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WEEK 29- WHAT IS HAPPINESS? Plus mood-shifting song!


The more I consider what it means to be happy the more evidence I see that happiness is an Energy, it is an inner resource we can turn to for sustenance in the rough times. Happiness is a law of nature not unlike gravity, that exists in what I call The Infinite Well of Being, a natural resource that can only be blocked by the mind. Life is so short I encourage you to find “your happy” and revel in it!

I found this gem for you-

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance, the wise grows it under his feet. – James Oppenheim. A well-published poet, Oppenheim was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, on May 24, 1882. Consider your own position on happiness as reflected in his wonderful poem.

Immoral –
by James Oppenheim
(Found on poemhunter.com)

“I keep walking around myself, mouth open with amazement:
For by all the ethical rules of life, I ought to be solemn and sad,
But, look you, I am bursting with joy.

I scold myself:
I say: Boy, your work has gone to pot:
You have scarcely enough money to last out the week:
And think of your responsibilities!
Whereupon, my heart bubbles over,
I puff on my pipe, and think how solemnly the world goes by my window,
And how childish people are, wrinkling their foreheads over groceries and rent.

For here jets life fresh and stinging in the vivid air:
The winds laugh to the jovial Earth:
The day is keen with Autumn’s fine flavor of having done the year’s work.
Earth, in her festival, calls her children to the crimson revels.
The trees are a drunken riot: the sunshine is dazzling…

Yes, I ought, I suppose, to be saddened and tragic:
But joy drops from me like ripe apples!”

NOW- I invite you to get your thoughts together with a pen and a piece of paper:

PROMPT “If I’m here for happiness I might as well…”

Brought to you by my little whiteboard video! (Listen on to the great song at the end of this short info-video. It is very effective at mood-shifting!)


by Guy de Maupassant

It was tea-time before the lamps were brought in. The villa stood above the sea; the vanished sun had left the sky all rosy with its passing, dusted with a golden powder; and the Mediterranean, without a wave or a ripple, stretching out flat and smooth and shimmering still under the dying day, seemed a vast, polished sheet of metal. To the right, stretching off into the distance, jagged mountains cast their black silhouettes against the fading crimson of the sunset.

They were speaking of love, discussing that old subject, saying again the things that have already been said so many times before. The sweet melancholy of twilight slowed their speech, caused a tender emotion to well up in their souls; and this word “love,” which was heard again and again—now spoken by a strong, manly voice, now by a soft woman’s voice—seemed to fill the little salon, fluttering through it like a bird, hovering in it like a spirit.

Can one love continuously for many years? “Yes,” said some; “no,” claimed others. They distinguished cases, established distinctions, cited examples; and everyone, men, and women, full of powerful and stirring memories that rose to their lips as examples, seemed touched; and spoke of this banal and sovereign thing, the tender and mysterious accord of two beings, with a profound emotion and ardent interest.

Then all of a sudden someone, staring off into the distance, cried, “Oh! Look, there! What is that?”

Above the sea, at the edge of the horizon, an enormous, indistinct gray mass was emerging. The women had gotten up and were staring uncomprehendingly at this shocking thing they had never seen before.

Someone said, “It’s Corsica! You can see it two or three times a year like this, under certain unusual atmospheric conditions, when the air becomes perfectly clear and no longer hides it behind the haze that always obscures things in the distance.”

They could vaguely make out the crests of the peaks; some thought they could see snow on the summits. And everyone was surprised, troubled, almost frightened by this sudden appearance of a world, this phantom risen from the sea. Perhaps those who set out, like Columbus, across unexplored oceans, had these strange visions.

Then an elderly gentleman, who had not yet spoken, said, “Listen, I met on this island—which has appeared before us as if in answer to what we have been saying, and which has reminded me of a singular memory—I met with an admirable example of a constant love, an incredibly happy love. Here it is:


Five years ago, I took a trip to Corsica. This wild island is more unknown and more distant to us than America, even though you can see it sometimes from the coasts of France, like today.

Picture a world still in chaos, a tempest of mountains separating narrow ravines with rushing torrents. Not a plain anywhere, but immense crags of granite and giant undulations of earth covered with scrub or high forests of chestnut and pine. It’s virgin soil, uncultivated, deserted, even though sometimes you see a village, looking like a pile of rocks at the summit of a mountain. No culture, no industry, no art. You never encounter a piece of worked wood, a bit of sculpted stone, never encounter evidence of an ancestral taste for graceful and beautiful things, however simple. It is precisely this that strikes one the most about this superb and hard land: the hereditary indifference to that search after seductive forms called art.

