Note: This is a guest post by Vern
Is it still called happiness when every muscle in your face is pulling to make you smile so hard that you fear your skin may rip?
Happiness feels incredible. Our mind is light and on a higher plane. Worries are diffused by happiness, even causing stress to disappear completely in some instances. We need happiness in our lives, preferably on a daily basis.
Would you think back over the next minute or two and try to come up with a time when you were so overwhelmed with happiness that your face hurt from smiling and yet you couldn’t stop it because the happiness – the joy was bursting from inside you. In fact, once you reached what you’d term the ultimate happiness, more came. Then more… you kept reaching higher levels of bliss that were nearly overwhelming. Was there ever a time like that in your entire life? I really want you to try this exercise and see if you can remember a time like that because most of us can’t. Even on your wedding day, as happy as you were there were probably parts of your mind that weren’t quite in bliss. Probably the part worrying about making everything go smoothly and making it the best wedding anyone ever experienced.
For most people – happiness comes from attaching to the idea with your mind that you’ll get something you want or crave, and then getting it. It can occur in other ways also, maybe as a complete surprise – like if you just won a lot of money or a vacation or a car or maybe you learned of a positive pregnancy test result. Happiness is usually sparked from the outside initially. Some external event is perceived and then we respond from the inside – with joy, bliss and happiness as our mind interprets and reacts to it.
That kind of happiness is amazing. Heck, ANY happiness is a great experience, right?
What if I told you that the greatest happiness you’ve ever felt is inferior to the happiness that I’m going to write about in the next couple paragraphs. Would you think I wasn’t playing with a full deck of cards?
I’m being 100% honest with you when I say that I’ve experienced happiness, joy, and pure bliss that couldn’t be approached by any event that started outside me. For instance if an armored car pulled up outside my door and someone saw me typing this post and said, “Are you Vern Lovic?” Yes. “Your aunt died and left you 914 billion dollars. Here’s a check. Here are your bodyguards. Let’s take a trip to the bank.”
I’d be happy. But, you know what? That experience would pale miserably next to what I’ve already experienced.
Are you curious yet?
As I said, a state of happiness usually starts with something great – one fantastic thing that propels you into the happiness state. From there, from that initial peak, the bliss state fades and you’re left feeling happy for a few minutes, hours or even a whole day. The way someone normally experiences happiness looks like this light blue line on the graph (click to enlarge):
Happiness was at the 40% level. Bang, you got the word – you won billions of dollars or whatever it was. Your happiness shoots up to 70%. Why only 70%? Actually, it’s only about 50% but I don’t want you to think I’m exaggerating when I tell you about how profound a level of happiness you COULD have. When I say your happiness only peaks at 70% of what it could be, I’m being generous. I doubt it’s even 50%.
Over a short time your happiness about the good news is sustained. Until thought starts kicking it around a bit and you realize with this insane amount of money will come insane responsibility, decision making, and probably stupid things you’ll need to work your way out of over the coming years. Still, overall you’re psyched at the highest level you could be for a while – maybe a half hour? Inevitably the level of happiness starts drifting back to normal. In the next 24 hours or so you’ll likely go through waves of happiness that will rise and fall like waves as you come to grips with it.
Overall – not a bad experience. Realistically though, how often can you manifest news like that in your life? Never. How often can you get that excited about anything going on in your life? THAT excited – probably never. But, you could probably get very excited and happy about other things. Let’s say on average once per month you could find some way to get so ridiculously happy that you could do a back-flip. Even just once a month would be a high level of this kind of extreme happiness – yes?
Now, lets look at another experience. A girl is sitting on the floor. What is she doing? Her face is smiling so hard like she’s faking it for a photo. She isn’t though. She’s experiencing the most intense happiness, bliss, rapture that is available to us as human beings on the planet. She’s slowly ramping up to 100% of possible happiness. You maxed out at only 70%, remember?
She’s likely looking at an intensely bright white light created by her mind. It will appear to become part of her – like she seamlessly becomes part of this exceptionally bright, pure, light of happiness. Every care that was in her mind before – is gone. Every muscle in her body is completely relaxed and she probably feels nothing of her body as the bliss is overwhelming and completely pervades all sensory experience.
What was the good news she got? Oh – there wasn’t any. What drugs is she on? None. What happened to her?
She sat on the floor and focused on her breath. When she was fully relaxed of body and mind the state began. That’s it basically.
The world as a whole is virtually ignorant about the existence of this state of mind. There are many Buddhists, Hindus and meditators that don’t follow any religion that understand what this is, but it’s safe to say that billions of people in the world don’t. It’s even safer still to say that billions of people in the world haven’t experienced it first-hand. But they could.
Your mind is wired just like everyone else in this regard. You can experience the most profound states of happiness that exist for human beings. Not just once… these are repeatable states that begin only when you let everything that stresses you – go.
I’m talking about the mind states of piti and sukha. These are words from Buddhism’s Pali canon where they are used as technical terms in describing factors of jhana, also known as states of absorption.
Before one enters the first jhana it is possible to experience this immense happiness that is unmatched in quality, duration, sustainability, repeatability… it is the ultimate in happiness because once you are able to reach it – it’s there whenever you want to experience it.
After the initial rapturous feeling has faded slightly, and assuming one doesn’t go deep into the other jhana states from there this level of happiness can sustain itself for hours – even days after the initial experience. It far surpasses any previous experience of happiness and bliss.
Is it possible to surpass piti and sukha in terms of happiness? Possibly. I don’t know how, but that doesn’t mean that somewhere on earth someone isn’t doing it.
The world of human experience is so deep and filled with possibilities. What is common knowledge to one group of people may be alien to another. I regularly stretch my mind here at LifeOptimizer.org and other blogs because I want to know everything about everything and I realize I don’t! I blog because I enjoy sharing the coolest of my personal experiences with people that want to read them. Special kudos to Donald for letting me guest post at his amazing blog!
If you’re curious about other states of mind possible during the simple meditation of focusing on your breath I’ll have more at AimforAwesome.com over the next few weeks as I publish some articles I’ve already outlined. If no time now – grab the RSS feed and read them at your leisure.
This article is part of July 2008 theme: Happiness