Happiness and joy are our natural state, but people often then question, “why isn't that my experience now?” We don't experience our natural state, because of the bad mental habits and beliefs that we learned while growing up. Look at young children. Happiness and joy perpetually shine from their faces, except when hungry or hurt or a diaper needs changing. Say a young child falls and hurts a knee. The child will cry, and mommy will kiss it and make the boo-boo go away. Minutes later, the child is happy again like nothing happened.

What happened to us? Where did our happiness and joy go?

As we grew, many of us were taught the idea that “you are not good enough.” We came to deeply believe this idea and internalized it to become “I am not good enough.” Now we are constantly critical and sensitive to any mistakes we make. Now we are constantly looking to improve ourselves and become “adequate” or “successful” materially, intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. Now we are constantly on this search to become better and someone who is good enough. This deep-seated dissatisfaction with ourselves makes us fundamentally unhappy. We just can't “be happy” because we are not good enough yet. There is still more to fix, and thus pushing off happiness until some future goal is achieved. This belief may fester and multiply to become the belief that we do not yet deserve to be happy. This is but one example of what happened to us and how we create our own misery.

I was at a kirtan recently and someone brought their ten-month-old son. I glanced at him off and on throughout the night. The look of sheer glee and joy he had while exploring the world around him was amazing. I saw him clap his hands together with a look of relish as he heard the clap and felt his hands slap together. Once the music started, he discovered an unused drum and hit it once. He heard the sound and a huge smile spread across his face. He then hit the drum many times. He was not self-conscious that he was not playing in time or in harmony. There was no shame in not being able to play well. When the music stopped, he kept going. It didn't matter that everyone else stopped and he was playing alone. It did not matter that people were looking at him or watching him. The adults were talking during the intermission, so his father moved the drum out of his son's reach. The son did not take this personally. He was not hurt by having the drum taken away. It was not a condemnation of his playing skills. There was no fault with him. There was no territory or possession to defend. The look of happiness and joy remained on his face. Instead, his attention moved onto something else that seemed fun or interesting.

Do you remember when you were like this? There was a time in your life when all the problems you struggle with did not exist. There was a time in your life when you were good enough simply as you are. There was a time in your life when happiness and joy were your normal day-to-day life. What happened to you? Where did your happiness and joy go?

All of our unhappiness and misery originate in the mind. They are thoughts that are rooted in our beliefs and concepts. We can investigate and inquire into the origins of our unhappiness and misery. Not by gaining distance or getting away from it to look at it objectively, but by fully feeling and experiencing the unhappiness and misery and then looking at (or touching) it more deeply from the inside. Why do this? Because our actions and reactions in life arise from our current understanding. When that understanding changes, so too our actions and reactions in life change. We don't really have to do anything about unhappiness or misery. Unhappiness and misery originate from within, not due to life's circumstances. We just have to deeply understand it, and then we may find it is no longer a problem.

For example, a couple of years ago I waited in the queue for an exit ramp on a major highway going into Minneapolis. As I sat in line in my car, I saw cars passing me on the left and cutting in far ahead of me. I noticed a frustration arising and I remember thinking, “if I was in a bank and cut in front of them, they would object...so why do they think this is OK?” I noticed I was creating my own misery and unhappiness then. I paused and embraced the feeling of frustration without judgment. I tried to detect where within the body I most felt the frustration residing. What I felt was like an inner contraction or tightness in the lower abdomen. While fully feeling the frustration and feeling the tightness, I just asked myself, “where did this come from?” My intention was to seek out the root of the feelings, but without trying to logically think out a solution. Images and memories from childhood simply arose. I recalled being at a grocery store with my mother as a young child. I jumped ahead of someone in line and she firmly grabbed by the shoulder and said sternly, “everyone has to wait their turn in line!” I think that was the first place and time I learned about that rule of etiquette and the incident imprinted deeply upon my psyche. This feeling of frustration was not really personal. It wasn't about cutting in front of me. It was more the principle of the matter - cutting in line. I was stuck on a rule I had learned as a boy and was conditioned to follow. They were breaking mom's rule!

When I consciously saw what was really an unconscious reaction to someone breaking a deeply ingrained rule, I found the frustration faded. I let go of my demand people follow this rule, which really was fighting the reality that several people were perfectly fine cutting into the exit lane. My resisting their actions and resisting the reality of what was happening was creating my own misery. I had no control over whether they cut in front or not. Making myself miserable would not stop them nor help me gain anything. As this understanding arose within me, I felt the rule and frustration drop away. I became perfectly content waiting in line while others cut ahead, and then I noticed it really didn't take that much longer to get to the exit. This change in my understanding was deep enough to be permanent. Ever since that day, I have not become frustrated when I see cars cutting into exit lanes ahead of me. Now when cars cut in ahead, it does change my mood or ruin my day. I don't make myself miserable because others are cutting into the exit lane.

This is a secret to finding everlasting happiness and joy. This is the secret to allowing the natural state of happiness and joy to arise and not be obscured. We only need to stop creating our own miseries and unhappiness, and then we are happy. We can become like children and live joyfully. We just have to let go of our beliefs and concepts that we live by that cause us to suffer. To let go of a belief or concept, we only have to inquire and investigate it and understand its origin. For only in ignorance do we create our own miseries, unhappiness, and suffering. Once understanding fully dawns, we cease doing it to ourselves. Then we abide in our natural state, which is happiness and joy. Just like when we were children.

Author's Bio: 

Eric Putkonen started his spiritual journey in 1990. He focuses on non-duality and lives awake and engaged as a house-holder yogi. He shares his thoughts and insights about non-duality and awakening on his YouTube channel - Nonduality & Enlightenment Simplified - at https://bitly.com/AdvaitaChannel. If you have questions or want to speak with Eric, email him at nondualitysimplified@icloud.com.