How to choose what will make you happy?

Photo by Gabriela Palai on Pexels.com

“Try it! Unless you try it, you will never know the pleasures it will give you!” I hear this repeated regarding a number of decisions we are forced to make by an unconscious society – they force us to ‘try’ educational choices, ‘try’ career options, ‘try’ marriage, ‘try’ drugs, ‘try’ unhappiness.

Indeed, how do we know what makes us happy, before we even commit to an action? How do we know if something will drive us crazy before we commit to it?

Some people jump off a cliff and enjoy bungee jumping. Some step back in aversion (I say aversion, not fear).

People who force you to do things usually judge your happiness by their own. They judge your sadness by their own. They find it difficult to accept and understand that you may be different, that you may have a different life purpose, a different calling in life.

They fail to realize that certain decisions like marriage, drugs or alcohol are life changing, one-way paths to a prison for your soul. They fail to realize that you can have different thoughts from they. They fail to accept you as an individual, for they do not realize themselves as individuals. People who have never completed their own process of individuation and separateness can never see the same in others.

It is not commonalities that bind us to others, but our isolation. The more isolated we feel from our friends, family, peers and society, the more we learn to accept and appreciate our unique differences.

And we come back to our original question: how do we know? Who is telling us we will be unhappy?

We can either learn from our own mistakes or the mistakes of others. Those who listen to external voices and pressures seldom experience bliss. Such foolish people ask questions such as if five people jump off a cliff and die, how do you know you will die too? They encourage you to jump off the cliff too. They encourage you to look at one side of the equation- the joy of jumping and ignore the death imminent below.

Such people lead unconscious, shallow, artificial lives and fail to see the truth in others. They fail to understand that what make our lives are not situations, but how we respond to them. Since they live lives running from the truth, they close their own eyes and encourage you to close your eyes as well.

They see freedom as doing what everyone else is doing, not in trying something new. They see happiness as following others’ paths even if they lead nowhere, for they know no other path.

Thus, we arrive at a few critical questions:

  • If a path is right for everyone, why is everyone not equally happy on that path? (Education choices, marriage, drugs, alcohol, food, living situation)
  • If that path is not right for everyone, why should you not choose another path?
  • Will a new path guarantee that you will be happy? Not really.
  • If so, why choose a different path, when there is no more guarantee of you being happy, compared to the standard path that others have taken?
  • What is different in the sadness you experience on your own path, as compared to the sadness you experience on another’s path (that you were forced into)?
  • The only difference is that on your own path – you have the ability to accept what comes your way.
  • Experiencing sadness on another’s path leads to blame, regret and suffering. Experiencing happiness on another’s path leads to you manipulating others and forcing others to follow that path, just like you were forced earlier. Suffering inside you creates more suffering in others – passing it on from generation to generation.
  • The only way to cease suffering, sorrow and unhappiness is to break free of forcing others to follow the path you choose. The only way to stop forcing others is by choosing your own path. The only way to choose your own path is by finding yourself.

Thus, you transform your consciousness to a higher state:

  • You break your family and peers’ cycle of suffering and choose your own path, consciously.
  • You accept the choices you made and own both, the happiness you receive and the sadness you receive.
  • The peace you achieve by accepting the path you have chosen through separateness will help you encourage others to find their own path, and not create any further ‘first-hand’ suffering.

True peace does not come from the ability to choose our life path, but from the ability to accept the rewards and consequences of our life path. When you blame no one for your choices, you achieve peace. Peace is responsibility, responsibility is freedom, freedom is choice, choice is listening to your inner voice- your soul.

Understanding Peace

Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on Pexels.com

Peace is one of the most difficult needs to explain to another, for people in general do not understand peace. People who do not understand peace, seek refuge in noise – the noise of crowds and relationships. Such people who do not understand others’ need for peace will never understand the concepts of privacy, space and calmness.

Why do unpeaceful people not understand peace? For their souls are filled with suffering and noise. The only way they can drown out their own noise is by clanging objects and people around them. One who has terrific noise within, can only achieve silence by creating a greater noise outside his mind to distract him or her. It is best to never form a relationship with such people, for their noise within will create noise within you as well.