Italy—where each palace, full of masterpieces, is itself a masterpiece; where marble, wood, bronze, iron, all metals and stones attest to the genius of man; where the smallest old objects laying around in the old houses reveal this divine care for gracefulness—is for us all the sacred patrimony that we love because it shows us, demonstrates to us, the effort, the grandeur, the power and the triumph of creative intelligence.

And, just across from Italy, wild Corsica has remained as it was in its first days. Humanity lives there in its crudest house, indifferent to everything that is not immediately relevant to its immediate existence or its family quarrels. And it has retained the faults and qualities of the uncultivated races: violent, hateful, bloody without conscience; but also hospitable, generous, devoted, naïve, opening its door to the passer-by and giving its faithful friendship after the slightest sign of sympathy.

And so for a month, I had wandered through this magnificent island, with the feeling that I was at the end of the world. No inns, no bars, no roads. By mule paths you reach these tiny villages clinging to the sides of the mountains, and which stand over tortuous abysses from which you hear rising, at night, a continuous noise, the heavy and profound voice of the torrent. You knock on the doors of the houses, you ask for shelter for the night and something to eat to last you till the next day. And you sit at the humble table, and sleep under the humble roof; and in the morning you shake the hand of your host, who has led you to the edge of the village.

So, one night, after ten hours’ walk, I reached a small dwelling all alone at the bottom of a narrow valley that opened onto the sea a little farther on. The two steep slopes of the mountain, covered with brush, broken rock, and giant trees, closed in on this dismally sad ravine like two dark walls. Around the cottage a few vines, a small garden, and farther on, a few large chestnut trees; enough to live by at least, a fortune for this impoverished land.

The woman who received me was old, severe, and proper without exception. The man, sitting in a cane chair, got up to greet me, then sat down again without saying a word. His companion said to me, “Excuse him; he’s deaf now. He’s 82 years old.”

She spoke the French of France. I was surprised. I asked her, “You’re not from Corsica?”

She answered, “No, we’re from the continent. But we have lived here for fifty years now.”

A feeling of anguish and fear seized me at the thought of those fifty years passed in this dark hole, so far from towns where people live. An old sheepdog wandered in, and we sat down to eat the only dinner dish, a thick soup of potatoes, lard, and cabbage.

When the short meal was finished I went to sit before the door, my heart engulfed by the melancholy of the mournful country, wrapped in that distress which sometimes grips travelers on certain sad evenings, in certain desolate places. It seemed that everything was about to end, existence and the universe. I suddenly saw the terrible misery of life, the isolation of everyone, the nothingness of everything, and the black solitude of the heart, deluding itself with dreams until death.

The old woman joined me and, tortured by that curiosity that always lives at the bottom of the most resigned souls, asked, “So, you come from France?”

“Yes, I’m on a pleasure trip.”

“You’re from Paris, perhaps?”

“No, I’m from Nancy.”

It seemed to me that an extraordinary emotion was agitating her. How I saw, or rather sensed this, I don’t know.

She repeated in a slow voice, “You’re from Nancy?”

The man appeared in the doorway, impassive, as deaf people are.

She said, “Don’t pay any attention to him. He can’t hear anything.” Then, after a few seconds, “So, you know everyone in Nancy?”

“Of course, almost everyone.”

“The Sainte-Allaize family?”

“Yes, very well. They were friends of my father’s.”

“What’s your name?”

I told her my name. She stared at me fixedly, then said, in that low voice of awakening memories, “Yes, yes, I remember well. And the Brisemares, what has become of them?”

“They are all dead.”

“Ah! And the Sirmonts, you know them?”

“Yes, the last one is a general.”

Then she said, trembling with emotion, with anguish, with I don’t know what confused, powerful, and holy sentiments, with I don’t know what need to avow, to tell everything, to speak of those things that she had held until then enclosed at the bottom of her heart, to speak of those people whose name shook her soul: “Yes, Henri de Sirmont. I know him well. He is my brother.”

I raised my eyes toward her, bewildered with surprise. And all of a sudden it came back to me.

A long time ago, it had caused a terrible scandal in noble Lorraine. A young girl, beautiful and rich, Suzanne de Sirmont, had been carried off by a sergeant in the regiment that her father commanded. He was a handsome boy, the son of peasants, but looking good in his dress uniform, this soldier who had seduced the daughter of his colonel. No doubt she had seen him, noticed him, fell in love with him while watching the troops march by. But how had he spoken to her, how had they been able to see each other, to talk? How had she dared to make him understand that she loved him? No one ever knew.

No one suspected anything. One night, as the soldier had just finished his enlistment, he disappeared with her. They sought for them, but never found them. They never heard from her again, and they considered her dead.

And I had found her in that sinister valley.

