5 Insights Into Unconditional Happiness.
We hear so much about unconditional love, but hardly ever do we hear the term unconditional happiness. Can happiness be truly unconditional?
I stumbled upon unconditional happiness most unexpectedly and ironically. Let me tell you what happened.
I was in my early twenties, sitting outside of a hospital’s intensive care unit in India. Inside the ICU, my father was battling for his life. I don’t remember how many days he was there. He was deteriorating, and was going in and out of consciousness. The doctors didn’t have much good news for us. Every day was excruciatingly painful.
So there I was, sitting outside the ICU, thinking all the worrisome thoughts. Suddenly the door of the ICU opened and a nurse asked me if I was his daughter. I nodded yes, fearing the worst. She told me, “He is asking you to come in.” I looked at her with surprise and asked, “Is he conscious?” “Yes,” she said, “just woke up and asked for you.” I went in preparing myself to see him in distress.
Through all the tubes and wires sticking through him, I saw his face. To my surprise, he was happy and smiling warmly. His face radiated a glow of happiness. His eyes twinkled with joy as I came near him.
He asked me if I’d eaten. I said, “Don’t worry about that. How are you?” He smiled broadly and said, “I am good. You need to eat and rest. Go home.” I tried to stop him, saying, “You should not talk.” Through his uninterrupted smile, he said, “I am fine. You go home. Go now!” I couldn’t help but smile as I walked towards the door. I looked back, and he was still looking at me, happily smiling.
Outside the hospital, I hailed an auto rickshaw to start my commute back home through a very busy Pune city. I sat there in the rickshaw worried, thinking, “What if he doesn’t make it?”
After sometime, I felt peace descending on me. My thoughts stopped, and I was suddenly aware of the noises and sights of the busy city around me.
First I started feeling happy, and then very happy for no particular reason. Happy thoughts started to flood my mind. “He is fine. Didn’t you see how happy he was? When was the last time you have seen him that happy?” Truly, I hadn’t seen my father happy in a long time, and never that happy. I sighed a deep sigh and smiled to myself.
The rickshaw stopped in front of my house. As I was paying the driver, I saw my relatives coming towards me with a great deal of worry on their faces. I smiled at them and said, “He is much better now. Don’t worry.”
They stood there staring at me. “Don’t you know?” somebody said, “he passed away. We got a call from the hospital a few minutes back.”
I just froze there. I still had that open happy space in me, and I watched it being pierced with the darkest sorrow. The sorrow quickly bled though the happiness, and soon it was all dark.
After working through the trauma of loss, when things started to feel normal again, I often found myself wondering, “How was he so happy? What was the reason?”
I am certainly glad that my dad was blissful at the time of his death, but the puzzling fact for me was that he had no external conditions to justify the level of happiness he radiated that day.
He was genuinely and unconditionally happy. He demonstrated that there is a way to choose happiness as one’s inner state, no matter how hopeless the external situation is.
Over the years, I have been contemplating this. Here are my insights.
1. True happiness is a state of our being.
Happiness is not pleasure. It is not a thought, it is not a state of mind, it is not even a feeling.
Happiness is what we are in the absence of mental and emotional suffering.
Happiness is that blank paper of our being on which our life story is being continuously written. The story is often written in the dark ink of suffering. Each pause within the story is where we find happiness. Happiness seems fleeting because we do not experience long enough pauses in our otherwise steady stream of suffering.
All pursuits of happiness are pursuits to either end our suffering or to create pauses in our suffering.
2. Suffering has become a psychological fashion.
It is understandable that living in this world will come with some suffering. Some amount of physical and emotional pain is part of the feedback mechanism to help us learn and grow. However, the amount of suffering humans currently feel is disproportionate to what we may call a healthy dose.
We are continuously sad, resentful and hardly ever happy, even when external conditions are fairly good. Why?
