Man is a social animal. We know and understand that. But modern life seems to be making us more unsocial—we only concentrate on ourselves, what we need, like or enjoy. Is the meaning of happiness a solo selfie, or is it a group photo of all the people who enrich our life—that is the question.
It is no longer a secret that we are today living in contradiction of our nature. If you were to ask me where to find happiness, I would say it lies in interaction and connection with others—because everything in life is interconnected and interdependent. Happiness is relative—it is not absolute. Peace may be absolute, but for happiness, you need a context. Like another person, or an act of kindness performed by someone that affects someone—the purr of a cat, the touch of a hand, a look from a loved one or the smile of a child. Everything that promises happiness has to do with someone else in our lives.
We are not an island, we live along with other people and all kinds of living beings all day, every day; and so to cut ourselves off and live in a shell would mean that we are missing out on so much that this precious life has to offer. As a friend of mine says: if we live in our shells, then we are nuts. ‘Don’t be a nut.’
I may say that happiness for me is to develop deeper connections with my fellow beings. That means I must drop being judgmental about them. If in meeting someone we start thinking about if the other person is good looking or is a nice person or is wearing nice clothes or has odd looks, we confirm that no happiness can accrue out of the meeting a new person.
If we constantly think about whether we agree or disagree with what they are saying or whether we have things in common, we have established the foundation of unsocial interaction. The question rises, what kind of happiness are we going to receive if we are distracted so easily, when we find it so difficult to be present in the moment and pay attention and absorb, and enjoy the different perspectives we get to see when we meet new people.
However, gradually, through intention and practice, we can calm those surface thoughts and begin to develop a sense of awareness, developing deeper connection with the other person. We feel an energy transferring between us and start to see things from others’ perspective. We then get the chance to learn from each other.
For me, a greater sense of happiness is felt when I go deeper into my friends’ thoughts, right into their hearts, where I feel blessed to see their beautiful nature. This is a process of practice, requiring conscious thoughts and is not something achieved by magic.
In my younger years, I used to struggle because my thoughts got carried away by superficial things, wondering how attractive, young or energetic a person might be. But now, through training my mind, I take a lot less time to ‘come down’ and get into the heart of happiness. Everything is rewarding when you start to open yourself up to develop deeper connections with people; but it is not always easy, since through the eyes of others you see your own flaws—your unkindness, lack of courage or petty jealousies.
You see everything you would like to work on in techni-colour and that can be painful to begin with. But I encourage you to stay and get through it, because in your imperfections lies the possibility to transform your life.
Right now, there is a big disconnect between how people perceive themselves, their intentions, their actions and the consequences of such actions on other people or on the world itself. On the other hand, the preoccupation with our own thoughts, ideas and feelings is causing great harm to the idea of solidarity, brotherhood and common cause—and eventually to our happiness.
Once you develop awareness and see how you connect and interact with the world around you, you also start to know yourself better. If we invest in relating with others, connecting with them meaningfully, we can transform the nature of our relationships, ourselves and the world. The author is the spiritual head of the 1,000-year-old Drukpa Order based in the Himalayas