Then I said, in my turn, “Yes, I remember well. You are Suzanne.”

She shook her head yes. Tears fell from her eyes. Then, with a glance at the old man sitting immobile on the doorstep of the shack, she told me, “It’s him.”

And I understood that she still loved him, that she still saw him with seduced eyes.

I asked, “Have you been happy, at least?”

She answered, with a voice that came from the heart, “Oh! Yes, very happy. He has made me very happy. I have never regretted anything.”

I contemplated her, sad, surprised, amazed by the power of love! This rich girl had followed this man, this peasant. She had herself become a peasant. She had lived her life without charms, without luxuries, without delicacies of any sort, she had bent herself to his simple habits. And she loved him still. She had become a rustic, in a bonnet and canvas skirt. She ate on an earthenware plate on a crude wooden table, sitting on a cane seat, a gruel of cabbage and potatoes with lard. She lay on a straw mattress by his side.

She had never thought of anything, but him! She had missed neither necklaces, nor fineries, nor elegances, nor soft seats, nor the perfumed warmth of rooms enveloped in curtains, nor the sweetness of downy cushions on which to rest one’s body. She had never needed anything but him; as long as he was there, she desired nothing.

She had abandoned life while young, both the world and those who had raised her and loved her. She had come, alone with him, to this wild ravine. And he had been everything for her, everything one desires, everything one dreams of, everything one constantly waits for, everything one endlessly hopes. He had filled her existence with happiness, from one end to the other. She couldn’t have been happier.

And all night, listening to the rough breathing of the old soldier stretched out on his pallet, beside her who had followed him so far, I thought of that strange and simple adventure, of this happiness so complete, made of so little.

And I left with the rising sun, after having shaken hands with the two old people, man and wife.”


The old man fell silent.

A woman said, “All the same, she had an ideal that was too easy, needs that were too primitive, and requirements that were too simple. She was just a fool.”

Someone else said in a slow voice, “What does that matter! She was happy.”

And there, at the farthest edge of the horizon, Corsica disappeared into the night, sank back slowly into the sea, its great shadow fading away, which had appeared as if itself to tell the story of the two humble lovers sheltered on its shores.

— — —

Translated by Jeffrey B. Taylor (Nov. 7-8, 1998; rev. May 18-21, 2001)
French text of “Le Bonheur”

MORE: On the Subject of Happiness


The following is the general text of Mr. Goenka’s remarks at one of the panels of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 2000 on the subject of “What is Happiness? Is this all there is?”

Every person who is attending this Forum is among a unique group of people on our planet. They are generally among the wealthiest, most powerful, most accomplished individuals in the world. Even being invited to attend the World Economic Forum is a great recognition of the status that each participant has reached among his or her peers.

When someone has all the wealth, power and status that anyone could ever want, are they necessarily happy? Are all these accomplishments and the self-satisfaction they bring “all there is?” Or is there some greater degree of happiness, which it is possible to achieve?

Happiness is an ephemeral condition. It is rapidly fleeting. Here one moment and gone the next. One day when all is going well with your business, your bank account and your family, happiness is there. But how about when something unwanted happens? What about when something entirely outside of your control happens to disturb your happiness and harmony?

Every person in the world, regardless of their power and position, will experience periods during which circumstances arise that are outside of their control and not to their liking. It may be the discovery that you have a fatal disease; it may be the sickness or death of a near and dear one; it may be a divorce or the discovery that a spouse is cheating on you. Among people who are addicted to success in life, it may simply be a failure at something: a bad business decision, your company being acquired and the resultant loss of your job, losing a political election, someone else getting the promotion that you wanted, or your child running away from home or rebelling and rejecting all the values that you hold dear. Regardless of how much wealth, prestige, and power you may have, such unwanted events and failures generally create great misery in the life.

Next, the question comes: how to deal with these periods of unhappiness, which spoil an otherwise ideal life? Such periods are bound to come in even the most charmed life. Do you behave in a balanced and equanimous manner or do you react with an aversion for the misery that you are experiencing? Do you crave to have your happiness return?

Moreover, when one becomes addicted to happiness and to everything always going the way you want, the misery when things do not go the way you want becomes even greater. In fact, it becomes unbearable. It often motivates people to resort to alcohol in order to cope with disappointment and depression and to resort to sleeping pills in order to obtain the rest we need in order to keep going. All the while we tell the outside world, and ourselves, that we are sublimely happy because of our wealth, power, and position.