Somewhere in our human cultural history, we have started glamorizing suffering. We have our favorite pet peeves to complain about. We show off our identities that were developed through past traumas. We identify with our stories so much so that we hardly have any awareness left to experience the steady stream of happiness underneath it all.
If we can’t find fresh suffering in our stories, we supplement it through emotional dramas in books, TV shows, movies, and news. We literally buy and indulge in doses of suffering.
Suffering has become fashionable.
3. True happiness is either ridiculed or worshiped, but never practiced.
In the continuous pity party of suffering humanity has got going, if you show up happy, it is like walking in naked into a glamorous gala.
People will look down on you and your happiness, even shame you. An unconditionally happy person is often considered childish, insensitive, not having enough intelligence, depth or seriousness, selfish, or mad.
Alternatively, there are people who are unhappy, who seek an external savior. If you run into such seekers with your unconditional happiness, you will be put up on a pedestal for being enlightened, spiritual, or transcendent.
What if both of these perspectives are incomplete? What if happiness is as easy and accessible to all of us just like the air we breathe? What if there is nothing inhuman or superhuman in being blissful?
4. Make your happiness non-negotiable.
Is your happiness fragile? There will always be many reasons we can find to be unhappy. Money problems, work problems, relationship problems, world problems. But there are many more reasons to be happy as well — things that are going well for us and have gone well for us in the past.
The sun still shines, and Earth is still hosting us. If nothing else, is the fact that you are still alive and breathing not worth being happy about? Even a little bit?
Once you have glimpsed a ray of true happiness, let it guide you.
Make being happy non-negotiable. If you cannot retain your happy base state in a situation or around certain people, either work to change the situation or remove yourself from it. Don’t stay unhappy for too long.
Do you feel guilty about being happy when there is so much suffering in the world? You should not.
Our world desperately needs happy people.
The unprecedented rise in depression and mental illness only tells us that we need people who can demonstrate to us, through their day-to-day living, how to be unconditionally happy. We need to be happy to save the world.
5. You cannot make others happy, you can only love them.
Can you be happy when your loved ones are trapped in unhappiness? Are you holding back your happiness as an act of solidarity? It is difficult to watch unhappiness in people you care about. You feel like you want to do something to make them happy. Do what you need to, but don’t hold your happiness a hostage to their unhappiness.
Just like you cannot digest their food, or pump their blood for them, you cannot take responsibility for someone else’s happiness. All you can do is love them.
When you are unconditionally happy, that happiness flows out of you and into others as unconditional love.
So before striving for unconditional love, strive to establish yourself firmly in unconditional happiness.
If you are strongly radiating happiness, then maybe, just maybe, your loved one will slip into happiness too.
My dad gave me the most profound lesson and the most valuable legacy in the last few minutes of his life. What I experienced was unconditional love flowing out of unconditional happiness.
As I integrate this lesson at deeper levels, my level of happiness has increased. It is becoming more and more spontaneous and unconditional, and I maintain it by making it non-negotiable.
Occasional dark phases do arise, but less frequently and with no more total blackouts.
My dear friend, I hope that you too get enough pauses in your story so that you can get in touch with your happiness. If you are already in touch with your happiness, I hope that you give yourself permission to dwell unconditionally in it for a longer period of time. Our world needs it.
Artist, mystic, engineer and techie, Maithilee Samant has been a rebel since birth. She embraces and integrates both her head and her heart. Always curious to observe and understand the world around her, she was drawn to many contemplative and creative adventures. Born in Mumbai, India, first she pursued her keen interest in science and technology. After graduating with a BE in Computer Science with Honors from Pune University, she moved to United States. She had a successful software career in Silicon Valley which spanned two decades. Earlier this year, Maithilee decided to take a totally different turn. She decided to flip her hobby into career and her career into hobby! The artist and mystic in her wants to be expressed fully through art and writing. She still continues to write code, but now as a hobby. Her blog and her paintings are showcased on her website.