My role in this life is to encourage people to nourish and cultivate happiness by becoming conscious of how we actually go about the business of spreading happiness in our relationships, our work and our communities. It is a very attractive idea that if we have a happy mind, we will have a happy life. But as well as taking care of our minds, which is very important and really is the creator of a happy life, we also have to develop the art of happy living. I am very fortunate to be able to help people to put into practice some of those things that may help us develop ourselves, our connections and interactions with the world and our lives. After all, great thoughts and intellect will only take us so far—it is experience and action that really get to the heart of the matter.
The positive thing is that people are beginning to understand that if they take better care of their minds, this will help them along the path of their life. The tools of meditation and mindfulness are, therefore, becoming popular and, having used them for many years, I feel very lucky to have experienced the benefits they produce in terms of a more peaceful and calm mind. What I hope for now is that people will take the extra step and put happiness into action in their lives on a daily basis; to add the art of living a happy life to thinking a happy life.
The mind and the body can make an amazing partnership. We can use mindfulness to bring our attention into the present moment, to really feel what our bodies are telling us and, likewise, we can use action to clear out the clutter of our minds. For example, physical exercise is a wonderful happiness tonic for the mind. Contemplation needs to be followed up with action: we need to get into the flow of life and not always think quite so much about it. If we take ourselves too seriously we can end up stopping ourselves from jumping in and going for it. If we are not careful, we can get so caught up in questions about what we should do or how we should go about something that we end up doing nothing. There are so many details and debates going on in our minds that we go round in circles getting tied up in knots and wasting our time and our energy.
None of us ever knows exactly what the outcome of our actions will be or what is the best way to go about something, so while a little contemplation and discussion is needed, it is also a good idea to encourage ourselves to go ahead and take action, whether in our own lives or with something like taking better care of the environment. If we are able to create a balance of taking care of our minds, while also urging ourselves to act, then we will act well and without arrogance or pride.
Experience is the best practice of all. It is the best teacher. How can we really learn or understand without experience? That is why I always encourage people not to be afraid to try, because if you try your best, you will have a great experience. It is important to have the right motivation and intentions, but so many people have good intentions and such good hearts, yet feel afraid or unsure about jumping off the diving board and just doing it. Remember that happiness is the result of positive action, not necessarily of a honourable thought.
Talk is cheap. That is why I don’t encourage people to talk too much, so that they may end up talking themselves out of action. You may spend your life buried in intellect, but it is only through experience—through doing—that you gain real understanding: you connect with your life and bring all your amazing ideas and intentions to fruition. Even when you take a very small step of putting your thoughts into action, I believe you are doing a great thing.
The easiest way to put happiness into action is to share your own kindness and compassion; give happiness away and you will find yourself smiling at the same time. Then you might ask yourself, what would you like to give to the world today? What can you do today to help the world become a happier place? It doesn’t matter how great an act, or how small, with enough individual drops of happiness you can fill an ocean.The author is the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas