There is so much written on the idea of happiness: how we can achieve it, where it comes from, and why some people seem perennially happy. Have you met those people? The ones who find joy in any situation. I certainly have. Sometimes, I even am one of those people. But where does the ability to find happiness in life’s challenges, unfair, and even cruel realities come from? Happiness comes from the inside.
Does that mean we can just choose to be happy? No. But we can set the conditions, patterns, and habits to bring more happiness into our daily life. Does that mean you’ll never experience anger, frustration, or unhappiness again? Probably not. But you might find 1% more happiness each day.
I’d say happiness is a choice, but it’s not always one we have the option to make. In the cosmic sense, we are all consciousness, and consciousness is a field of unbounded happiness. But most of us have forgotten that level of all-time happiness. It’s not there on the surface level of our day-to-day experience. Then how do we have a choice?
There are moments in everyone’s life when we are no longer overcome by grief, worry, distress, or any other overwhelming emotion. In those moments, when the emotion starts to lose its grip, we have the power to choose gratitude and, with it, happiness.
How to Cultivate Happiness
The first way to choose happiness is to make a habit of transcendence. When we transcend, or go beyond, our surface level of thinking and experience pure consciousness within our own awareness, naturally, we experience more and more happiness. Establishing the habit of morning and evening practice of Transcendental Meditation is the first and most powerful way to choose happiness each day. By setting the conditions for our physiology and nervous system to experience more happiness, we can increase happiness throughout our lives, regardless of outer circumstances.
Perspective can play a crucial role in determining our level of happiness. Is the glass half full or half empty? How we interpret and perceive events, situations, and challenges in our lives can significantly impact our emotional well-being. Even in the face of adversity, individuals who can find the good, who can find the silver linings, also find more happiness. When you want to have greater happiness, find the good. See the good, choose gratitude, and see how happiness grows.
Going beyond yourself is another powerful tool for happiness. When we reach beyond ourselves, we connect to others and to something higher. Our relationships play a significant role in our overall happiness. In addition to nurturing meaningful connections with family, friends, and community to enhance a sense of belonging and well-being, giving to others is a powerful tool to create more for yourself.
Be the friend you would like to have. Give the love you want to find in your life. Create the reality you desire, not by wishing or complaining, but by giving that into the environment. When we give, we receive more back, often from unexpected sources. Giving creates greater happiness naturally.
Gratitude is the often-overlooked best friend of happiness. Gratitude cultivates happiness, and happiness, in turn, can lead to gratitude. Take a moment each day to appreciate something in your life or notice something you love about each person in your life. Build the habit of gratitude in life and see the happiness you find with it.
Self-care is often overlooked but plays a vital role in our happiness. Taking care of our physical, mental, and emotional well-being is essential for maintaining a positive outlook on life. Engage in activities that bring joy, practice self-compassion, and set boundaries as initial self-care steps that can contribute to our happiness. Beyond that, taking care of your Self—nurturing and cultivating your own higher consciousness can bring new layers of happiness to your life.
Is Happiness a Choice?
While there are many times when any range of other emotions take over, setting up the conditions to experience a stable level of happiness regardless of life’s storms is possible. We can be weather-proof. We can have unshakeable happiness. We can also have 1% more happiness each day. It is not through effort that happiness comes, but through an effortless reality inside and from choosing to find the good whenever you can. Step by step, you can choose to experience more happiness each day.
Can you imagine being nothing other than bliss? What if the whole purpose of life is to move toward bliss? What if, even when we don’t feel it, we are sustained by bliss? That is what this verse implies. Bliss is not only the goal. It is also our origin and our path. How does that relate to happiness?
Bliss is a concentration of happiness. If you see the sun reflecting on the water, happiness is the reflection on the water while bliss is the sun itself. The sun has greater intensity and greater heat and exists independently of anything else. The reflection on the water might be obscured by waves, fog, or darkness. The reflection can disappear. The sun itself, even if we do not see it, is always there.
In the same way, happiness reflects inner bliss. It might be affected or overshadowed by circumstances. The reality of bliss, the essential nature of us all, is like the sun, present regardless of outer circumstances.
In this sense, bliss is described as the nature of consciousness. It is the essential constituent from which everything we think of as the world and our lives arises. If all beings (including humans, plants, animals, and even inanimate objects) arise from bliss, are sustained by bliss, and merge again with bliss, bliss is described as the essential constituent, beyond any sense of you or me.
