What is the secret to happiness? In an interview recently aired on Univision for the international television program Yoga Con Luz, Nalandabodhi’s founder and spiritual guide, Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, was asked about the elusive nature of happiness. What is the secret to being able to feel peace and stillness in our modern, hectic world?
In response to the question, “If happiness is here in this present moment, then why can’t we access it?” Rinpoche said that happiness is usually obscured by our fast-moving thought processes and fast-moving emotions. Instead, what we typically experience is our labels for things.
“We always experience the terms that we give to everything, right?” he said. “Projections. So when we see a beautiful thing (a flower), we don’t see it actually but see a label usually.” The labels, he added, can be adjectives like good or bad flower and all of our thoughts about the flower such as whether you or I have an allergy to it. The labeling, he said, “obscures for us (seeing) the actual thing. And so, we miss the actual moment of seeing everything, and then we lose the joy of life. Life means now.”
When the interviewer asked him what is the secret to maintaining feelings of peace and stillness in our busy world, Rinpoche replied with his delightful humor, “It’s a secret.” And then he gave the following, beautiful explanation.
Making Friends with Your Mind
“The secret is having some sense of friendship, a real loving friendship with your own mind — with your own mind, with your thoughts, with your emotions. For example, if you know somebody really well, then you know how to talk to him. When you don’t know someone really well, then it’s like (you’re) not sure, right? And so when we know our mind really well, and we have so much care and love for it, then we can naturally feel that happiness, joy, that sense of peace and calmness in the midst of a bustling, hustling, modern 21st century city. It’s no problem. … The outer environment plays some role but not crucial. The really crucial thing is how much we can talk to our own mind. Is our mind our own friend or not?”
Teaching further, he said, “If you look, really look at your own experience right now … we seem to know other people’s mind very well but not ours. We know, oh he’s confused, oh she’s confused. She should do this, he should do that, then he will be happy, she will be happy, you know, blah blah blah, we seem to be expert about other people’s mind; but when it comes to our own mind, blank. We don’t even look at it actually. We’re always looking at other people, trying to fix them. And so, if we can just turn out attention inward, that’s how it begins. Right? How to begin is to turn our attention inward instead of always turning our attention outward. Turn our attention inward and simply observe. Simply observe our thought processes. For example, (we ask) what kind of thoughts are we having? What kind of emotions are going on? What kind of label is going on? If we can have that kind of observation first, then we are getting to know our mind.”
Rinpoche will be teaching workshops — on the east coast, Canada and Seattle in May — based on his soon to be released new book, “Emotional Rescue: How to Work with Your Emotions to Transform Hurt and Confusion into Energy that Empowers You.” Click here for more information about the workshops.