Happiness MattersFebruary 9, 2010 Leave a comment
It sounds simple, but I increasingly find the idea that “happiness matters” an important principle to remember. Understanding that happiness matters gives us a great lens with which to evaluate our efforts. As I go about the work of social transformation – am I happy? Are the people I work with happy? I hope it’s obvious that I’m not equating happiness with the cheap thrills that are abundantly available to us in this age of hyper-capitalism. I’m talking about the happiness that is defined by a sustainable sense of contentment.
I am talking about being happy even as we engage the often challenging work of social transformation in a world that desperately needs it. I often say to activists that miserable faces of martyred frustration often are, in and of themselves, the best argument against being in movement with those that want a better world. I contrast this experience to the abundance of song and dance that defined the struggle to put an end to South African Apartheid.
But if happiness matters, how do you attain it? @DennisMerimsky recently got me hip to a somewhat amusing article about this in the Times Online, it was titled “The happiest men in the world.” The article drew on what I see as a false dichotomy that is often found in our work – the question of who is responsible for what – the individual or society at large. It juxtaposed the ideas of Lord Layard, who takes on the Western view and speaks of a societal and even governmental responsibility to tend to our happiness with the ideas of Matthieu Ricard, who is a French scientist turned Buddhist monk and emphasizes a personal approach to happiness.
Do you want to be happy even as you face a world that is falling apart? Do you want to find contentment even as you give your heart and body to the work of social transformation? I think it makes perfect sense to integrate the two views – which is to make part of our life, of our work, and of all the spaces in which we come together – and be left with 10 brilliant practices for the attainment of happiness!
Matthieu Ricard’s philosophy of happiness:
- Learn to meditate.
- Cultivate altruism.
- Practice mindfulness.
- Make space in your life for spirituality.
- Find a genuine spiritual teacher.
Lord Layard’s philosophy of happiness
- Be socially connected.
- Be physically active.
- Take notice of your surroundings and savour them.
- Keep learning.
- Give regularly.