Here are a few simple concepts to go towards a search for happiness. These concepts take into account modern research, as well as ancient writings.
Sleeping enough regulates moods
A sleep study over 7 years (Watson 2000-2007) shows that whatever our troubles, a restful sleep “resets us to zero” the next morning.
Basically, if we live a conscious and balanced life, bad moods and worries get digested overnight, and we have a neutral and fresh landscape after a night of good sleep.
It is quite rare in industrialized society to find people who sleep enough. This comes from the fact that their sleep is of bad quality.
There are a few criteria for a good sleep:
- You must go to sleep relaxed, and not go to sleep in order to become relaxed
- You must have finished digesting
- Your bedding must be comfortable enough that it is not an effort to relax
- You have to sleep for the duration that meets your needs
Exchanging, sharing, and having fun
Real knowledge of self comes through our interpersonal abilities, and our relations to others. It is thus important to look at how we act with others.
A light, honest and open sharing with others allows us to gain an understanding of self, through action.
This means being surrounded by people, exchanging with chosen and important friends.
All human groups that live longest and in the best conditions recognize this need. Groups that share and exchange along shared values have more stable emotions and more solid health.
We already spoke about this subject in a prior text, “Daoist Immortality.”
Moving your butt to stabilize the mind
Several studies have shown over the last 60 years the clear link between physical activity and depression, generalized anxiety, and other forms of mood imbalances.
The more aware the physical practice is, the more beneficial it is.
Furthermore, it must not be too violent or tiring. If the heart rate rises too much, or the body is pushed too far, the mind is submerged by the production of endorphins and adrenaline, which creates a dependence that contradicts the happiness we seek…
The practice must be daily, conscious, and gentle.
It goes to say that Wai Gong, Qi Gong, or Nei Gong are ideal…
Chapter 3 tells us to “strengthen the bones,” when speaking on the four qualities of the sage (the content human in their place, between heaven and earth).
“Strengthening the bones” is an expression amongst Qi Gong practitioners for building the body, from the outside to the inside.
The balance between the work on the body and the mind is regulated by a yin-yang interaction: the power of the yin (body) roots the mind (yang) to make it more stable.
Nourish the body to develop the Yang
In the case where the Yang, which is light, is lacking in the system, everything becomes heavier.
In Daoism and Chinese Medicine we talk about “dampness,” which extinguishes the yang. The body becomes heavy, and the mind gets foggy. We complain, become lazy and our emotions get out of control.
Our diet must be regulated when this happens to us, where we have an excess of damp that ends up extinguishing the yang.
It is too complicated to get into detail here about what to eat or not, but it’s an important subject.
Sugar, wheat flour, and fats are examples of damp creating foods.
In our tradition, we have a diet that strengthens the Yang. This diet allows us to reset everything to zero in the body.
Money doesn’t make you happy…but not having it brings you trouble….
In the Dao De Jing, it highlights several times that possessing too many things and running after too many goods brings nothing but worries.
Chapter 12 tells us to choose ‘tripe’ over the ‘eyes,’ and what is ‘more rare’ attracts thieves…but possessions can also the origin of resentment and jealousy.
Chapter 53 is even more clear: having too much externally is useless.
It’s a chapter that tells us about the too common displacement of values that must be internal rather than on external things. The need to possess comes from an internal imbalance that can only be lightened by an external acquisition.
Serious studies (National Opinion Research Center, 2005) give us an answer for today’s ratio of money to happiness: from 1957 to 2005, regardless of resources or possessions, the percentage of happy people in each demographic was almost the same.
Furthermore, surveys from 2000 to 2007 give a relation between income and happiness (D. And O., NYC) that shows that the same percentage of happy people are found in all social classes (not taking into account those in survival mode).
Wealth is therefore comparable to health; its absence is a source of unhappiness, but its presence is often imperceptible to the individual.
A daily awareness of what we have, with regard to our true needs, allows us to realize that we don’t need to whine so much…
Master one’s usage of time, control one’s rhythm of life
Chapter 37: “In the Dao, Non Action (non resistance) allows us to solve everything.”
Realizing what must be done requires us to go more in the movement of the world, than to be endlessly agitated. In a fluidity which flows from an understanding of the changes, it is possible to do 10 000 more things than in a struggle without end.
As long as we do not perceive this clearly, the actions we undertake are closer to Sisyphus than Lazzi.
The impression of mastering one’s time is a source of joy or tension (even depression) in us. The daily struggle to do too much, or the deception of not being able to do more, is a real source of tension. This tension can not be resolved. It is a manifestation of imbalance of one’s perception of oneself in action. It is only possible to rebalance the work-rest balance. In this balance, we can understand without getting agitated, and thus finally live.
A poor understanding of time, in a projection towards the future or a melancholy past, only gives us deception in return.
A practice of Shen Gong gives us the perception of the moment. This presence is a possible entry into fruitful and balanced activity.
Assume the Form to accept the Depth
It is now known that if we carry ourselves in a sad and unhappy way, chemical productions in the brain align with this. For example, anger produces very specific molecules that come about if we truly feel anger, or if we give ourselves a ‘kind’ of whining that never ends…
The good side is this works both ways. The productions related to joy and happiness are also produced (in smaller doses, but nonetheless) when we “force” a light smile.
The most important is not the benefit of smiling, but that during this smile we can not whine or get carried away by our emotional complaints.
Chapter 54 tells us, “when it is cultivated and practiced, the manifestation will be pure and true.”
Accepting being happy allows us to be it.
Living the spiritual, concretely
Having gone through the archaic, magical and mythical stages, human beings can have a relation with the spiritual which is simple.
Searching alone is not enough, but it can be a source of initiative towards a personal practice.
Shen Gong, the initial practice of understanding the functionings of the mind, initiates us towards the possible infinite and the spiritual, via direct experience.
Observing the vastness of the mind and accepting one’s mortality, the practitioner sees the spiritual in the every-day.
Introspection and the awareness of the moment allow us to feel as part of a whole that gently floats along the changes of the world.
It is a practice in life, accepting the mundane while searching for the infinite.
Happiness is internal and can only be found by a practice of knowledge of oneself and of the world.
These pieces of advice are only one way to arrive at a correction perception of oneself, and allow for a direct experience with the Joy that comes from putting the teaching into action.