This is a part of my blog-post on the topic, Cultivate Happiness.
In this article, I am going to talk about my experience with the Happiness Challenge program by JKYog, which is available online and is free. I urge you to check it out; once your register for this program, you will get a link to a video daily with a brief description of that day’s challenge and what you need to do. Also, you will find many such motivating and enriching programs on JKYog Web site.
I am going to summarize my take-away as I complete the daily Happiness Challenge given by JKYog. This exercise helps us in internalizing what we learned through these videos and the probability of adopting these in our day-to-day life would be higher.
NOTE: Be it Yoga or Spirituality or life-style management, we need to inculcate what we learned in order to feel / reap the benefits. Unless we put these into practice, there is no real use except for gaining theoretical knowledge; we just sound scholarly by quoting Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra or a Quote made by a Spiritual Guru or a Tip / Nugget given by a Life-coach.
Now, to my take-away from this program. I will update this post on a daily basis as I complete each day’s Happiness Challenge.
- Day # 1: Happiness is the Mind and not dependent on External Conditions
- Negative thoughts in our mind govern how we feel about others. Ego, jealousy, hatred and such negative emotions prevent us from being happy with others.
- If we remember and adopt Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra ” मैत्री करुणा मुदितोपेक्षाणांसुखदुःख पुण्यापुण्यविषयाणां भावनातः चित्तप्रसादनम् “, then I think there won’t be any room for complaints.
- Day # 2: Happiness is an Inside Job
- We tend to think that we would be happy if we get a promotion / achieve a goal / acquire a material thing (e.g., car, house etc.). If we analyze our state of mind even after achieving our goals, we will be hankering for more! We get stuck in a whirlpool of materialist desires that leads to a perpetual search for happiness.
- Realizing that happiness doesn’t lie in material things (that just provide physical comfort), we can live really live happily.
- Swami Mukundanandaji made this point very clear through the Story of 99 Coins. Very profound story!
- My blog-post on this topic: https://manjushaa.academy/2018/02/27/happiness-is-an-inside-job/
- Day # 3: Count Our Blessings and Attitude of Gratitude
- It is a common tendency to ignore what we really have with us now and either sulk in the past or worry about the future. We will never be happy if we continue in this mode.
- Being thankful for what we have and living happily with those is the best approach to life. It is not complacency; we continue to perform our duty and strive to be a better version of ourselves, but we do so happily with an attitude of gratitude.
- My blog-post on this topic: https://manjushaa.academy/2020/02/04/reduce-stressget-cured/
- Day # 4: Happy Relationships
- Instead of letting others control our happiness / emotions, we should take charge of how we feel.
- ‘To be Happy’ is a choice we have and we need to exercise it if we really want to be happy no matter what the life throws at us.
- In this day’s video, Swami Mukundanandaji described it so beautifully through the ordeal that the Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl endured to touch millions of lives later through his life and works. His book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” that was mentioned is on my Reading List now.
- Day # 5: Steps to be Happy
- In the current society that mostly recognizes materialist achievements, we tend to get stuck in a rat race trying to ace every exam (in the academics), get a degree from an esteemed college, join a reputed Company, climb the career ladder, try to balance life on both personal and professional fronts!! I strongly believe that Knowledge is Power and Intellect is one thing that separates us from animals and we should do our best to excel in studies, it should be done with passion; not to just get good marks on our report cards. We should be able to put the acquired knowledge into good practice.
- IQ isn’t the only thing that can measure one’s success; EQ is equally important.
- Mind can be our Best Friend or our Worst Enemy. Choice is Ours!!
- My Blog-post on the topic of Quotients of Life: https://manjushaa.academy/2020/02/23/quotients-of-life/
- Day # 6: The Secret to Healthier & Happier Relationships
- The main reason for having friction in any relationship is unfulfilled expectations.
- Swamiji gives a beautiful example of the relationship between a Mother and her young child, which is supposed to be a perfect relationship. Both are happy with each other as long as the child is behaving as per the Mother’s expectations and the child is happy as long as the Mother is getting the things he / she wants. Once that equation is upset, resentment starts!
- So, when we do something for others expecting that they will do something to us in return, then we are just doing business with each other and not really caring for each other or for the relationship.
- To summarize, Expectations disrupt Relationships. So, try to understand before being understood. In other words, before judging / criticizing /abusing another person, walk a mile in that person’s shoes.
- Day # 7: Make Relationships Stronger
- In Day # 7’s Happiness Challenge video, Swamiji talks about two people planning to marry each other seeking happiness from what the other person has and emphasizes that relationship with such expectations get a shaky start and a weak foundation. Reason: When the objects of happiness (be it the person’s looks or wealth or career etc.) looses its charm or lessens in any way, then the relationship could potentially go for a toss.
