The Art of Being (Happiness, Worrying, Suffering)
In today’s hyper connected world, it’s really difficult to be mindful and connected to the present. It’s hard enough to master “the art of being”, but you add in something as small as a smartphone with ubiquitous wifi or data access, and it becomes virtually impossible. One of the simplest (simple does not mean easy) ways to find joy in your everyday life is by just being.
What is the art of being?
Being means you are completely in the present. You need to focus your mind on what you are hearing or doing right here and right now. How often do you find yourself at home after work and still thinking of things back at the office? Then you go to the office and you’re thinking about the problems at home. You go through the motions of the day without actually experiencing the motions of the day. Your thoughts end up being everywhere except at this specific moment in time.
To “be in the present” you have to focus on two things: the here and the now.
Here: In order for you to be here, you can’t be somewhere else. If you’re somewhere else, you can’t be here. Seems logical right? The problem is that something as simple as a smartphone can disconnect you from the “here” and immediately take your mind to somewhere else. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you must be wise about being present when you need to be. Always be present when communicating with another person (especially with your spouse, and/or kids). Try to eliminate the distractions that prevent you from being fully here. Have designated times where you put your phone away or turn it off so you can focus on being fully present (meals, conversations, work, etc).
Now: When your mind is focusing on the past or concerned with the future, it’s not fully experiencing the present.
The art of being is about learning to be wherever you are. It’s about focusing your mind on the present moment and trying to “experience” the motions as you go through them. Being in the present isn’t something you do…it’s something you experience.
“The word ‘person’ comes from the latin word ‘persona’ which referred to the masks worn by actors in which sound would come through. The ‘person’ is the mask—the role you’re playing. And all of your friends and relations and teachers are busy telling you who you are and what your role in life is.”
– Alan Watts
“If you say making money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living. That is, to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid. Better to have a short life, which is full of what you like doing, than a long one spent in a miserable way.”
“When you are not getting in the way of yourself, you will begin to find out that all the great things you do are really happenings. All growth is something that happens. For growth to happen two things are important. You must have the technical ability to express what happens. And secondly, you must get out of your own way.”
We have all gone through some obstacles at a certain point of our lives in the name of survival. We often tend to deny them as they are difficult to deal with. However, as difficult as they are to bear, it is imperative if we want to live a fulfilling life.
According to Buddhism, happiness is based on embracing and accepting the negative aspects of life. Denying them turns a blind eye to real life and makes us resist the natural forces of the universe. This article focuses on 5 truths about the life we would all benefit from knowing!
1. Worrying is useless
Worrying is something that doesn’t help with any problems in our lives. It is a waste of time as it cannot change what is going to happen whatsoever. As Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh puts it, you need to remain in the present without thinking about the “future conditions of happiness” and putting labels on them.
“Worrying does not accomplish anything. Even if you worry twenty times more, it will not change the situation of the world. In fact, your anxiety will only make things worse. Even though things are not as we would like, we can still be content, knowing we are trying our best and will continue to do so. If we don’t know how to breathe, smile, and live every moment of our life deeply, we will never be able to help anyone. I am happy in the present moment. I do not ask for anything else. I do not expect any additional happiness or conditions that will bring about more happiness. The most important practice is aimlessness, not running after things, not grasping,” he explains.
2. If we want to be happy, we must see reality for what it is
According to Buddhist philosophy, we must see reality for what it is. We need to be open minded and open to the truth, instead of focusing on our own unrealistic opinions. Many people choose to remain positive by avoiding negative situations, but what we need to do is to confront them. According to Buddhist master Pema Chödrön,
“We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs – or we don’t. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha’s opinion, to train in staying open and curious – to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs – is the best use of our human lives.”
3. We need to accept change actively
Everything changes, no matter which aspect you look at in life. Embracing these changes gives us the energy and liberation we need to create a fulfilling life. As Buddhist Buddhist Daisaku Ikeda says, accepting and embracing change helps us create positive changes in life.
“Buddhism holds that everything is in constant flux. Thus the question is whether we are to accept change passively and be swept away by it or whether we are to take the lead and create positive changes on our own initiative. While conservatism and self-protection might be likened to winter, night, and death, the spirit of pioneering and attempting to realize ideals evokes images of spring, morning, and birth,” he explains.
4. The root of suffering is pursuing temporary feeling
Most people crave feelings of happiness, such as joy, euphoria, and excitement. However, these feelings are temporary and the pursuit of them turns into suffering. True happiness comes from inner peace and it is based on a feeling of being satisfied and happy with your true self. Yuval Noah Harari explains that people can stop suffering only when they understand the impermanent nature of their feelings and stop craving them.
5. Meditation is the path to reducing suffering
Meditation teaches us that the present is all that exists and that everything is transient. As Yuval Noah Harari puts it,
“This is the aim of Buddhist meditation practices. In meditation, you are supposed to closely observe your mind and body, witness the ceaseless arising and passing of all your feelings, and realize how pointless it is to pursue them. When the pursuit stops, the mind becomes very relaxed, clear and satisfied. All kinds of feelings go on arising and passing – joy, anger, boredom, lust – but once you stop craving particular feelings, you can just accept them for what they are. You live in the present moment instead of fantasizing about what might have been. The resulting Serenity is so profound that those who spend their lives in the frenzied pursuit of pleasant feelings can hardly imagine it.”