How I Found A Happier Life
If you ask anyone what they really want? Ninety percent would say - they want to be happy. It could be wanting a good job, a successful business, a fat bank balance, or a perfect relationship. In fact, just about everything in the end, is about happiness, but how to find happiness in life?
On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, I came across a lot of content on well-being. A particularly moving account was by actress Deepika Padukone, who seems to have it all - beauty, fame, money, success and a loving family and yet, she was lost in a dark spiral of depression. She spoke of how during a particularly bad phase, she was curled up in bed while her mother, who was visiting, packed up to return. Seeing her unresponsive, her mother asked her repeatedly, “’are you ok?’’ and kept on asking till she finally broke down and talked about what she was going through.
It made me think about the times when I struggled with fear, hopelessness, anxiety, powerlessness and even rage fuelled by frustration. I was bringing up a child with special needs and was dealing with a patriarchal family mindset. Meanwhile, I watched my aspirations crumble. I felt exhausted and paralysed. There are people who go through so much more. Happiness becomes a far away dream substituted with more anxiety inducing behaviours like shopping trips, material acquisitions, social posturing and sometimes just pettiness.
Fortunately for me, someone felt I was not okay and told me about an alternate way of life. I was introduced to Nichiren Buddhism in 2003. My greatest learning during these past 13 years has been that - Happiness is not a personal quest. You find it most readily when it becomes a collective endeavour. When your friend or colleague or neighbours distress matters as much as your own, it becomes easier. I learned to unlearn. Looking beyond my circle of desires and reaching out to help others gave me a curious sense of satisfaction and greater energy to face my challenges. I remember reading a wonderful line that stayed with me, ’’Women support others and cause others to support them’’. I realized that within this circle of support, we can build the most wonderfully satisfying connections. I have spent many years in this network of mutual support and encouragement and realized great reserves of strength and resilience. The more i gave, the more came back in the form of supportive significant others. During the time, I was diagnosed and treated for Stage 3 Cancer. I had this Gakkai gang cheerleading me at the hospital through the surgery ,chemo sessions and aftermath.The struggle was my own but it just made everything easier and filled me with this huge positive energy.
If you care more and want to relate more, you will .The barriers exist nowhere but within each heart. I have learnt this beautiful concept of ‘’Human Revolution’’ put forth by Buddhist Philosopher and my Mentor, Dr Daisaku Ikeda - ‘’a great change in just a single individual will enable a change in the destiny of all humankind ‘’ . The thought that my behaviour can affect a change in others just makes me live with greater awareness, responsibility and power. Accepting myself, was the first essential step to a change, not because I want approval but because the greatest journey is self discovery .There is a Buddhist parable about a group of travellers who set out with a wise teacher to discover the Treasure land. They go through an arduous journey and almost give up but the teacher conjures up a Phantom city where they rest and do not want to go further - the illusion of self satisfaction which creates the comfort zone. The teacher then makes the city disappear and urges them to press forward.They realize the journey together helped them discover value of joy and hidden capabilities. That effort to keep growing and reinventing oneself is real happiness. It is not a static and tranquil way of life but constant learning and discovery.
The most important gift though has been the gratitude with which I am able to live. The struggles have made me appreciate life and what I have so much more - the morning sun, chanting, my morning walk, the stretch of yoga, the squirrels and birds that come to my kitchen window, the help I have, my family and the joy of togetherness. And my crazy wonderful colleagues at work, the job that I got after a 18 year hiatus, the changing seasons - the list can go on but the amazing grace grows with the gratitude. Practice it and you will will enjoy life so much more.It is simple as the best things in life always are.
In fact Happiness too is simple. It begins with asking someone ,’’are you ok?’’ and making sure they are.