Unconditional Happiness: the Art of Letting Go
Few years ago I was asked: “Why are you so happy all the time?” Something inside told me to say: “Because I choose to.” Back then, I did not give much thought to this answer. Only now I fully understand the importance of this notion.
Amidst all the complications we create to our lives, it all comes down to this one simple question: “Do you want to be happy or do you not want to be happy?”
Blatantly obvious as it seems. Most of us answer this question like this: “I want, but…” I am not rich enough/ not skinny enough/ not smart enough/ not famous enough; or my boyfriend left me/ my dog died/ my job sucks/ my neighbors are rude.
There is always something that we need to have or to do in order to be happy. For us, happiness is conditional. Most of use is trapped in this predicament. We don’t know that unconditional happiness exists. Worse, we are not even aware that we are suffering. Simply because we know not of any other way to live life. Like if you ask a fish about water, it will say: “which water?”
So let’s try to zoom out and see what is really happening here.
From the moment you began to read this article, around 600 of babies bas been born, and 300 of people took their last breath. These births and deaths happen among the population of 7 billions of human beings crowding this planet called Earth. Earth is a large ball of atoms spinning around a greater ball of fire called Sun, which is the center of our solar system. The solar system lies in the outer reaches of the Milky Way Galaxy, which contains another 200 billions of stars, most of which are invisible to our eyes. And the Milky Way Galaxy is only one among 170 billions galaxies in an observable universe.
Think about it a little because it is incredible. And what even more amazing is the odd that you, specifically you, have been put here in this earth. Among the inconceivable number of possible DNA combinations which could’ve resulted in millions of sets of other actual people; none of those people ever sees the light, except for you. You are here.
If you begin to contemplate this very reality, you will start noticing human’s peculiar way of using this unbelievable odd and the short time given to us in this earth. Most of us hate our life. Little things can easily disturbed us. We give away our happiness every day without even thinking about it.
Somebody beeps at us at the cross road when we are on our way to work, and that’s enough to ruin our morning. A friend forgets to return our call, and we imagine stories in our head and spend hours wondering what we have done wrong. A colleague we don’t even like utters something about our body, and we run 5 kilometers in the gym feeling like dirt.
I hope now you have already seen how absurd this is. We all sell our happiness short. We give it away for nothing.
“Do you want to be happy or do you not want to be happy?” We must begin to understand that the only way to truly say yes must come with no “but”. Happiness is either unconditional or absent. That’s why saying yes to happiness is a big commitment. Unconditional happiness is perhaps the highest state one can reach in the art of living. But it is attainable with the practice of letting go.
This morning I went to my faculty office to ask some questions. The student admin officer was very unhappy (maybe someone had beeped at her at the crossroad earlier). Without even looking up at my face, she asked coldly: “You want to know this? For what?” I answered her, still smiling. She got annoyed and replied “I’ll put that stuff on the website when it’s time.” I smiled, thanked, and said goodbye. She still hadn’t looked at me when I walked away.
To say the situation didn’t affect me at all is to lie. I felt a tightness in my chest, as if my heart was closing. As my mind replayed the situation, a disturbing feeling arose: a mix of anger, sadness, bewilderment and humiliation. How could she? I was so gentle and polite! I could’ve continued to curse her, feel humiliated, and maybe get grumpy with another person. But I knew better.
I began to observe my feelings and thoughts while sending my attention to my breaths. This is very important. When you observe your feelings and thoughts, you remove yourself from them. You can’t observe something without being separate from it. Thus, you cease to get involved with the disturbance. This is meditation. This is mindfulness. This is psychology and science. This is a profound practice found in all spiritual teachings.
In these moments, everything around you may seem to slow down. You just observe, and you relax. Notice your body, it speaks. Your shoulders, your neck, your temples – the 2 outer parts of your forehead, between your eye and your ear. Relax them. Breath equally, evenly, slowly, deeply. Notice your heart and the tight area at your chest. Notice it getting contracted and tightened. As you breathe out, relax. Let go.
I used to be in so much emotional pain, my chest literally hurt. We all know this feelings, don’t we? If you are sensitive enough to your body, you will notice that the first sign of emotional pain is your chest tightening, your heart closing. This is the sign for you to begin the letting go practice.
If you get involved in the inner disturbance, you suffer, give away your happiness, do things you later regret. If you deny, suppress, fight with, or distract yourself from inner pains; you end up more disturbed, drained; and it will explode out of you sooner or later – this has many names: emotional breakdown, depression, stress.
Don’t confuse this with being a doormat or a coward. Because giving away your happiness for nothing is being a doormat. What good does your upset bring?
Don’t confuse this with not dealing with the situation. How can you deal with the situation when you are too busy dealing with yourself? How can your actions be effective when they are poisoned by your inner melodrama? We do deal with the situation. And we will deal with them much better, with much more clarity and consideration, once we’re free of inner disturbance. As I practice letting go, I realized that most situations don’t need to be dealt with. They are too petty for my time and energy.
Don’t confuse this with being emotionless, or having no feeling. If the pain must rush through you, it must. You must let it. If you observe it, thus detach yourself from it, you won’t cling on it. And because it is not held back by you, it will leave you. Feel it in every single atom that makes up your body, but don’t hold on to it. Let it pass through you like the wind.
You don’t need to change your life. Thousands of people are having the kind of life you dream of, but are deeply unhappy. You will understand that it’s not about changing your life. It’s about changing how you live your life. This is what it takes to be happy, unconditionally.
This is a beautiful way to live and experience all that life can offer. Open arms. Open heart. Take it all in, feel it in the depth of our being, without holding anything back. In the short time given to our DNA in the Milky Way.