Here is what I learnt from the book. I hope it is useful and inspires you to read the book.
Robert starts off with talking about “possibility thinking” which children universally have( they can make a microphone of a spoon and be happy that they are singing). He says-
It is a great key to happiness that you can make anything out of anything.
And you can do it “now”. Not anytime in the future…but now.
We can milk the sacred now for happiness because-
” Everything-absolutely everything – is available to you “now”.
We can do this by placing your attention on what is happening right now and appreciate, respect and value it as much as you can. He then asks us to interpret
HAPPINESS IS NOWHERE
and remarks that the difference between happiness is now here and happiness is no where has everything to how you see the event and that our perception is the key. If we place our attention within our unconditioned self rather than the world outside we can easily milk the sacred now. The world can never make us happy, getting something can never make us happy…what can make us happy…reconnecting ourselves with our true self: full of existence, consciousness and joy.
Robert points out an eternal verity:
Be careful what you look for because you will find it.
If you focus on the cloud, you cant see the sun within. If you focus on sadness you will be sad. If you focus on happiness you will be happy. This becomes more important as we compare two opposite points of view:
The psychology of the ego, or the lower self is immersed in fear, separation and suffering.
The psychology of the Higher self is focused on wholeness and joy. As we focus on this Higher self we realise-
True happiness is an inner power, natural, healing, abundant and always available.
This story illuminates:
perched on the same tree.
One eats fruit,
the other looks on
Think of these two birds as two thoughts flying in the sky of your mind. The first bird, the individual self, is your ego. It ‘desires’ happiness and it tells you you must search the world to find it. The second bird, the universal Self is your spirit. It ‘knows’ happiness, and tells you you are happy already, that you were created happy and that all the happiness that you have dreamed of rests in the centre of your Self right now. Like an oasis in the desert, the universal self is wholly joyous, wholly abundant and wholly peaceful.
The ego thinks that everything good is outside. It edges god out. It is like a thirsty fish, not knowing it is in water, a bird flying high trying to reach the sky, the sparkle in the diamond that insists there is no diamond.
Just like the ugly duckling, we are afraid we are not good enough, wrong, bad and nothing; and just like the ugly duckling, we will eventually learn this is not true.
We also have misperceptions of ourselves and God and that gives us great unhappiness. As the Vedic rishis say-
Tat twam asi= You are that= You( not the ego) but You( your true self) are that( universal self)
When we forget this we are ‘unhappy”
And to remember this, he suggests this prayer-
O God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is.Amen.
And as we reconnect and remember consciously this inner Light we heal ourselves, we are happy.
How to give up the search for happiness? If we look at our lives, we shall find a lot of good things happening to us that we take for granted, like even simple things( eating food, having a home). If we think about how much of the world lacks these things you will realise that you are more blessed than what you thought yourself to be.
It is not as if if you resolve a problem you will find happiness. Happiness is your innate nature, the real You. We need to consciously connect ourselves to Happiness to be free of unhappiness.
However as Robert points out,
We are afraid of happiness, fearing it will be snatched away from us.
This is probably because we don’t know what happiness is. We work hard at it, without really working out what it is. We have been conditioned to think that happiness is something outside of us-
1. Our misperceptions of what happiness is.
2. The unnecessary conditions and prerequisites that we have created
3. The fearful beliefs you have about happiness
But none of this is real and they are illusions created by our confusion and cause us pain. We start searching for happiness. Because of out erroneous belief that happiness is somewhere else, that pursuit causes more unhappiness. As we pursue more, we forget to be happy. This pursuit is a sure-shot failure because happiness is not outside you. Unless we change the belief that happiness is somewhere else, we will never get “there”.
Whatever is it that you pursue, love, happiness, peace, God is something that you currently cannot accept. You cannot accept it for yourself and you do not accept that it might be within yourself. Think if you accept that, how fearless and happy you will be. Not in pursuit of anything.
And then he says-
Nothing in the world can make you happy. Everything in the world can encourage you to be happy.Nothing in the world can make you sad. Everything in the world can encourage you to be sad.
There are three broad ideas about happiness in society:
1. Happiness is luck. If you accept this idea then there is no role left for you to play in your own life. Your life has already been determined and and you have no responsibility or influence.
2. Happiness is a circumstance. This seems common and plausible if things go right. But if things go wrong, where does our happiness go. But even if things go right, we are often unhappy. Because, as we already said- nothing in the world can make you happy.