It is from this perspective that Maharishi said over and over, “Life is bliss” and “Expansion of happiness is the purpose of creation.” Even though we are made of bliss and sustained by bliss, stress or strain will obstruct this experience. Stress can be what we think of as daily life stress, or it can be the deeper stress in the nervous system, genetics, or DNA. Stress, abnormalities, and obstructions are not the normal state of the nervous system.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Perfect health, and with it, perfect functioning of the nervous system can be achieved. Anything can be rectified, corrected, or removed. Stress and strain can be removed, allowing the blissful nature of life to shine through once more.
This is not just a theory but can be a practical reality. It has already been experienced by millions of people around the world throughout the ages. If we can be bliss and live in bliss, why waste time struggling and suffering?
If bliss is the nature of life and happiness its reflection in our thoughts, actions, behavior, and daily reality, then happiness can be an all-time reality.
The Purpose of Life
“Expansion of happiness is the purpose of life, and evolution is the process through which it is fulfilled. Life begins in a natural way, it evolves, and happiness expands. The expansion of happiness carries with it the expansion of intelligence, power, creativity, and everything that may be said to be of significance in life.” ~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
If things make you happy, how can happiness be the basis of success? The simple answer is that happiness comes from the inside. Happiness can be found in a beautiful sunrise or a rainbow, in the laughter of a child, or in a warm bath. But none of those things create happiness.
Happiness is the natural fragrance of a contented heart. Happiness does not take, it only gives. Happiness is at once the essence of love, peace, and humility and flows as the expression of inner bliss.
Happiness is without expectation of results or projection to the future. Happiness just is. There are many different things that make people happy: a hug from a loved one, a day at the beach, a vacation, a delicious meal, a good book, success in school or at work. All of these are things that people say make them happy. But do they really?
Let’s take the day at the beach. Suppose that the weather is perfect, and you have a great group of friends joining you, but you wake up feeling off. You are tired, achy, and not in the mood to socialize. Then even if your friends are loving and kind, the weather perfect, and the food great, your day at the beach will feel dull. What changed was not the beach or the friends—it was the inner feeling.
It is obvious by now that how we feel inside affects how we perceive the outside world. But how does happiness create success? Happiness draws more happiness to it. It is the principle that like attracts like. Maharishi has said that “Happiness radiates like the fragrance of a flower and draws all good things towards it.”
Imagine your happiness like that flower—perhaps sweet night jasmine or a summer rose, wafting on the breeze. Everyone who walks by you feels it. Everyone who talks to you smells it through your voice. Happiness is just like a subtle fragrance: it is in the air all around us.
Happiness is the best perfume, the most elegant accessory, and an incredible tool to create more success. Happiness begets happiness. Success begets success. It is a principle so embedded in the fabric of nature that we seem to have forgotten it.
It is so simple and so obvious that it seems like a joke. Really? That’s it? All I have to do is be happy? And the simple answer is yes.
Does that mean someone should make a mood of being happy or try to force happiness? The answer is no—and yes. It is never helpful to force something beyond what is comfortable or natural. So of course, one should not fake a mood of feeling happy while feeling sad (or any other range of emotions). In that case, the inner feeling still predominates—and it is the inside that counts.
We all have a choice every day, many times a day, of how we react to any situation. We can react with gratitude or happiness or we can react with upset, frustration, anger, or any other spectrum of emotion. All these emotions come naturally. But we have a choice: choose happiness and gratitude or choose anger or frustration.
Gratitude Creates More Happiness
Countless experiences have taught me that it is always better to choose gratitude, and with gratitude comes happiness. It is so easy to fall into a trap of frustration or anger, but that, in the end, always comes with a price. You feel weaker, you lose opportunities, or you hurt someone you care about. Anger is never free, even if it seems to be.
In the Vedic tradition, they say that anger makes you weak. You lose your power and reasoning. You lose the strength of your purity in love and happiness to the weakness of anger. In moments of anger, you cannot accomplish all that you desire.
Happiness and gratitude, on the other hand, make you strong. They give you the power of righteousness and guide you toward your higher purpose. I chose gratitude specifically because on the surface situations may seem unreasonable and unfair. In those moments, look to nature and ask, “What are you trying to teach me?” This moment of reflection usually reveals some weakness. Nature is the best teacher.