Thus, you realize that the only way to be ‘happy’ is to have peace. Peace is the subtext of all happiness, sorrows, ups and downs of life. We do not desire happiness for that is merely a fleeting high. We do not desire freedom from sadness, for every time you try something, you will either get what you want or not- which will either make you happy or unhappy. This is natural.

Thus, we replace:

Achieving Happiness and Sadness, with

Wanting something, getting it or not getting it,

Accepting what we get, and accepting that we may not get everything,

This acceptance is peace.

Those who aim at happiness or only achievement live a half-life, and never truly accept both sides of the coin above. Their half-life results in deep un-peace. Their un-peace translates into our suffering. The question we need to ask such people is: “Why are you not at peace with the way I live my life?”

Their answer will most likely create more noise and suffering within themselves and within you.

When you try to explain peace, unpeaceful people cannot understand it, for peace cannot be explained, only experienced. Peace only has a negative definition, not a positive one – peace is the absence of noise.

Happiness, on the other hand, has a positive definition – it involves goals to achieve, things to do, places to see, people to meet. But peace underlies the success or failure of these events. If you succeed in finding what you want, you will be happy and at peace. If you fail in achieving what you desire, you will be sad, but very much again at peace.

Peace is the constant beneath it all. Peace is silence. Peace is nothingness. Nothingness can only ever be explained by the absence of ‘things’. The absence of sadness is peace, The absence of happiness is also peace.

Once you pursue peace as your overarching goal, every other aspect of your life falls into place and begins to make sense.

  • You need boundaries to achieve peace
  • You need to give up the concept of right and wrong to achieve peace
  • You need privacy to achieve peace
  • You need truth to achieve peace
  • You need silence to achieve peace
  • You need financial independence, but not necessarily riches, to achieve peace
  • You need contentment to achieve peace
  • You need a spiritual backbone to achieve peace
  • You need emotional intelligence to achieve peace
  • You need to die internally (ego, false self) to achieve peace
  • You need to accept bodily death to achieve living peace
  • You need to accept others’ lives and life paths to achieve peace
  • You need to respect others’ boundaries to achieve peace
  • You need to respect others’ privacy to achieve peace
  • You need to help others achieve peace, if required, to achieve your own peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that others may never understand you
  • You need to make peace with the fact that others may never find peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that you may be alone (but not lonely) in your peace
  • You need to make peace with the fact that some relationships may fall away as you seek peace
  • You need to be alert to relationships that can teach you more about peace

In the end, you will find yourself making peace with the last frontier, all forms of noise and un-peace.

Why Social Media Mindfulness Techniques don’t Work


I hear a lot of people saying, “Live in the present”. They chant it like a mantra, post it on LinkedIn and Facebook but don’t know what else to do with it. It is easy to get comments, likes and reactions from a desperate audience who applaud the poster as insightful but don’t practice it. The words “live in the present” have become another Fix (like alcohol, Netflix and serial dating), something intended to distract you from introspection.

We have mistaken distractions as happiness boosters.

Source: Image by 4144132 from Pixabay, Author’s Edits

Yes, for that moment, you are living in the present, you are reading that post, you are envisioning a vacation surrounded by mountains and whispering trees. But since I find people rarely thinking deeper about how to apply that statement in their daily lives, here is what I hope, a thought provoking guide, to understanding yourself and your present (consciousness) at a deeper level.

We live the present in two ways —

  • Externally (focusing on the things that surround us) and
  • Internally (watching and becoming conscious of our thoughts and behaviors).

Most cliched viral posts exploit the External aspect — they make you focus on a mountain or a stream and say it is the key to meditation and happiness. Since most people are not internally self-aware, they do not focus on the Internal aspect of living in the present — being aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions; understanding why you do things and changing yourself — thereby allowing yourself to grow.

It is easy to chant and meditate till you go mentally numb. But that is not living in the present. Meditation or being present or aware or consciously walking or any of these synonymous words are intended to help you understand yourself, not (1) numb yourself, or (2) shut out the world.

You don’t need a mountain, you don’t need a far-away resort, you don’t need a yoga mat. If you are really interested in understanding yourself, all you need is peace and quiet, which you can find in your bedroom, the nearest coffee shop or beside a dumpster (where no one hopefully objects).

