You can’t go to a bookshop, blog site or social media page without a queue of gurus telling you how to find happiness and keep it. They might use special mystical code-words like “bliss” or “joy” or “abundance” but they’re mostly the same message: I can make you happy with my special powers that I learned in a yoga studio 5 years ago and as a coincidental byproduct will become Insta-famous and well-off. The abundance crowd is the worst in my opinion. Guaranteed to get me internet hatred for the rest of my life though it may be, I would suggest that people like Rhonda Byrne and Gabrielle Bernstein may have semi-decent intentions but they are essentially incredibly rich, incredibly white and incredibly blonde people telling you that you can be like them by wishing for it. Hey presto the universe will bestow its blessing. The universe has lots of cash to give apparently and, if you behave like them, it will just throw it all at you with wild abandon (but don’t forget to buy their book otherwise the magic won’t work). That may be all very well for the already privileged but I’m skeptical that it can solve world hunger, inner-city poverty or substance addiction.
Mindfulness has been the big ticket item for a few years now. Based on Buddhist philosophy, its basic message is noble enough. There is plenty to be said for being more present, living in the now and becoming aware of your inner processes but, as usual, a few people have realised they can make insane amounts of money by recycling and often misunderstanding centuries-old teaching. Mindfulness is a stepping stone, not an endgame. Just like the misunderstanding that leads thousands of people the world over to think that yoga means young women bending over in Lululemon Yoga Pants, people end their journey with a handful of techniques that may temporarily calm the mind in stressful situations but do little for long term leaps in consciousness. The goal should always be no-mind, not more of it, if you really follow through with the thinking behind it. Anything else is a misunderstanding at best and an exploitative corruption at worst.
So how do we find happiness? The answer is don’t. It’s not the goal, it’s a fiction. Happiness is an emotion and therefore subject to time, psychology and circumstance. The more you get, the more you need and when it inevitably disappears it leaves a cavern that is harder to fill than the initial hole. Love and compassion are the answers. These are NOT emotions, they are the natural state of the universe and therefore not subject to time and circumstance. Anger and hatred – most certainly emotions – arise from the mind in the absence of happiness so, unless you have an unlimited source of greater and greater gains, at some point the wheel of fate has you moving downwards. If you’re really going to subscribe to Buddhist and Hindu ideals then leave the wheel altogether – that means abandoning hate, abandoning happiness, abandoning Lululemon yoga pants and losing your mind. Then you’re left with love and oneness: a much more permanent and desirable state. And you don’t need to buy anyone’s book to make the magic work.