To give a simple example: I saw this once with a particularly aggressive Airbnb host. He pointed out everything he did and followed it up with the statement along the lines of, “You should be grateful to me” or “See how caring I am?” These statements were exaggerated to the point of ridiculousness. “The room was clean when you arrived, see how caring I am. I gave you toilet paper, you should be grateful.”
Throughout my stay, he kept stating that he was the best host. I realized he was hoping for a positive review, but because of his pushy and domineering manner over little issues and unfair assumptions, it didn’t create a good feeling.
After checking out, I walked down to the beach, sat on the dunes, and looked up at the wide blue sky. In a moment of quiet, it dawned on me: I’ve done the exact same thing at times to other people, although not to the same level.
But if this man’s level of needing appreciation and casting blame wasn’t so high, I wouldn’t have understood the lesson: a good deed done in silence is filled with power and brings happiness. A good deed shouted from the rooftops for credit or gain loses its strength.
This reminded me of another beautiful scene from the end of a movie, of a chance encounter at a rural gas station between a woman healer and a boy dying of cancer. The boy sees her dog and wants to pet it or take it with him. She sees his illness and knows she can heal him. She says she will give him the dog if he gives her a hug.
In that hug, she heals the boy. The family drives away with the dog, thinking they received a generous gift from a stranger. They don’t realize that the stranger saved the boy’s life and changed his destiny forever. That quiet joy belongs to the healer.
This is the power of happiness and inner peace—the ability to do good for the sake of doing good. Like attracts like. Creating good attracts more good. That is the principle of nature. What we are, we draw toward us….
Here are some reflections, ideas, and actions to absorb and experience this thread of wisdom:
Laugh. I mean, really laugh. Find someone with whom you can laugh until you are crying or falling on the floor. Laugh hard and laugh often. Don’t force it, but the process of laughing revitalizes physiology and psychology. Even laughing every once in a while will start to put greater happiness into your life and body.
Do Something that You Love or that makes you feel renewed every day. For me, that is often a walk or swim in nature, but it can be anything that makes you feel grateful for the opportunity to be alive and experience life.
Transcend. Bliss is an inner reality. Without a path to experience it, reaching it is like a game of chance. It is also physical. The more the nervous system is trained to maintain the experience of bliss, the more bliss can be experienced. Transcendental Meditation is the most simple and effective path to cultivate the nervous system to experience and maintain bliss.
The new year is often a time for new resolutions, new intentions, or even just hitting refresh. “New year, new you” is a marketing slogan that is embraced or loathed. It could be both. We’re not only new every year, but every minute, every second, every moment of every day. That is not pressure but an opportunity.
You don’t have one time a year to renew yourself. It can happen every day, many times a day. There is no one moment that is the right moment for everyone. What works well for me may not work for you, and vice versa. And do you need to ever be new?
You are already, in this moment and every moment more than enough. You are Divine, all-powerful, beautiful, intelligent, wise, compassionate, and happy. We all are. Although it’s possible that you don’t feel all (or any) of those things.
Instead of looking at the new year as a time to change ourselves, why not look at the new year as a time to become ourselves? Let’s make the new year a time to embrace all that we are, and all that we can become. Instead of “new year, new you”, let’s go for new year, new discoveries about who we are.
In Be More, each chapter ends with action steps. I’m assuming most readers won’t do them all, but I included a variety so there is something that resonates with everyone. Many take less than a minute but are a way to refresh perspective and understanding. Below are a few sample action steps from Be More to get you started on discovering more of yourself, and embracing all that beauty and power waiting and already there.
1. Remember. Think of what you’ve learned in the last few months. How has the process of learning changed you? What has your effort to learn taught you? How has that changed the quality of your life? With this, notice how the attitude to constantly learn improves the quality of your life.
2. Write. Write a story from another perspective. If you find yourself judging a situation, sit quietly and then write the same situation from the other person’s perspective. What were they thinking? What were they trying to achieve? How can you help them?
3. Admire. “Wherever women are honored there is happiness and joyfulness.” ~ Smritis
Collect photos on your phone or Instagram of various expressions of women in your life that you appreciate. Why are these photos important to you? What about their expressions reach you? How does this connect to the expression “woman is divine”?