The Cycle of Pain and Release

Growing up, I was a happy child. I am a happy man today, but that’s besides the point. Spiritually, as babies we are clean, we have no thoughts, no emotions…just needs. If our needs are fulfilled, we are content. If our needs are not fulfilled, we feel pain, BUT we are not unhappy. Babies do not know unhappiness, they know need, satisfaction and pain. But not sadness.

Pain is not sadness

We feel pain when we don’t get what we want mentally or emotionally. This has nothing to do with physical pain, or the BDSM industry wouldn’t be thriving today. Massages create pain, but the release of the hand pressing down our shoulders creates relief. We mistake this relief as pleasure.

When I say pain, I do not mean sharp jabs. Pain can also mean discomfort or unwanted stimuli (someone jabbering in your ear?).

We value release only because we experience pain.

Let’s talk about sex (in a humorous context). Arousal is confusion, frustration and madness. We tumble around as our mind shuts down all ‘non-essential’ activities like you know, taking care of your kids, food, homework, your job and so on. Your mind acts the same way it acts on an alcohol addict seeking just a sip.

  • It plays you tantalizing videos of your partner or fantasy
  • It tells you that you can’t work without getting this need fulfilled
  • You need to do something about it…right now

Pain is any feeling that overpowers your body to the extent that you are unable to choose what you wish to do. Pain is loss of control because one stimulus has taken complete control. The only way out of pain is relief. Or release.

Sex does not not make you ‘happy’. Sure it floods you with endorphins and dopamine…in other words, with pain medication and anti-depressants. It is the release we crave at the zenith of our needs, not happy cuddlies. We seek release from the temporary “depression” and “pain” we feel before sex, alcohol or drugs.

Release and relief from pain is not happiness. It is a cyclic trap.

Crashing Waves

Back to the baby. We feel sadder as we grow up because we learn (because we are taught) to divide what we get into good and bad. We learn to analyze the motivations of what is given to us. We become “educated” and socially “responsible”. We are taught that a good man or woman is one who constantly takes on the burdens of others around him or her.

When you are taught that the only way to “be happy” is by constantly solving other people’s burdens and sadness, we lose our personal power and identity. We lose our boundaries. We lose our peace.

You can’t be happy when society keeps teaching you to make others happy at the expense of yourself. You become like a candle struggling to stay alight in a constant gust of wind.

Society teaches us that

  • if you are happy with who you are, you are selfish
  • If you are unhappy with who you are, you are depressed and unstable
  • If you are half-happy with who you are while making others happy, you are a disappointment (or should work harder on your dreams)

There is no making society happy.

By celebrating and propagating this confusion, we are now in the clutches of an epidemic of discontent. Discontent is sadness. Give yourself permission to make yourself happy.

Do not harm, but make sure your candle is lit brightly before you light another. It is nice to say that “ a candle loses nothing by lighting another”. It is crazy if your candle (with a struggling flame) gets extinguished in the process of sharing its flame.

We have become like a person trapped alone at sea in the midst of a thunderstorm, buffeted by wave after wave. We have lost all sense of direction, of who we are. Sometimes, all we want is to get out of the cold…but more importantly to get onto land…dry, hard, stable land.

It is okay to want to be happy.

Escape

Living in the present requires two things:

Stop trying to control your mind and thoughts — it is okay to have thoughts about anything, yes seriously. Random curiosity about crime doesn’t make you a creep. Movie directors, cops and doctors think about it all the time. Accept your mind completely for what it is — just a thought generating machine. This was the premise of the movie: Minority Report.

Thinking about something doesn’t define or shame you, your actions do.

We have hundreds of thoughts and emotions every day, what you choose to act upon defines you — your thoughts are just options given to you by your mind.

The frustrated mother who thinks about strangling her screaming children in the middle of the night doesn’t do so. She gets up, cares for and nurtures them. Between the hundreds of thoughts you have and action you take, there is a space, a choice. That is where your soul decides what you need to act upon. That space — the entity that makes that choice is your true self. It shows you your true values. Your true self is hidden behind the noise of your thoughts and mind.

