You're going to die... be happy!
Author Eric Weiner went on a global search to find out about happiness.
The questions that he asked himself were: What makes people happy? What countries or people are the happiest? What do people do to stay happy? The answers to those questions turned into a book, Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World (NPR has a free excerpt of the book).
One of the most fascinating people that Weiner met on his journey was a Buddhist man from Bhutan, named Karma Ura, who talked about his personal recipe for happiness - think about death.
Everyday Karma would set aside 5 minutes to mediate on his death and the possibility of dying. Weiner thought that the practice sounded quite depressing. And for most people, initially it would be. But when you really start to think about death, and do it regularly, two very interesting things start to emerge:
- You question death: Most people intellectually know about death. They've been taught about it from books, religion, friends, and parents. But once you think about death beyond your conditioning about it, you start to question everything you intellectually know about it. And through this questioning, you have an opportunity to face your fears about death itself. All fears come back to the fear of death, and by exploring the ultimate fear, you have an opportunity to realize that death isn't what you think it is. So what is it?
- You question life: By thinking about death, something very practical happens as well. You begin thinking about life and living it to the fullest. After all, if you have a limited amount of clock time on this Earth, you can't help but to ask yourself "What the hell am I doing?". Other practical questions also start to show up: Who am I spending time with? What are my goals? Do I feel good doing what I'm doing? Is it worth getting upset over this or that?
All this contemplation and thinking comes down to the ultimate question: Am I happy?
I'm not going to give Weiner's book away, but it doesn't take a genius to know that the people that ask this question the most (Am I happy?), tend to be the people that are the happiest.
You'll find that un-happy people don't ask themselves if they are happy (until they are depressed and it is too late). They don't check in with themselves regularly or measure their happiness against anything. How could you ever know unless you asked yourself how you truly feel?
When you ask the right questions, the right answers start to show up. But to ask a good question, you need good a good vehicle. Taking 5 minutes of your day to think about death (Death Meditation) is one example of one vehicle. Watching Access Hollywood (to get the latest Britney updates) and absorbing other peoples drama is an example of another vehicle.
Different vehicles take you different places and get you to ask different questions. One isn't better than another, but they sure do produce different results.
So what vehicle have you been driving? And oh ya, are you happy?