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Yoga and Happiness

When we laugh, we invoke the joy of Brahman and go straight to the bliss body (the ananda maya kosha) and experience the bliss or realisation of the self, or our true nature.  The mind unmodifies and bliss floods the mind.  Laughter is the joy of happiness of your own divine self – the realisation of God in this moment.” 

(James Swartz on why laughter and being happy is what is the meaning in life.)

Yoga helps us to realise that our true nature is happiness.  This is NOT just about the postures – but applying yoga philosophy off the mat to your every-day life.  These ideas are discussed further on retreats, but here are some of the steps to finding happiness taken from yoga teachings: 

  • Be flexible.  Accept whatever life delivers to you.  The biggest cause of suffering is not accepting reality.  Surrender to ‘what is’ and practice non-resistance. This is the karma yoga teaching in yoga – do what you have to do with a sense of gratitude and offering to your higher power, but leave the results up to this power. Don’t try to control the outcome. Remember that there is always a lesson in apparent suffering.  We can’t always see the big picture and this might take time to realise.
  • Don’t compare and compete with others.  This is actually is biggest cause of stress and our society engenders this by persuading us to consume more and more and by also encouraging us to feel fearful; that we are not good enough and that buying something will make us happy and help us to ‘keep up’and be more complete.  But this doesn’t work and most of us continue to feel inadequate and insecure.  So the way out of this is to practice accepting yourself as you are.  Loving yourself is even better. You can’t truly love others until you love yourself first.  So don’t try to compare.  What’s the point?  You are you and you are perfect, whole and complete just as you are.  And if you don’t feel that is true, then use it as a mantra and fake it until you make it!
  • You are as you think you are.  The mind is all-powerful.  If you see yourself as a victim – then you are a victim.  If you see yourself as happy and that obstacles are  challenges rather than obstructions –  then that is a good attitude to develop.  Someone or something may cause us hurt initially but we are responsible for holding on to our suffering.
  • You may have a  goal, or an idea of what direction your life is going in.  But keep this flexible.  If something changes, accept the change and go with the flow.  Keep your goals small and manageable.
  • Forgive and let go.  How real is the past?  It’s just an idea in your mind.  If you don’t forgive and if you hold on to anger you are only hurting yourself. Beware of being addicted to your drama or story.
  • Understand that freedom is happiness; that is based on our true nature.  (Yoga teaches us what this is).We cannot get happiness from that which is external and impermanent.  Relationships, objects, possessions – all are impermanent and will cause us to suffer if we become too attached to them.
  • Love without attachment.  This is hard for many people, but this is true love.  Loving another enough to let them go and not trying to control them is genuine love – not that which is needy or too attached. Respect the freedom of your loved ones.
  • When life is difficult think ‘So what!’ In other words  – don’t sweat the small stuff.
  • Keep it simple.  Downsize your life if you need to and try not to overload your life with socialising, ‘things to do’ or over-stimulation.  Keep life simple is an excellent mantra for happiness.
  • Keep in the company of positive inspiring people who don’t pull you down and who have good values. Hang out with radiators, not drains!
  • Try to adopt equanimity of mind; whether life seems ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
  •  Develop love and compassion for all, while remembering that this starts with yourself.
  •  Drop trying to be perfect.  Relax!
  • And finally: Breathe slowly!

With thanks to the The Patanjali yoga Sutras, the Vyasa ashram and my teacher James Swartz.

Suggested reading:

The Art of Happiness – Dalai Lama
A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle
1,000 Names for Joy – Byron Katie
How to Attain Enlightenment – James Swartz

Other resources:  – see the non-duality interviews