4. Remember. When have you given the gift of love to others this week or this month? How did you feel during and after? How did loving change you?
These action steps are taken from several Threads in Be More, on themes of love, learning, honoring the Divine in everyone but especially in women, and removing judgment. They are small steps that, in even a few minutes, can refresh perspective. What would you love to learn? How do you want to grow in love or remove judgment for yourself and others this year?
In Be More, there are three chapters on love. To some, that might seem excessive. But I have a lot to say on love! Love takes a million different forms, and it transforming ability is nearly unsurpassed. It is a universal principal of religions and spiritual traditions. And quite honestly, the world needs more love.
Love is described beautifully in those texts. Love is patience, love is kindness. God is Love. Supreme unification is Love. Some, like Budhism, describe different types of love, from sensuous love to compassionate love, benevolent love, and self-less love. There are also descriptions of Divine love and unification.
We’ll touch on all of that more, but first, in this holiday season, let’s talk about love. It is a supreme gift and blessing – both for the giver and for the receiver. Here is an excerpt from the first chapter on love: The Answer to Love, is to Love More:
“Love is the sweet expression of life; it is the supreme content of life.
Love is the force of life, powerful and sublime.
The flower of life blooms in love and radiates love all around it.”
~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
The flower of life blooms, and when it blooms, it radiates love all around. Love is the force of life. What an incredible power is love! Love is both a path and a goal. Whenever you are loving, you bring justice to life.
Love is not just an emotion. Love is honored when it makes something right. With loving, life is honored; and the lives of those being loved improve.
The single ability I am most grateful for is the ability to love. Love makes hard moments beautiful and tender moments divine. Love bridges gaps and gulfs too wide to span and creates unity. Every expression of love at every moment of life expresses the most significant, valuable essence of the life of a human being.
While it can come naturally, love can also be cultivated and will grow. I’m not talking only about romantic love, although love certainly encompasses romance. This encompasses all types of love: love of friends and family, of the world, of the divine, and of life.
I first noticed the ability to keep loving when I was young. I cared so much about what happened to others in my small town. Of course, small towns are ripe with gossip, and ours was no exception, but I was not just joining the gossip mill. I felt like a silent cheerleader wishing for the success of my classmates, my teachers, my friends, and even other students in school that I didn’t know.
I want them to achieve all they dreamed to be and more. I am so happy when I hear of their successes, their happiness, and their progress. Perhaps some will say this is strange. But I realized long ago that I will always care about the people I hold dear, no matter how our paths diverge.
From a distance, I’m celebrating the middle-school best friend who is now happily married and a well-known sommelier at a Michelin-starred restaurant. I’m rooting for the now tri-lingual, high-powered NYC lawyer who used to be in my gymnastics class and was one of the kindest people I knew. There are many others with so many accolades that it would be difficult to list here. But even as decades pass, the care doesn’t fade. I am wishing and rooting for the success of people whose paths I crossed on the journey of life. But most of all, I am wishing for their happiness and peace.
In the age of social media, we can usually discover what the people who are no longer directly a part of our lives are doing, or at least see a snapshot of their highlight reels. Many see that as a rabbit hole of comparison or jealousy, giving rise to feelings of inadequacy. I choose to love the people I am connected with and wish them well. That simple, daily act of loving frees the soul to love more.
Different Currents of Love
We can talk about different types of love based on connection, from acquaintances to friends, romantic partners, and even to love of the divine directly. The answer to all types of love is the same: love more.
What is described above is the first kind of love: the choice to love everyone in your life, however distantly they are still connected, regardless of their behavior toward you. Just that simple act is liberating. It frees you from the trap of comparison and brings simple joy with each new accomplishment. It might not appear like a life-altering choice, but it starts to change your perspective on others and on life.
There is a second kind of love that is more challenging: it is the choice to love those who have consciously hurt you. It is more difficult to genuinely rise to love after being hurt. This is real power and takes a pure heart. We’ve all been hurt, and unfortunately, in most cases, we’ve all also hurt someone, either intentionally or unintentionally. The act of loving those who’ve hurt you is in this way also an act of love to yourself.
It feels good to be kind to someone, even when it is unfair. This act of love takes constant cultivation. There is an ancient Tibetan saying that to hold onto a grudge is like swallowing poison and expecting it to hurt the other person. The only person who is hurt by being angry, upset, or holding a grudge is you. By choosing to love, you set yourself free.
