Two Approaches to Happiness

Talk by Lakshmi

There are, we could say, two basic approaches to manifesting a happier, more fulfilled life. The first and most familiar to us is to try to maximize the quality of our day-to-day experiences and circumstances as best we can. However, one of the inherent challenges of trying to engineer or control our experiences and circumstances so as to maximize well-being is this: Life is invariably filled with all manner of experiences and circumstances we find difficult, challenging, or unpleasant and many of these are not very amenable (if at all) to control or change. Whether internally (thoughts, feelings, sensations) or externally (situations and circumstances), things often don’t go the way we would like them to go, despite our best, most artful and sincere efforts.
But there is another approach to happiness and fulfillment and that is to investigate what the dream is actually made of, rather than reflexively trying to create a more desirable one. Whether we call it a happy one, a sad one, an exhilarating one, or a terrifying one, in this second approach, we simply inquire into the nature of the dreaming itself, and through this, discover that no matter its content, no matter what the dream may look like, it is all life, all reality, appearing in the many guises life can appear.
Experience is ultimately undefinable.
We imagine that we know what experiences are because we have names for them. However, through more carefully exploring the texture or felt sense of experience, we can discover that all experiences, whether they’re conceived of as mundane or sublime, lie beyond the reach of our conceptualizing faculties. Feel into any state—fear, anxiety, joy, exhilaration—and what becomes apparent is the inadequacy of our descriptive labels, the failure of our conceptual maps to convey the unthinkably vast, subtle, and nuanced territory of experience.
We can certainly try to manifest more of what we conventionally think of as “states of well-being.” But the second approach reveals another order of well-being altogether, one that is discovered to be present in every moment of experience, irrespective of the conventional labels we may give it, a well being that is just as present in sadness as it is in joy. This is a stable, indestructible well-being that can neither be given nor taken away because it is reality itself, the same ever-present reality that appears as each changing moment of life, a field of fathomless mystery and well-being that is beyond our capacity to definitively label or describe.
It’s fine, of course, to continue trying to live life as skillfully as you can, minimizing those states of mind and circumstances conventionally thought of as undesirable while maximizing those considered (based on your descriptions) to be more desirous. But while you engage in this more conventional approach to well-being, you can at the same time take up the second approach and begin to discover that the very
experiences you’ve imagined yourself stuck in or troubled by are in fact infinity itself, the inconceivable, miraculous display of reality, shining forth as each instant of life, no matter its conventional label.
Astin, J. (2018). This Extraordinary Moment: Moving Beyond the Mind to Embrace the Miracle of What Is Non-Duality Press. Kindle Edition.

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