“If happiness is the goal of life, it’s surprising how much more attention people pay to the things they “have” to do versus the experiences that make them happy.” Deepak Chopra MD
“Happiness is largely passive: the good times come and go; we cope as best we can; we feel grateful when life gives us more than our share of fulfillment. But this isn’t the same as understanding the best ways to consciously create more happiness and fulfillment.
To begin, every day is a series of experiences, and there is only so much time in which to have them. If you can maximize your personal time to bring fulfillment and happiness, this is the primary way to have a happy life, according to the positive psychology movement. Yet without consciously trying to undermine their happiness, millions of people don’t direct their personal time to become happier and more fulfilled. Instead, they do the following:
· Spend hours with distractions like TV, the Internet, and video games.
· Focus on work obsessively, to the point of filling large amounts of time with work brought home from the office.
· Worry about the future.
· Pursue surrogates for happiness like money, status, and possessions.
· Repeat the same relationship and family problems over and over without resolution.
No one can be happy and fulfilled when time is wasted on these things, and although people will say that TV and video games make them happy, distractions are really about temporary pleasure. The world’s wisdom traditions look at happiness from the inside, and the first thing they say is that nothing is real except the present moment, the now. All experiences happen in the now, not in anticipating the future or reliving the past.
This fact may sound obvious, but all of us revisit the past and give it a kind of second life when we repeat old habits, beliefs, attitudes, wishes, and fears. Gaining access to the present moment requires a new ability, the ability to stay present. If you can do this, then life itself unfolds before you, here and now. This may be a strange or even frightening prospect. Being here now sounds uncertain and insecure compared with the safety of repeating familiar habits and routines. When we take an honest look at ourselves, we know that old habits and routines offer a false security. They are about remaining stuck, not safe—and certainly not happy.
In the now, life renews itself and fresh possibilities break through. To experience this every day is true happiness. One person may find new possibilities in loving relationships, another in creative expression. Appreciating other people, being immersed in the beauty of nature, contemplating the infinite expanse of consciousness at play—any and all outlets are available.
So how do we begin to live in the present creatively and fully? Since the now is always before us, there’s nowhere to go. Instead, a shift in awareness is required. This shift brings you back to being present when you see that you are not present. The signs aren’t mysterious. You stop being present whenever you:
· Repeat yourself
· Tune out
· Feel fear or anger
· Experience depression
· Fall into outworn routines
· Wish you were somewhere else
· Pretend to feel something you don’t actually feel
· Go numb
· Act on mindless impulse
· Get caught up in arguments
· Put up resistance
· Refuse to listen
· Feel stressed or under pressure
Being on the lookout for these things as they occur gives you the instant opportunity to become present again. There’s a great value in practicing the simple act of noticing when you have checked out. More than half of what is called mindfulness consists of catching yourself being mindless.
The other half consists of returning to the present. This can be easy or hard, depending on the situation. It’s relatively easy to say, “Sorry, can you repeat that? I tuned out for a second,” and much harder to pull away from an argument, remain calm under stress, and stop worrying if you are in the habit of worrying. Returning to the present is actually a special skill, a skill in awareness.
Awareness is malleable; it can be shaped by attention and intention. In meditation one experiences awareness in its settled state, which is centered, calm, untroubled, and alert. This experience is easy to have, and once you have learned to recognize it, you can develop the ability to return there at will. All it takes is a few moments alone, some deep breaths, and centering yourself back in your body in a comfortable way. Those things can be done right now, without the experience of meditation. But it is likely that the next distraction or stress will quickly throw you out of the present moment.
With dedication to meditation, yoga, and contemplative technique like mindfulness, the skill in remaining present—which is the same as being aware—becomes easier and the results deeper and longer lasting. This is the path of happiness and fulfillment according to the world’s wisdom traditions. The rush and pressure of modern life pulls us out of the present moment time and again, but the possibility of being present is always available. Everyone is in a position to say that now is the best time in their lives, as it always has been. If you would like to learn how to integrate these concepts of finding fulfillment in your present life, I invite you to participate in the free 21-Day Meditation Experience, Making Every Moment Matter, to help you find more joy, ease, acceptance, and grace in each moment.”
Deepak Chopra MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing and Jiyo.com, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology, and Metabolism. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, member of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, and Clinical Professor at UCSD School of Medicine. Chopra is the author of more than 85 books translated into over 43 languages, including numerous New York Timesbestsellers along with You Are the Universe (February 2017, Harmony) co-written with leading physicist, Menas Kafatos. Other recent books include Super Genes co-authored with Rudolph E. Tanzi, Ph.D., and Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine. www.deepakchopra.com