Grieving the loss of happiness

I recently returned from a 5 week trip to India where I pretty much focused on myself. It was all about self improvement. I felt happier, more content, I experienced longer periods of peacefulness, I was compassionate in different ways, and more.

I knew it would require effort to maintain that when I returned home, but I didn’t expect to ‘lose it’ so quickly.

I was devastated and hugely disappointed with myself, for letting so many petty things get me down, wound up, frustrated or upset in some other way.

Why did I lose the ‘magic’ I felt so quickly?

First I needed to look at what happiness meant, so that I could understand what it is I was missing.

Three definitions of happiness

Merriam-Webster defines happiness as:

  • a state of well-being and contentment
  • a pleasurable or satisfying experience

Wikipedia says:

Happiness, gladness or joy is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
A variety of biological, psychological, religious and philosophical approaches have striven to define happiness and identify its sources. Various research groups, including positive psychology, are employing the scientific method to research questions about what “happiness” is, and how it might be attained. describes it as:

Happiness is a sense of well-being, joy, or contentment. When people are successful, or safe, or lucky, they feel happiness. The “pursuit of happiness” is something this country is based on, and different people feel happiness for different reasons. Whenever doing something causes happiness, people usually want to do more of it. No one ever complained about feeling too much happiness.

Happiness seems multifaceted and quite complex. It also means different things to different people.

Is it possible for all of us to prevent the loss of happiness?
If so, is there a straightforward solution? 

Possible causes of happiness says that “different people feel happiness for different reasons” so I’m going try and create a short list of possible causes of happiness.

  • being warm
  • being cool
  • eating foods I like
  • eating sweet foods
  • eating savoury foods
  • avoiding eating
  • having a full tummy
  • feeling hungry and resisting the desire to eat
  • making my body smell nice
  • being near natural smells
  • seeing people I like
  • being in an empty space
  • listening to calming music
  • going to a heavy metal concert
  • being in a neat space where everything has its place
  • living in ‘organised chaos’
  • living in a quiet home
  • being surrounded by noise
  • sleeping on a hard bed
  • sleeping on a soft bed
  • having a clean home
  • being in a home with a little dirt and mess so it feels homely
  • completing lists of tasks
  • doing things as and when I remember them

The range of possible causes is huge! Although the list isn’t inclusive, it shows that happiness is dependent, for some, on the presence or absence of; emotions, physical experiences, accomplishments, structure and sensual pleasures.

Is there any way for all of us to experience more happiness for greater chunks of time or is it impossible?

Is unhappiness inevitable?

If, for most of us, happiness is dependent on the presence or absence of; certain emotions, physical experiences, accomplishments, structure and sensual pleasures; what actually happens when we don’t get or feel those things?

What happens when the bed is soft, rather than hard?
How do I feel when someone cooks me a meal that’s mild, and all I want is spicy food?
What if someone’s sprayed themselves with a scent that I can’t stand?
How do I react when my home’s messy and cluttered, rather than being neat and tidy?

This is what I experienced when I returned from India. The causes were different but the result was the same. I experienced a range of negative thoughts and emotions, and this had an impact on how I behaved!

Is the downfall that follows ‘the loss of happiness’ inevitable?

What is this downward spiral? What does it mean to be unhappy?

In order to get to the bottom of this, I felt the need to look at the definition of unhappiness and see if I could match it with what I was experiencing.

Merriam-Webster defines it as:

  • sad, depressed, or disappointed
  • causing or involving feelings of sadness
  • not pleasant or joyful
  • not appropriate or lucky

Wikipedia says:

Sadness (archaically called heavy-heartedness) is emotional pain associated with, or characterized by, feelings of disadvantage, loss, despair, helplessness, disappointment or sorrow. An individual experiencing sadness may become quiet or lethargic, and withdraw themselves from others. Crying is often an indication of sadness, though paradoxically can infer the opposite. describes it as:

Experiencing or marked by or causing sadness or sorrow or discontent

I don’t know of anyone who would intentionally want to feel like this,.
So assuming we’re all on the same page, why haven’t we found a way to be happy? 

Is it impossible to avoid unhappiness?

I truly believe that expectations cause happiness and unhappiness.
When my expectations are met I’ll feel happy and when they’re not met, I’ll feel the opposite.
The most important thing, which I fail to remember often enough is that, all of this is temporary. It may not last for a month, let alone a lifetime; so why do I expect it things to be and remain a certain way?
It is widely recognised that we are able to feel multiple emotions within a minute. This shows how fleeting they can be.

Is it possible to get off this roller-coaster of emotions?
Can we find a way to alleviate ourselves of it and remain centred?

Can we protect our peace and calm?

The summary of all this is, we are complex and what we do or don’t want changes frequently.

However, most of us only stop to think when things aren’t going our way. We try and find ways to prevent it happening again, or we try and change the way things are at that time. We may realise that we feel uncomfortable with whatever’s happened or we may delve deeper and have a greater grasp of how our thoughts, feelings and behaviour has been affected, by this sense of unhappiness.

Most of us don’t analyse how we change when we’re happy, yet the affect may not always be a positive one. We may say inappropriate things, be boastful, feel superior, make long-term decisions based on possibly, short-term situations and so on.

So might it be better to be centred, rather than, flit between downward spirals and moments of elatedness? 

