Trading Low-Level Happiness For The Real Thing

Happy owner hold happy pup

Almost imperceptibly we begin habitually licking honey from a razor blade. While the taste is sweet we barely, if at all, realize that we are hurting ourselves.

We become addicted to the low-level happiness of attachment. We begin clinging to the things of this life – believing, falsely, that this is our best option to be happy. We mistake the pleasurable but fleeting sensation that occurs in the presence of attachment as true happiness.  Then we become so addicted to it that we fail to apprehend its dangers. It is an illusion that only sets us up for misery.

Take, for example, a new car. The day we bring it home we are joyful – at least for a time. But eventually, the true nature of the situation becomes apparent to us through any number of events.

The car breaks down and we are faced with a large repair bill.
The neighbor brings home a newer, nicer car and in an instant, the increased status we felt is wiped away.
The financial burden of a large payment every month remains, long after the temporary boost in happiness has faded away.

So we begin fantasizing about the next new car. Part of us knows where this will lead but in our willful, self-imposed blindness, we forge ahead and we start the whole cycle all over again.

This same process holds true when we grasp for and cling to status, power, position, and control. In our unawakened state, we reach once more for the honey, ignoring the razor blade.

It is not enough for us to understand this conundrum intellectually. It requires that we take an unflinching inventory of how attachment and clinging disturb our peace of mind and happiness in our day-to-day lives, in the present moment, in the now.

The path that leads us away from this wheel is to take off the blindfold that we ourselves tied across our eyes and realize the impermanence of all things. It is then that we can break our addiction to this low-level, temporary happiness and  learn to embrace what can bring us true, sustained joy.

As Seneca once said,

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so, wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. I wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be. without wishing for what he has not.”

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