In the midst of our busy schedules, elusive career plans, and fleeting relationships, we can’t help but wonder: what is the secret to happiness?
Chris Prentiss in Zen and the Art of Happiness explores the challenges hindering us from achieving happiness, and gives the readers useful steps to unlock the secret to living a happy life. In the first chapter, “The Way”, the author presents new ways of thinking about happiness. He urges readers not to dispel seemingly simplistic advice, but to give these thoughts a chance to be verified. He then introduces two questions for readers to answer:
- Would I want this to be true: “Every event that befalls me is absolutely the best possible event that could occur”?
- Will I give that a chance to be true?
Instead of negatively (and instinctively) reacting to certain life occurrences, we should adopt a new perspective: every event that befalls you is absolutely the best possible event that could occur—that there is no other event imaginable that could benefit you to any greater degree. Essentially, this type of optimistic thinking will ultimately bring happiness into everything we do. Practicing this new form of thinking requires a Zen approach to life. Zen is a philosophy that promotes experiencing life in the present, in the “here” and “now”. It requires three main things from our minds: concentration, calmness, and simplicity. Applying Zen into our lives will guide us towards enlightenment, which is the key to true happiness. The process of enlightenment, and of happiness, means knowing that everything in the Universe is created from and is part of the same energy, and knowing in what way we relate to it all.
The second chapter of the book, “We are the authors of every next moment,” combines the philosophy of Zen to introduce a practical approach to achieving happiness. In this chapter, the author attributes the state of our happiness to our personal philosophies. A personal philosophy is simply an individual’s own perspective in life, and his/her approach to living. Our way of reacting to life events is essentially what can hinder or further our happiness in life.
“We are the ones who invest seemingly bad happenings with the power to seem bad at the time they occur and to continue to seem bad afterwards.”
As you believe, so it is for you. We should not search for hidden meanings behind every bad thing that happens to us; instead, we need to realize our personal agency in the situation and direct our reaction towards a positive light.
The art of happiness has always been an elusive and insatiable desire in my life. It seems naïve to assume that we are living a happy life, yet the very act of questioning the presence of happiness in itself is counterproductive to achieving happiness. In my experience, happiness has been hard to achieve only because the expectation of disappointment has become a safety net. After an unfortunate event or a bad day, why is it easier for us to surrender to disappointment rather than positive acceptance?
Zen and enlightenment could just be the path to happiness, but I argue that happiness is too personal and unique to each of us that it will take more than these philosophies for us to attain satisfaction. The most important takeaway from Prentiss’ book is to live an empowered life; to know that our life circumstances may be beyond our control, but in the end, as the poet William Ernest Henley states: “We are still masters of our fate. We are still captains of our soul.”
Post by: Miqi Cos