I am going to contradict what I have frequently asserted in my public talks and writings.
I advise my audiences to avoid asking the question “Am I happy?”
If you ask that question, the answer is inevitably “No”, I tell them. Truly happy persons are so busy and fulfilled that it never occurs to them to wonder if they are happy.
This is true if we are talking about conventional happiness.
Today I will go deeper, much deeper.
In India there is a term for this deeper level. It is ‘ananda.’ It has been mis-translated as happiness, well-being, satisfaction, contentment and so on. There is just no equivalent term for it in English.
If I ask you, “Are you happy?” you will probably answer “Yes”.
And you believe that you are speaking the truth.
Perhaps you are, but you have set a very low bar.
What you are really saying is that there is nothing which is actively bothering you right now. Your basic needs are taken care of, you are reasonably healthy and have something you look forward to that you find pleasurable – perhaps a Netflix thriller or a vacation or new date or whatever.
Go back to the first time you fell in love. That emotion toned your whole day. The trees took on a deeper hue, the skies cleared, and ethereal music seemed to be wafting from the wind itself. There was radiance everywhere.
Spiritual quest can also take you to an exalted state.
Here is how the Pilgrim described his feeling, “The prayer of the heart delighted me so much that I thought there could be no one happier than I in the whole world and could not imagine how there could be any greater or deeper contentment in the Kingdom of Heaven. Not only did I experience all this within my soul, but everything around me appeared to be enchanting and inspired me with love for and gratitude to God. People, trees, plants and animals – I felt a kinship with them all. At times I felt so lightweight, as if I had no body and were not walking but joyously floating through the air. Sometimes I knew such joy that I felt as if I had been crowned a king.”
That is what I am talking about. A feeling of well-being that is so deep that it makes you quiver. You feel as if you will burst because of the enormous sense of gratitude that has permeated your very being.
That is ‘ananda.’ And you got a whiff of it when you first fell in love.
That is divine rapture.
And that is what I mean when I ask if you are happy at a deep level.
Now ‘ananda’ can be yours, but it is not an aspirational goal. You cannot set out to find it or ‘do’ things to acquire it.
It is already in you. You just have to release it. You have to dismantle the mental models you hold that are blocking it.
And that is the journey I propose to take you on this year.