Your mind is noisy, but rarely makes good decisions. Your true self is silent, but takes decisions aligned with who you really are, at your deepest core.

Know your true self.

The next time you read a social media post on “enter the silence” or “60 days of meditation complete, Yay!” and wonder why it leaves you stone cold, you will know why.


From False Wounds to True Healing

How to know if you have healed (enough)

Image by 6155856 from Pixabay

Many people begin healing their pain by seeking wisdom, understanding themselves better, and accepting themselves. But their journey never ends. A person traumatized by an event continues to work on his/her trauma all through life. A depressed person embarks on a never-ending search for the perfect state of non-depression. I find this approach doomed to failure.

Healing is an imperfect process. Healing begins with recognizing our incompleteness and ends when we are comfortable with that incompleteness. Once healed, we continue to remain incomplete. Healing does not remove problems from our life — it merely helps us:

  • Move away from our problems (not everything can be solved)
  • Resolve and change things to a new state (resolve or restart)
Image by Zuckerschneggle from Pixabay, Author’s edits

The reason some people never heal is because they evaluate their healing in a flawed manner.

Healing is not always repair, it can be choosing a more natural state

We are works in progress. As we grow, we leave parts of ourselves behind. When we find that we have ‘lost’ a part of ourselves in healing, we believe we are still unhealed, which can be a mistake.

Children lose milk teeth so they can grow permanent ones. Babies give up soft skin and flexible joints so they can grow sturdy, muscular ones. Having milk teeth or soft joints are not wounds to be healed, they are just different states. Healing does not always mean advancing to a higher version of your previous self, it may just require shifting yourself to a new, more natural state.

Don’t evaluate your healing against someone with a different wound

Everyone is on a different life path with their own challenges. Everyone is working on healing wounds that serve as crutches they need to shake off. It does not make sense to compare yourself, a person struggling with math, to a person who is natural at math and struggles with poor communication. You might be a financially poor person with a healthy life- it would be incorrect to compare yourself to a rich person who relies on drugs and caffeine to work 20 hours a day. Since there is no one out there with the exact wounds you have, comparison doesn’t help.

Wounds are to be judged by your perception, not others’

Let me give an unusual example- many decades back, there was an influx of literature on abuse in the media. Upon reading this, many men and women re-evaluated their childhoods and accused their parents of childhood abuse. When they had been children, they had never felt it as abuse (they had accepted it as normal), but when they grew up, they evaluated their own childhoods through others’ eyes and ‘discovered’ wounds that they ‘should have suffered from’. As present day adults, they were well-settled, but in the process of educating themselves, they decided to feel wounded.

Move towards self-awareness, but beware of self-delusion. Education should help you evaluate your life through your eyes, not through others’.

True wounds exist in the present, false wounds exist in the past

Going back to the example above, the adults in the story were happy and settled. If they had suffered trauma, it would have been justified to revisit past wounds. However, as happy adults, the only reason they revisited their past was to validate their education and new self-awareness. This is a perfect example of ‘the idle mind becoming a devil’s workshop’. Since they had no specific problems in their life, they could not use their education to solve genuine problems. So they used their new-found knowledge to find ‘false’ problems to solve, creating a lot of suffering for themselves and others.

Others can project their wounds onto you

A good example of this is seen among over-cautious parents. A child who got bored in class 20 years ago got a scolding and a lecture. After around say, 4–5 years, the child actually found something he/she was interested in and did well at school.

Today, ‘educated’ parents rush their children to therapy, where they are diagnosed quickly with ADHD and given enough drugs to kill an elephant. The drugs don’t actually improve the kid, they shut down the ‘boredom-inducing system’ and also what remains of the child’s creativity. People are afraid to leave kids to their own devices any more, these kids are treated with their parents’ devices.

Bringing up children is partly a waiting game — the child has to grow at its own pace. When parents become impatient, they encounter fear and anxiety. When their child doesn’t grow fast enough to soothe their fears, they project it onto their children and label their kids as disabled.