Let go and love. Live life with love. Stop presuming you are the judge or the jury and just be in love. It costs nothing—and yet it means everything. The door is open; let your heart be open to the gift of life and love.
One recurring theme in both Be More and in my life is the idea that anything is possible. In fact, I choose it as the second “thread” because being open to all possibilities is, in many ways, the first step to achieving whatever you desire.
Anything is possible resonates so deeply with me because the concept of enlightenment or “something more” is so enormous. If we were to follow our logic or base the idea of possibilities on what others have achieved, we would be left believing the whole spiritual world of possibilities was more of a fantasy than a reality. But it is reality, and my experience tells me it is more real than what we think of as reality.
Here’s an excerpt from thread two, anything is possible:
“When I say anything is possible, I mean ANYTHING is possible.”
~ Maharishi Mahesh Yogi
What an incredible, powerful vision of reality. If anything is possible, then truly there are no limits.
Rumi describes this in another way: “This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.”
Who wouldn’t love to fly to a secret sky and step without feet? I certainly would. Who wouldn’t love to make anything possible? While in later parts of this book we’ll talk about how happiness, love, and attention can all transform life, this thread of wisdom is a reminder that what seems impractical could be deeply practical.
Something as seemingly poetic and whimsical as a secret sky and stepping without feet is as real as the love new parents feel when they meet their child. Changing life through love, happiness, and attention is as real as an inexplicable connection in meeting a new person. They are as real as the feeling of pride for a country, devotion to religion, or love of God. What seems impossible is, in fact, possible.
I chose the phrase “Anything is possible” because I truly believe it. I’ve seen it in my life as well as in the lives of others. Miracles are all around us. The impossible becomes possible in both little and big ways daily.
From the miracle of an infertile woman getting pregnant to the miracle of an unexpected recovery from illness, life is full of miracles. Even the sun rising every day, the warm breeze on your skin, and the joy you feel in seeing a loved one are little miracles of living.
The bigger miracle is that humans, with our limitations and shortcomings, can consider, and even experience, that anything is possible. The fact that we can experience the world through our senses and even go beyond our senses is a miracle. The phrase “Anything is possible” means that miracles are possible. “Anything is possible” means that more than our wildest dreams are possible.
When you really desire something, there are ways and means in nature to make it happen. There is no need to plan out the why and how. Nature will have a million ways and paths to bring new possibilities and to help you fulfill the deepest desires you didn’t even know you had.
This thread of wisdom is also for the moments when you want something you don’t deserve or don’t think you could ever achieve. “Anything is possible” is for the person in poverty who wants to be a billionaire. It is possible for the person who feels alone to find love and companionship. The reminder that “Anything is possible” is for the person who is always sad to find eternal happiness.
The Brain Can Create All Possibilities
This reality of all possibilities is seen in the brain in neuroplasticity. Every experience changes the brain. Even with trauma, stress, or PTSD, the brain, with the right tools, can enliven its full potential and become whole.
Dr. Fred Travis summarizes this in his book, The Brain is a River, Not a Rock:
“The understanding that our brain changes with every experience has transformed thinking and research in neuroscience. Twenty years ago, neuroscientists thought brain circuits only changed during critical periods when children were very young. Now, it is known that experience changes the brain from birth to old age. Life can be pictured as the progressive development of brain circuits leading to the progressive transformation of how we see the world.
Our whole life is the expression of changing brain connections that limit what we can experience and understand, and also are changed by each experience. Our current brain connections are the sum of all of our past experiences. The brain connections we wake up with tomorrow reflect the decisions we made today for specific experiences. It’s up to us. We do create our reality; not by belief and affirmation, but by doing. We are in control. We can create whatever reality we want to have in our lives.”
To say “Anything is possible” is not a nice, inspirational slogan. It is a physical reality. With the right tools for transformation, and with focus, we can change our reality, day by day, year by year.
A few more thoughts
With that, idea what did you think was impossible that you now consider possible? What do you want to achieve? Of course, the ability to experience your own pure consciousness will make it easier to open the door of all possibilities. But from where you are now, what do you want to achieve? Knowing that anything is possible, can you see yourself accomplishing it?