face of fleeting emotions and changing circumstances, much like the deep ocean bed that remains tranquil and undisturbed by the stormy winds blowing on its surface. The beauty of it all is that it is within the reach of each one of us if we so choose. The question one might well ask is: If happiness is a matter of choice why would anyone choose to be unhappy? First of all, because we don’t know any better! I certainly didn’t. For years I remained miserable and unhappy, blaming fate, shedding helpless tears and questioning why ‘God’ should have piled such misery on me! I truly had no idea of my own power or ability to change my experience. I believed that it was my destiny to suffer and so I just did! Secondly, unbelievable as it may sound, we sometimes don’t want to break a pattern that we are comfortably enmeshed in. When we spend a considerable time nursing a certain feeling it becomes familiar and comfortable. We then resist change. The long years I spent in a depressed state kept me from experiencing the joys of life but it had become a familiar state and therefore hard to let go. Besides, I had invested so much energy holding on to anger and hurt that the pain of it seemed to sustain me and the thought of just giving it up was threatening and unwelcome. What else would I hold on to if I just gave it up? Thirdly, often there is an unconscious emotional payoff in staying unhappy. I had an aunt who seemed to thrive on the attention she got from others when she was unhappy and unwell. She thus cleverly – albeit unconsciously – avoided taking charge of herself and her life. Fourthly, there is the drama that unhappiness creates. For some, a ‘tragic life’ becomes in a perverse way more attractive and exciting than the tranquillity of a happy and peaceful state. And so we create a drama out of an ordinary event, exaggerating the negative and playing down the positive. And finally, it is because we have never really learned how to consciously choose happiness. CARL JUNG‘Even a happy life cannot be withouta measure of darkness, and the wordhappy would lose its meaning if itwere not balanced by sadness. It isfar better take things as they comealong with patience and equanimity.’ Living in a society where discontentment, dissatisfaction and disharmony are more the norm than the exception, we learn all sorts of things to make us ‘successful’ members of society: excelling in studies and sports, gaining social and communication skills, establishing a network of ‘right’ contacts, choosing livelihoods that help us make good money and lead a materially comfortable life. All “useful” things aimed at attaining social and financial independence. What we do not learn is how to be emotionally and psychologically independent and self-reliant. On the contrary, some beliefs and habits we acquire foster dependence and unhappiness instead. For example: The belief that our happiness lies in something external such as a person, a job, a profession, a company, a product, a dwelling, bank balance, jewels, gems, precious metals, etc; something that we can identify with and depend upon as an emotional and psychological anchor. The more we depend on it the more of our own power and strength we compromise. If, for any reason we lose it, we become fearful, helpless, depressed or in some other way restless and unhappy. We then spend a lifetime seeking the lost security in another similar anchor – a person, place or thing that we erroneously but firmly believe can make us happy and content. I stopped seeking an external anchor when I started thinking about the questions I once heard a wise man ask: How can a person who is himself seeking anchor become one to another? How can someone who is himself fearful provide steady support to another? How can something that is essentially transient – that gives joy today and pain tomorrow – become a source of lasting peace and happiness? Happiness regardless! I began to see how the same thing that was a source of joy today could become a source of pain tomorrow. The same person who brought happiness today could cause pain tomorrow. I understood the simple truth that if we depend for our well-being on someone else or something external then our emotions will always be like a yo-yo, up one minute and down the next, depending on how the person behaves or the situation turns out. If they behave as we want them to, we feel good, loving and happy and if they don’t, we become frustrated, angry and unhappy. If things go the way we want we feel good, if not we become sad and depressed. And then we hold on to the emotional burden of anger, resentment, grief, pain and guilt and wonder why we are not at peace! It is like carrying 100 kgs of weight 24/7 on our back and then wondering why our body aches all over! The belief that someone else is responsible for our happiness inevitably creates the habit of blaming others when things don’t go right. In the process of growing up, we observe people blaming others when they are angry or unhappy and we fall right in line. When something undesirable happens we look for someone to assign blame: our parents, our spouse, our friends, our children, our boss, our colleagues, our neighbours, the government, the conditions of our birth, our fate, our kismet – indeed anyone or anything that is available and convenient for us to abdicate our responsibility in the situation. We grumble, complain, sulk, withdraw, hold back favours, feel resentful and carry grudges – all the while frittering away precious energy which could otherwise be spent in resolving the situation and changing the undesirable experience. Not only do we create a distance with the person we blame for our discontent, but we also transfer to them the power over our emotions. The truth is that our emotional and mental state is in our control. Unless we first assume total responsibility for it we are unable to create the peaceful and happy life-experience we desire. Life by its very nature is uncertain and unreliable. There are always ups and downs as it continues its dance. If we seek a steady mind which does not sink into abysmal depression with the ‘downs’ or become euphoric with the ‘highs’ it is up to us to create it. Not blaming others but by taking unconditional responsibility for our own words, thoughts and actions. SHARON SALZBERG‘It doesn’t matter how long we may havebeen stuck in a sense of our limitations.If we go into a darkened room and turnon the light, it doesn’t matter if the roomhas been dark for a day, a week, or tenthousand years – we turn on the light andit is illuminated. Once we control ourcapacity for love and happiness, thelight has been turned on…’ Being open to change My personal process of transformation began when I started to understand certain natural principles, laws and truths that operate in the universe and govern our passage through life. One of the first principles that I could no longer avoid was that there is no such thing as “forever!” A lifelong romantic notion was sadly laid to rest when I finally acknowledged the fact that FOREVER does not exist! Being a diehard romantic encouraged by the books, movies and legends that eternalised love and romance, I deeply wanted to believe that love (as I knew it then) is forever. When life dea
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