We see this in relationships and marriages too. It was natural for people to be different a few years ago, it was natural for couples to fight. One partner usually became a more flexible partner, and the other a less-flexible directional one (irrespective of gender). This flexibility differed by area based on each partner’s strengths. Today, with both partners being told that they need to agree or divide everything perfectly, they ‘project’ wounds of relationship abuse onto each other. They rush to pre-marital and post-marriage therapy.

A bully at high school tripping you down the corridor is a high school grudge, it need not become post-traumatic stress syndrome. Being bored with grammar does not mean ADHD, it might mean you need to take a creative writing class. Fighting all the time does not mean your partner is abusing you, it might just mean you are incompatible. A new mother wanting to be alone with her baby might mean just that, not post-partum depression.


I am not commenting here on the validity or seriousness of psychological disorders. But psychology is becoming a bit like selling soap. You might need to bathe just once a day, but by showing you ads where microbes keep crawling all over your skin each time you shake hands or kiss, you are trained to use and buy more soap…or mouthwash. By constantly showing you examples of how you are doomed to unhappiness unless every single thing in your life is perfect, you are urged towards finding new problems and more therapy. With healing becoming a business, wounds become reduced to ‘creating a need in the market’.

If we don’t learn to be patient with ourselves and others, we shall continue to discover new wounds. As long as we search for proof that we have (completely) healed, we shall never heal. A healed person is not complete, he/she has discarded those wounds that serve them no more, and chosen the wounds that he/she can handle. Once you can handle a part of yourself, it ceases to be a wound.

When you rely on someone outside you — it might be your friends, a role-model, your parents, your spouse…anyone, to understand why you are flawed, you create false wounds. These false wounds can never be healed because they aren’t your wounds, they belong to someone else. True wounds are found through introspection, not through comparison.

Emotions are natural — both the ups and downs. The moment you divide emotions into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, you create wounds. The only way to be constantly, everlastingly happy is keep yourself pumped up through drugs and alcohol or by going insane. For everyone else, it is normal for emotions to go through a down cycle to help the body recharge. This down cycle is not a wound — it is how we remain physiologically and mentally stable.

It is okay to be happy and unwounded. Others’ discomfort with who we are does not mean we are flawed or wounded. We need to judge our happiness and pain by our own standards, not those of society. We will find your deepest joy when we see pain and obstacles as challenges to help us grow, not as wounds that need constant healing.


This article is related to my earlier post:

View at Medium.com

Finding Yourself Through Boundaries

Photo by Nick Tiemeyer on Unsplash

Babies learn to set boundaries naturally- you step out of their sight, they cry. You feed them too much food, they expel substances all over you. You don’t leave them alone; they aim a few kicks into your sternum.

When those babies grow up, they undergo societal amnesia. They forget how to say no. They learn to please everyone at their expense. They learn to bully others at others’ expense. When these adults have their own babies, they restart the brainwashing cycle- shaping their babies to be obedient citizens or chaos in motion. Having observed these patterns in many around me (not to forget myself), I felt it might be time to run a refresher on why we need boundaries:

1. Boundaries define what you do

This applies to how we relate to authority- be it our parents, employers, spouses or even our lawyers. If you are in a relationship- personal or professional with someone, you need to know what each of you is going to do. Granted that a lot may be ambiguous not clean cut- say who is going to drop off the kids to school next week, but boundaries help define what you bring to the table. More importantly, they help define what you do not.

Which brings me to…

2. Boundaries help express who you are

If you do all of the work in a relationship (at home or work), then you don’t need the other person around except as an ornament. Sure, there are relationships where your partner may not contribute intellectually or physically, but might provide emotional support. If you are managing every aspect of a relationship by yourself, you might want to (genuinely) ask if you gain any value from the relationship.

Which means…

3. Boundaries give you purpose

Yup. Romantic relationships have a purpose. Friendships do, however casual they might be. Work has a monetary goal. You might not like taking a cold hard look at your relationships, but if your best friend suddenly starts criticizing you every chance he gets, or shows little interest in your life, you have reached a stalemate. If your relationship is in the dead zone, you don’t need boundaries. Conversely, if you want a healthy relationship (without being a doormat or bully), you need boundaries.

