The Philosophy Of Happiness
Most religions divide a human into three components: Body, Mind, and Spirit.
I would like to propose the following mind-model for happiness and how the components Body, Mind and Spirit fit into it.
The Happiness Pyramid
The Happiness Pyramid consists of the three building blocks we call Body, Mind, and Spirit.
The width of each block represents the potential of happiness it contains when fully conquered. As the blocks increase in width, we also learn that the potential depth of happiness increases over time.
Unfortunately, the presence of potential doesn't mean that we can all harness it. Realizing and understanding the total range of happiness a block offers requires us to study it, and conquer it.
Understanding the blocks are difficult tasks as they are complex and require a lot of wisdom. Conquering them is even harder and is not necessarily related to understanding them.
Ignorance is not bliss, it's just not knowing about the full extent of the potential. In a way, ignorance is relative bliss. Many people choose ignorance which I think is their right. However, such people often lead shallow lives and their inner consciousness is painfully aware of it. As people get closer to dying, it gets harder for them to remain based in that ignorance. The truth pushes through. Ask a nurse who works in a hospice. She will tell you how people with shallow lifestyles bring up deep questions within their final hours.
The height of the pyramid represents the flow of life. As babies, we all start at the tip of the pyramid where we first need to realize and understand how our body relates to the world.
Over time, and within an ideal trajectory, we learn more about our minds, that is how the world relates to us.
Eventually, we come to understand who we really are, independently from external factors.
A computer game is a suitable metaphor. Think of each block as levels that you have to master in order to proceed through the game. There are no shortcuts! The limits of these levels are not as clear in real life as they are within my model. In a sense, mastering one level makes the previous one obsolete as you have learned all the lessons it presented to you. This doesn't mean that you can't enjoy previous levels anymore, it's just that you won't grow through them anymore.
Progress through the levels doesn't always happen in a linear way. Think of a liquid that gets slowly absorbed at the top and works its way to the base - that's probably closer to reality. Many people don't get very far. Their understanding and mastery is very limited.
I want to learn more.
The body is the extension of our mind which is overseen by the spirit. Without our body, it would be impossible to partake in this earthly experience. Even the deaf or the blind still experience life through the senses still available to them. This is why so many people refuse to be kept alive artifically.
What makes the Body Happy?
I think it's relatively easy. It wants to be healthy, beautiful, fit and well-nourished.
The Path to a Strong, Healthy Body
In 2003 I was diagnosed with a crippling disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis. It causes chronic inflammation along the spine and other joints and can lead to paralysis. There is no known cure for it, and western medicine fights it with immuno-suppressant medication and pain-killers. Like so often, we fight the symptoms but fail to work on the root causes of our illnesses.
After listening to my doctors for a few years, I became fed up with the side-effects and decided to try alternative ways. Fast forward to today, and I can gratefully say that I am managing the disease to a point where I am considered as being in remission. I lift heavy weights, which was unthinkable a while ago, and most importantly, I am medication free. Last year I shopped for life insurance. My agent was reluctant to even submit an application for me due to my history. Can you believe that I was categorized as super-preferred after putting me through rigorous medical check-ups?
How did I get there? I am glad you asked. It was a long journey, and I will write many more articles on the topic. But the short answer is that I slowly adopted a purely plant-based (vegan) diet.
Our mind is a tool our spirit uses to understand the physical aspect of this world. It assesses the world by interpreting it via the impulses provided by our senses. It learns to understand the signals our senses give by observing our circumstances and how they in turn react to certain signals. Our mind is very much a self-learning apartatus. But it is not without fault. It can make mistakes - lots of them.
Past Experiences Condition our Mind
The mind tends to be happy when it gets impulses it associates with positive experiences
Our environment conditions us, and that conditioning starts very early in life. The experiences our minds link to happiness vary from person to person. You may associate the smell of fresh toast and coffee to happy mornings with your parents preparing your breakfast. However, if you had parents who fought every morning, the same smell might cause you to cringe.
What is one experience that most people associate to happiness, but just the thought of it makes you feel awful?
Studies have shown that humans make a more significant effort to avoid pain than to seek happiness. This is even true if we have to make bad choices to prevent suffering. How many people do you know who stay with an abusive partner because they think that being alone is the bigger evil?
It's helpful to take a close look at your past and understand how it has conditioned your mind. If you know yourself, you will also become familiar with your happiness triggers.
When is the Mind Happy?
- Feeling intelligent
- Belonging to a community
- Material belongings (they do help)
- Financial Safety
- Emotional Safety
- Feeling achieved
- Sense of being a good person
- Feeling popular
- Feeling recognized/approved
The spirit is often compared to the holiest part of a human being. It's the closest component to God. In some religions, the spirit is referred to as the sole truth that unites us all.
I'd like to think of the spirit as that which is aware when we dream. Have you ever been dreaming and you knew exactly that you were indeed dreaming? Maybe you were enjoying the dream, and you were encouraging yourself to continue your dream. Whoever is the observer of your dreams at that moment must be your spirit. It can't be your mind because it is busy dreaming. Thus the observer must be your spirit which is made visible through your active state of dreaming.
When is the Spirit Happy?
The spirit is happy when a human feels closest to, or united with God. Different religions have different ideas on how to get there, but I like the idea of meditation getting you into a state of samadhi. It's a state of intense concentration achieved through meditation. In Hindu yoga, this is regarded as the final stage, at which union with the divine is reached (before or at death).
A Christian pastor once explained to me that Christianity is the only religion that does not believe a human being can save himself. He can only be saved by surrendering to Jesus and accepting his original sin. This is in stark contrast to Asian religions which teach that an individual can reach divinity based on his efforts.
I don't know who is right, but I believe that the spirit is happy when it is closest to God, regardless of how it got there.
Would you agree with me that you are pretty happy when asleep? When you are not dreaming, there is nothingness. That nothingness feels pretty awesome. It's perfect neutrality. There's no good or bad, there is nothing - and nothing feels good. Prisoners and soldiers love going to sleep because it grants them a break from the harsh reality they live.
I want to learn more.