I have quite obviously been pondering the meaning of happiness [ie contentment, sense of serenity, well-being] and what it entails. As recently noted, I do not believe that it is a state of being but rather a process of becoming.
It seems to me, however, that the great enemy of this process is fear. When we examine all those feelings that deprive us of happiness, we lead ultimately to a sense of dread and fear. Consider worry, negativity, pessimism, distress, hostility, chaos, lack of control, sadness, grief, depression…..etc. All of which quite clearly are examples of dis-ease and therefore the source of disease of the body/mind continuum.
Fear seems to be at the root of all these negative affective [emotional] states. We fear loss of love, of our reputation, of our possessions, of our sense of security. We fear the loss of our own health and ultimately our own life. As has been said before, fear drives us to become even more fearful. It has the quality of a growing, self-sustaining storm, like a hurricane or tornado. ‘Fear itself’ becomes the source of more fear and unhappiness.
The ability of banish fear would clearly be worthwhile and lead to greater contentment and joy. Is this at all possible or even worthy of consideration? Once more, the source of all our attitudes and feelings –the mind–is clearly the source of our fear.
Consider how we can create scenarios in our mind about how are loved-ones are ill or lost or doomed. These thoughts immediately trigger biologic responses which produce fear and cascade of emotions mentioned above. Nothing changed at all regarding the circumstances of our loved-ones or even of ourselves–our thoughts and feelings [the two are inseparable] created our fear and unhappiness. Now realize that they are fine and doing well. Notice the immediate change in your own sense of well-being and happiness. The only change occurred within your own mind, your thoughts and feelngs.
Of course it is absurd to disregard real events in our lives and tragedy often strikes without regard for metaphysical preparation or attitude. But again, the Buddhists have something to say about fear and happiness.
By facing our worst fears, our most bizarre scenarios, we can come to understand how we can, to some extent, survive them. The practice of young monks being exposed to a room of decaying corpses may seem bizarre and repulsive–but the purpose is to demonstrate the reality of death and and to come to terms with its inevitability.
By facing down the worst case scenario, these young initiates are then set forth to embrace life with its inevitable difficulties. Having faced and survived their worst fears, they can survive whatever else comes their way. By facing down their fears, they can move towards some sense of peace and happiness.
Perhaps we can somehow derive some release from our own fears if we have some understanding of the nature of reality. If we also have come to understand that there is a spiritual dimension to the universe as well, the task becomes somewhat easier.