Which implies…

4. Boundaries are an investment

Boundaries don’t count if there is no one on the other side. You can put up all the fences you want, but if you don’t have someone (or something like a cow) that is trying to barge into your garden, building a fence will be a wasted effort. Set boundaries when you are sure they will be respected. And remember, when you set up your fence, it marks your neighbor’s property as well. Your boundaries impact others’ as well- you might do well not to stray into their pastures.

5. Boundaries help you focus, not compromise

If you enter a relationship passively, from a place of fear or insecurity, you might focus on keeping the other person out of your space, than defining your own space. This is rarely sustainable. It brings to mind the story of the boy who plugs his finger into the dyke to keep the sea from flooding Holland- you will have to keep your finger in that hole constantly, without being able to move away. If you spend your time fighting to maintain your boundaries, you won’t have much energy left to enjoy your space. Focus on what you need and maximize it, rather than minimizing what enters your space.

6. Boundaries evolve as you grow

As a child, you might have wanted little from the world, the adult ‘you’ seeks a larger playground. Your boundaries will, and should, change in sync with your evolving self. This means that your relationship will undergo changes as both of you seek different things from each other and the world around you. This means that if you and a partner (again personal or work-related) do start traveling in different directions, there may no longer be a need for boundaries. Boundaries are only essential when you are traveling the same path and exploring the same space.

A few final thoughts…

Learning to set boundaries is not natural for many. A great book that can help you get started is Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life by Henry Cloud . Boundaries are everywhere. You have the freedom to read, comment and (not?) disagree with this article because I respect your boundaries. It is easy to allow people in to make them happy. It is easy to trample over others and make everyone around you miserable. We need maturity and a balanced ego to find and hit the sweet spot.

Why we hate others telling us what to do

Photo by Frame Harirak on Unsplash

People think I am a stubborn person. I do what I want. I like making decisions. I like following my emotions, explore my thought processes. I think they see me as a bone-headed grouchy guy (maybe not grouchy) who refuses to take inputs (not really true).

It took me years of introspection to break down why I hate this happening to me. And oh, by the way, introspection is not cool, unless you are doing it sitting in a cabin, caressed by cool mountain air, in a meditative pose thinking of nothing…introspection at home in front of a squeaky fan that provides you a bit of respite from the heat- not cool (or so people say).

The key issue? Power. Very specifically…personal power. People love toys- they can tell the toy what to do, how to move, when to stay. A toy does not talk back, it can be ignored when not needed.

Here’s the nub- a toy has no brain. It can’t think, it can’t feel, what you think and feel becomes what the toy does. Human beings are not toys. I am not, in any case.

I guess now I might receive a few gentle arguments about well-intentioned advice, not knowing what you are doing unless pointed out, etc. Well-intentioned advice works for a person ready to receive it. By all means we should offer advice, but advice that is not wanted becomes the ten commandments.

So, is there no hope for remediation and reform? Am I bound to a life of misery, stumbling into dark corners of mediocrity due to my low penchant for the pearls of wisdom that are generously scattered my way? Not really. And that is where the concept of freedom comes in.

People like advice that they seek. People are reading this article because they want to, not because I have rammed it down their throats in a claustrophobic party atmosphere. People need to give you permission to tell them what to do, to give their consent. If you are in a workplace, you have given explicit (and implicit) consent to your employers to give you feedback. If you are married, you have given your spouse consent to give you feedback (about things that affect them,). If you are a public servant, you have given the public consent to question you all they want.

The beautiful thing that people find it difficult to understand, is that advice is just that…advice. And you have the choice to follow it, or not…and embrace the consequences. You are free not to heed public opinion and find yourself looking for a new job. You are free to ignore feedback at work, and find yourself sidelined (at best).

But there is advice that you can safely, and should, ignore. Advice about your body, when you are old enough to decide your lifestyle. Advice about your emotions when you are mature enough to decide what you want to feel. Advice about your work from people who have little knowledge about what you do. It is good to learn new things, it is good to know all that you don’t know. You will never be old enough, mature enough or have enough grey hairs to know it all. That doesn’t mean others are any better.

All you need is to be mature enough to know how much you don’t know. All you need is to be mature enough to know who and what to listen to. But in the end, you and I should take our own advice.