- Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness.
- Happiness is when the wanting
stops. – Joseph Mitchell
When we want something (anything, physical, emotional… anything), the wanting is a type of
suffering. It’s true that most of our wanting isn’t emotionally devastating, but it leaves a void that we desire to fill and
once that itch is scratched, the happiness is getting what we want or rather the cessation of the wanting (since that
desire was fulfilled). This isn’t a good or bad thing, but it’s a happiness, however fleeting, that is always based on
something outside of us. This is in opposition to a prevailing state of happiness that springs up from within.
Greek philosophers, Aristotle included, defined happiness in two ways. There was Hedonic Happiness and Eudaimonic
Happiness. Hedonic Happiness is when we derive happiness or pleasure from something outside of ourselves or from a
sensory experience (from our five physical senses, but also from the mental events that we have). Hedonic Happiness is
when someone we love sends us a text message that makes us smile or an ice cream cone when we’ve been craving one
or something as simple as getting to sit down in a comfortable chair after a long day or when we get a pleasant memory
from eating comfort food. Eudaimonic Happiness, though, is more akin to inner peace. It is that indwelling of calm.
What Christ meant when he said that the Kingdom of God is within us and it is the awakening of the Buddha. It’s a peace
and joy that is there because of choice but also because that is who we really are. Eudaimonia does take work, though. It
requires us to be attentive to what is actually happening inside of us and it is the fruit of mindfulness and awareness. It
requires us to drop the Monkey Mind and stop swinging from branch to branch, never resting.
We will never completely avoid Hedonic Happiness, and nor should we. There’s nothing wrong with looking forward to
seeing someone or enjoying the view of a sunset or laughing at a joke. The problem arises, though, when we base our
entire sense of self worth or our sense about the quality of our lives on Hedonic Happiness. Anything that brings us
Hedonic Happiness is impermanent, and thus we will always lose it at some point. This leads us to seek out more
Hedonic experiences as we continually grasp for something other than what is in the present moment, or it causes us to
cling to past moments or relationships because we don’t want to release them. These Hedonic experiences are where
our addictions, codependencies, and attachments arise from.
This certainly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t enjoy the beauty of life and the people we come into contact with. Nor does it
mean we shouldn’t have goals and aspirations, but if we base our sense of self and our sense of quality of life on outside
experiences, disfunction arises. When we make the ground of our being in Hedonic experiences, it leads to us living in a
cycle of craving and aversion, a constant loop of grabbing and pushing away but never just Being. There is no long term
satisfaction in Hedonic Happiness. If the ground of our sense of self isn’t based on Eudaimonia, then our house shall
surely crumble since the Hedonic experiences never last.