I come from a business family and was an entrepreneur and businessman from a very early age. I built sugar mills, weaving mills and, blanket factories and established import-export firms with offices all over the world. In the process, I made a lot of money. However, I also vividly remember how I reacted to events in my business and my personal life during those years. Every night, if I had failed to be successful in a business transaction during the day, I would lie awake for hours and try to figure out what had gone wrong and what I should do next time. Even if I had accomplished a great success that day I would lie away and relish my accomplishment. While I experienced great success, this was neither happiness nor peace of mind. I found that peace was very closely related to happiness and I frequently had neither, regardless of my money and status as a leader in the community.

I remember a favorite poem of mine related to this subject:

It is easy to smile, when life rolls along like a sweet song;
But the man worth while, is the man with a smile,
When everything goes dead wrong.

How each of us copes with these periods of things going “dead wrong” is a major component of the “meaning of happiness,” regardless of our money, power and prestige.

It is a basic human need that everyone wants to live a happy life. For this, one has to first experience real happiness. The so-called happiness that one experiences by having money, power, and indulging in sensual pleasures is not real happiness. It is very fragile, unstable and not lasting long. For real happiness, for real lasting stable happiness, one has to make a journey deep within oneself and see that one gets rid of all the unhappiness and misery stored in the deeper levels of the mind. So long as there is unhappiness and misery in the deeper levels of the mind and so long as unhappiness is being generated today this stored stock is being multiplied and all attempts to feel happy at the surface level of the mind prove futile.

So long as one as one keeps on generating negativities such as anger hatred, ill-will, animosities, etc. the stock of unhappiness keeps on multiplying. The law of nature is such that as soon as one generates negativity, unhappiness arises simultaneously. It is impossible to feel happy and peaceful when one is generating negativity in the mind. Peace and negativity cannot coexist just as light and darkness cannot coexist. There is a systematic scientific exercise that was developed by a great super scientist of my ancient country by which one can explore the truth pertaining to the mind-body phenomenon at the experiential level. This technique is called vipassana meditation, which means observing the reality objectively as it is. The technique helps one to develop the faculty of feeling and understanding the interaction of mind and matter within one’s own physical structure.

During a 10-day course in Vipassana meditation one observes silence by not talking to any of the other participants. This is to help the mind become more calm and sensitive. Of course, you are free to talk with the teacher about any questions you have or with the management about any personal requirements or problems you encounter with the facilities. Otherwise silence.

The course begins by focusing your entire attention on your own respiration: the flow of the breath as it passes into and out of the nostrils and the physical sensations that occur as it passes through the nostrils, past the rings of the nostrils and across the area below the nostrils and above the upper lip. When you first begin this practice the mind will almost immediately wander away into thoughts, fantasies, memories. As wander away almost immediately. As soon as you realize that it has wandered away, you gently return it to awareness of the breath. Slowly over the next three days, the mind will settle down and become much more concentrated. By the fourth day, most students experience that the mind is relatively concentrated and will stay on the single object of the breath for 1, 2, 3 or maybe even 5 minutes at a stretch without wandering at all.

Another thing happens over the first few days of the course. This is that the mind becomes much more sensitive than it has ever been before. The silence and the continuous meditation on the breath causes the mind to begin to feel physical sensations in the body at a much more subtle level than it has ever felt in the past. First, in the area around the nostrils: subtle vibrations, oscillations, and other sensations.

On the afternoon of the 4th day of the course, the object of meditation is switched from awareness of the breath to observation of the physical sensations in the body. Starting at the top of the head, the attention is moved slowly and carefully down through the entire body, one part at a time, observing each and every sensation that one encounters and training the mind not to react to any sensation that it experiences. Not to react to the unpleasant sensations, such as pain, with aversion and hatred wanting it to go away and not to react to the very pleasant, blissful sensations with craving and clinging and wanting them not to go away. Simply training the mind to observe all the physical sensations in the body equanimous and without any reaction.

In our past experiences, each time we have experienced anything, along with that experience there was some sensation in the body and the mind reacted to that sensation by either liking or disliking it. The mind is usually too insensitive to be consciously aware of the sensation that occurred but there was always a reaction at some unconscious level of the mind and that reaction is stored up in the mind-body complex. The stored conditioning eventually comes up again and magnifies any new experience of a similar type.

The observation of the physical sensations without reaction during Vipassana meditation produces a remarkable effect. It causes the old stored-up past conditionings such as anger, hatred, ill-will, passion, etc. to come to the surface of the mind and manifest as sensations. Observation of these sensations without any reaction causes them to pass away, layer after layer. Your mind is then free of many of these old conditionings and can deal with experiences in the life without the color of past experiences.

The whole point of Vipassana is to decondition the mind so that one can live a happy life. A life full of love, compassion and good will for all.

Removing old conditionings from the mind and training the mind to be more equanimous with every experience is the first step toward enabling one to experience true happiness.


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