3. Happiness is a decision. This is a radical idea and is also true. Circumstances and situations do colour life, but you have been given the mind to choose what the colour shall be. Whatever the picture, it is your frame of mind that actually counts. A happy person is not a person with a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.
Even though the attitude that happiness is a decision is great, it does not give the full picture.
Happiness is not something external that travels away from you or towards you. It is a potential you carry within yourself always. You can either open to it or withdraw from it. Happiness does not come and go, what comes and goes is your attunement to happiness. Happiness is the nature of your unconditioned self. When you are truly happy, you are being your self.
As “A Course in Miracles” says-The Kingdom of heaven is You. When we chase happiness, we are essentially searching for our self, which is within us, not outside us. As we accept that happiness is our nature, you will be more free. And as we commit ourselves to being happy, we get in touch with our real self which makes us more happy and we commit ourselves more establishing a vicious circle and we are constantly conscious and constantly happy.
What are some of the causes that make us out-of-sync with happiness?
Robert says that the main disease is self-judgment. We all suffer from this. We are hard on ourselves. Our ego constantly keeps telling us that happiness is somewhere else and that we are not “good” enough. And the remedy is-
love, kindness and true self- acceptance
And for this, we need to understand the # 1 HAPPINESS PRINCIPLE-
Unless you are happy with yourself, you will not be happy.
This can be further divided into four main parts:
1. What you “do”. Unless you are happy with yourself you will not be happy with what you do.
This basically means that achievement will not give happiness. Achievement for the joy of achieving is good, but if you need to achieve it becomes problematic. Because no amount of doing can compensate for being. It can boost your ego but will not make you happy.
2. Where you “are”. Unless you are happy with yourself you will not be happy with where you are. This basically means that being in a certain place( geographically, in a mansion, career place, etc) will not make you happy. Because as we always say, happiness does not lie outside. It lies within yourself, in the unconditioned Self.
3. Who you are “with”. Unless you are happy with yourself you will not be happy with who you are with. This basically means nobody else can make you happy. They can encourage you to be happy, but they cannot make you happy. The way you relate to yourself is the way you will relate to others and others will relate to you.
4. What you “have”. Unless you are happy with yourself, you will not be happy with what you have. This basically means that no “stuff” in this world can make you happy. Happiness is not in things, it is in us.
Joy is self- acceptance, it is freedom from judgement.
Your ego tries to judge, your spirit accepts. Your ego says-
I’m not good enough.
You are not your mistakes. You are essentially happiness and the way to experience that is to accept that.
We need to practise self acceptance, to be happy in the moment, without thinking we have not worked for it, we are guilty of being happy, etc…because happiness is our innate nature and that is what we need to connect to, if we want to be happy.
We need to live unconditionally. We don’t need to improve ourselves to be happy. We can be happy as we are. We don’t need to do “this” or “that” to be happy. We just need to accept ourselves and see-
“More” of anything will not bring us happiness
“Next” day will not bring us happiness
“There” going will not bring us happiness
We can be happy with what we have, where we are and now. Because we are actually happy. We are just not aware of this.
There is a difference between pleasure, contentment and joy-
- Pleasure: Happiness of the body
- Contentment: Happiness of the world
- Joy: Happiness of the Spirit
And this joy does not need you to wait for something, to understand something, to achieve something, to have a concept of joy…it just needs you to be available to the present moment.
But there are a lot of challenges that life throws at us:
- We have to embrace infinity in a mortal body.
- We have to believe in a god we cannot see.
- We have to learn to love in a dimension where there is so much hatred.
- We have to see abundance when people constantly talk of shortages and lack.
- We have to discover freedom where control is the state religion.
- We have to develop self-worth where people criticise and belittle us.
- We have to see beauty where there is ugliness.
- We have to embrace kindness and positive attitudes when surrounded by uncertainty.
We just have to accept it and be present to every moment. We will then be happy.
To do that we need LOVE-
And what is LOVE:
The essence of love is union. The more we see ourselves separate from the world we live in, we lack in love. The more we see ourselves one with the world we live in, we know LOVE. We can start from the beginning, with ourselves, our family, our community….and then reach as much as possible…
All that we need is to-
- decide to be happy rather than search for happiness
- decide to LOVE
- decide to be always present now
and then we shall understand that-
Wisdom is Joy
Joy is the knowledge that nothing that ever happens, in this universe or any other can take away your freedom. Nothing, absolutely nothing.
Peace is giving up all the resistance to Joy