One of my favorite quotes from Yogi Bhajan is "Happiness is your Birthright". It's one of those statements that sounds so simple, yet is anything but. If happiness is our birthright then why is happiness so fleeting for so many in our culture? Why does it seem so elusive?
In our culture, many of us are habitually saying to ourselves "I will feel happy when I am fulfilled in my job", or "I will be happy if I had more money", or “I will feel happy when I have a family of my own”. You get the picture. Happiness is dependent upon something happening – and many times, that something is out of our control. So we chase happiness – focusing our minds on (the lack of) that one thing (or things) that we need to happen in order to be happy.
Both science and yoga disagree.
Science has been studying happiness for a little while now and what scientists have discovered may surprise you. 50% of our happiness is genetically disposed. We arrive here in our bodies with a genetically coded range of happiness. So, right off the bat, 50% of what determines our happiness is set.
What about that other 50%? Will that fulfilling job make you happy? Eh, maybe. What about more money? Maybe, if more money helps you to meet basic needs that were not being met. But not really, no.
Science is showing that our life circumstances account for only 10% of our happiness! Seriously. 10 percent. How much of our time do we spend focused on pursuing or dreaming about external situations that we believe will bring happiness. 75% of our time (that may be an exaggeration, but not by much).
So what about that other 40%? 40% of what creates happiness in our lives are our intentional activities. When we choose to do things that make us happy – we are happier! What a freaking revelation! Happiness is a choice.
Sutra 1.33 in Pantajali's Sutra says:
"By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight for the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness."
Pantanjali speaks about cultivating attitudes. We can choose to feel happy when good things happen to others. We can choose to feel compassion when someone is suffering. We can choose to feel delight at all the good in the world. And we can choose to not get all worked up when we encounter assholes.
How we experience our life is our choice. Happiness is a choice but it is also something we are wired for. When we peel away all of the layers of mind stuff that confuse us about what will bring us happiness; happiness appears. When we can be present to the life we are living right now and not the life we wish were were living; happiness appears.
For me, this is why yoga brings me such happiness. First, it feels good physically. It moves my body and releases tension. It activates the secretion of chemicals in my brain that make me feel great. Most importantly, yoga brings my mind into the present moment. It allows me to peel away the layers of my mind that contribute to unhappiness or dissatisfaction so I can reside in the Truth of now. And what MY truth of now?
I have everything that I need and more. My life is a blessing because I never have to worry about where my next meal is. My life is a blessing because I have a home. My life is a blessing because my children are healthy, safe, nourished and educated. My life is a blessing because I am loved. My life is a blessing because I get to share it with all of you.
I am grateful and from the seeds of my gratitude, my happiness blossoms.