Possible strategies to remain more centred

  • think about how temporary everything is, to help us indulge less, and also, be less affected when things don’t go our way
  • see each moment of ‘pleasure’ and ‘pain’ as a challenge for us to protect our calm and peace of mind
  • be as self dependent as possible
  • don’t count on whatever we can’t/don’t want to do ourselves, as something that should be picked up by someone else
  • remind ourselves of what we have, to bring about a feeling of gratitude
  • reflect on others who feel content, even though they ‘lack’ what we may consider to be ‘essentials’
  • think back to how our likes and dislikes have changed over time, and assume that they may change again, which may help us be more accepting of what we have in the present
  • look at the amazingness within others, rather than focusing on the things that we wish to be different

Is wavering between ‘happiness’ and ‘unhappiness’ something that’s worth letting go of?
Will being more centred be positive for you and those around you?
Can you think of any other ways to help make living smoother and calmer?

I’d love to hear from you via TwitterFacebook or through this contact form.

Spending time in Sayla

A few years ago, I spent just over 2 months in the Shree Raj Saubhag Satsang Mandal Ashram in Sayla, India. It was the first time I’d stayed beyond 2 weeks. I left London with mixed feelings about the trip, because it was clear that some people thought I was making a bad decision. For some, it was about me going during the Monsoon season. Others thought it might be a negative experience for me to go alone for that amount of time. Some felt I was ‘too normal’ (worldly, as opposed to, saintly) to go for such a long stay.

The feelings I had when I left were very different to those I had before I got there. I loved it so much that I wanted to Suraj to do something similar and reap the benefits of it, like I had.

You can read more about my first trip here.

Second long stay in Sayla

I left London on July 20th 2015 and returned on August 24th 2015. Bhaishree (my Guru) was at the Ashram when I got there, so I was in the presence of enlightened Greatness straight away! During this trip I indulged in, and gained from, so many things. Here’s a non-exclusive list:-

  • I heard Bhaishree’s Bodh (discourse), through which I was reminded and guided about how to live with increasing peace, calmness, non-violence and a type of happiness that I’ve not experienced before
  • I heard discourses from other Self Realised souls
  • I attended two retreats/Shibirs
  • I joined Bhaishree and others on a couple of short walks around the Ashram
  • I served Bhaishree and His team of Self Realised souls when they had breakfast, lunch and dinner

Guru Purnima

I have attended a couple of events to celebrate Guru Purnima before but I hadn’t realised the Greatness of it until I experienced it in Sayla.

You can read a bit about what Guru Purnima is here and here.

What was so special about the celebrating the event in Sayla? Those who are devoted to Bhaishree had a chance to share how they feel about Him, how they’ve changed since accepting Him in their life, how much they appreciate His efforts and more.

These expressions varied in forms. Some made cards and 3D models, others shared their experiences privately, some spoke about their feelings publicly during the event, whilst some were part of a drama, dance or song. It was humbling and moving, to see their devotion in action!

Part of all this involves analysing oneself and recognising the effect He’s had on our thinking, the way we speak and the way we behave. Self analysis is so important, because it’s the way we will see how much we’ve changed and recognise what we need to work on next/further.

Nivruti in Sayla

For me, one of the most important parts of being in the Ashram is Nivruti. Nivruti is about being ‘free.’ I see it as a time when I’m freed up from everything non-spiritual, so that I can listen, hear, grasp and put in to practice, things that will make my existence more purposeful, calm, aligned, focused and ethical.

So when I’m in Sayla, I don’t have to think about, or spend time, cooking, because the staff in the Ashram make all the meals. I don’t need to think about cleaning or washing clothes, because they have staff for that too. I don’t need to think about work, because I freed myself up from it, to get the most out of my time there. I don’t focus on creating relationships, networking or making friends, because I haven’t gone there for that. So when all the things I have to, or want to, do when I’m at home, are excluded from my timetable, I have lots of minutes spare. I use them to read, attend discourses, think, meditate and more.

Support network

Bhaishree has set the Ashram up in such a way that we never feel alone when we’re there, whether He’s there or not. He’s done this by making sure there’s at least one Self Realised soul there. This is really important because we can go to them to ask questions, express any doubts, share our fears and more. They are the support network that is an extension of what Bhaishree gives us. They are selfless and only want us to be free of the repeated cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Their purpose is to help us free ourselves from the conflict, confusion, tears, pain and temporary joy, that comes from deluded thinking.

Focus and strive

For me, being in Sayla is a time to focus on spirituality and strive. When I’m there, I challenge myself to think better and be better. I then hope to carry that with me when I return to London and that’s when I need to strive further!

One of the ways I challenge myself, is to sign up for the Ekaant Maun Shibir/retreat, as opposed to, the Araadhana Shibir. Both are similar. A few of the differences are:-

  1. The Ekaant Maun Shibir involves one more hour of meditation than the other retreat
  2. We complete a form on a daily basis to share our reflections about our experiences of meditation and how we’ve reacted to various catalysts
  3. We are silent for the 5 days  we have permission to talk to the Self Realised Souls but nobody else

What about you?

Do you have anything, which helps you live a better life in which you feel less pain and more peace? If not, would you consider finding something that would help you achieve that? I’d love to hear from you, so do get in touch.

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