- If a relationship’s goal is ‘Sacrifice & Service’, then there is no room for hurt / resentment.
- This doesn’t mean one person in a relationship need to suffer by sacrificing or suffering for another person’s happiness. It just means that we need to practise detached empathy; help when needed without being affected the negativity / behavior of the other person. This way the emotional health of the ‘Giver’ in the relationship doesn’t get affected.
- Another important point is that we should help others without expecting a reward / reciprocation from them; this just turns a relationship into a business transaction.
Day # 8: Solution for Imbalanced Relationships
- Day # 8’s Happiness Challenge was on finding a solution for Imbalanced Relationships.
- Swamiji gives a wonderful analogy of a bank account for human relationship. Just like a bank account, we can’t withdraw unless we make deposits.
- In a Relationship Bank Account, affection, service, help, sacrifice, care and such things come under Deposits and censuring, correcting the behavior of the other person to ensure he / she is on the right path, telling one off etc. are Withdrawals.
- When we take relationships for granted and stop making deposits to relationship account, it results in an imbalanced relationship.
- Every being (not just human) responds to affection. A beautiful story of a dog who fetches all the newspapers in the neighborhood for a person who had given him a biscuit the previous day for fetching newspaper is very telling. So, let us become more positive and keep making thoughtful deposits in our relationship accounts.
Day # 9: Make Right Choices in Life
- Day # 9’s challenge emphasises the importance of making the right choices in our life.
- Life presents us with options all the time. We make our choices either consciously or unconsciously. We need to use our intellect to determine what is right and what is wrong and pick the right option as our choices will have both short-term and long-term consequences.
- Making a choice isn’t enough, staying committed to that choice and making no compromises are important.
- Swamiji gives examples of the great Saint TulsiDas and Mahatma Gandhiji and highlights how the choices they made not only made them a better person, but resulted in the betterment and well-being for the entire nation.
Day # 10: Temporary Happiness v/s True Happiness
- Day # 10 lesson was a follow-up to Day # 9’s challenge of making the right choices and in this video Poojya Swamiji talks about how to make the right choice.
- Kathopanishad, the revered Hindu scripture helps us in making the right choice:
- श्रेयः च प्रेयः च मनुष्यम् एतः। धीरः तौ सम्परीत्य विविनक्ति।
- धीरः हि प्रेयसः श्रेयः अभिवृणीते। मन्दः योगक्षेमात् प्रेयः वृणिते ॥ 1.2.2 ||
- The gist of this verse is: Between Shreyas (that which is good to the soul) and Preyas (that which is pleasing to the senses) the wise one always chooses the Shreyas.
The Good and the Pleasant choices come to a man and the thoughtful mind turns around them and distinguishes. The wise choose out the good from the pleasant, but the dull soul chooses the pleasant rather than the getting of his / her good and its having.”
- A simple example that the Swamiji gives is the food choice we make when we are given a sugar-loaded pastry or a spinach soup. One is enticing to the tongue (and the pleasure of eating it lasts for a few seconds / minutes and is soon followed by the guilt of consuming unhealthy calories) and other one’s is good for health (it may not look good and might not be tasty, but it is good for one’s health).
- Another example is of a Student Life. During this phase, there are so many distractions that could derail a student from sticking to his / her study and career goals. If one chooses to focus on studies, he / she will reap the benefits that will give a happy, peaceful, and contented life.
Day # 11: Are You a Happy Person?
- Swamiji opens Day # 11’s discourse with a profound question: “Has the number of happy people increased at least 10-fold given the fact that the number of millionaires has grown a 1000-fold?” If we think it over, the answer is surprisingly ‘No.’
- When we live our life just for success, fame, and money for the sake of increasing our status / prestige in the eyes of the society, then we keep chasing a mirage in our entire life.
- Many popular personalities, be it an actor or a single or a performer, despite garnering so much fame and amassed a huge amount of material wealth have succumbed to addiction / substance abuse and have met a pitiful end.
- And the people who realized the core values of a human life and the true meaning of happiness have lived a meaningful life. Swamiji gives Helen Keller as an example. She despite going through a very challenging phase very early on in her life, moulded herself so well that she became a role model and a motivation for millions of people worldwide. Her life and work still continue to inspire people.
- So, rushing for external enhancement in the illusion that it will bring happiness is akin to merely chasing a mirage.
- There is nothing wrong in amassing material wealth, but it needs to be done through right means and used for good things. Money / fame earned through wrong mode will not bring blessings. So, to be happy, we need to think right, earn right, spend right, and live right.
Day # 12: Focus on Inner Happiness & Self Growth
- https://www.swami-krishnananda.org/aitt/ait_5.htmlIn the current world, we tend to focus too much on achieving ‘external’ goals, be it excelling in career or building mansions or buying branded vehicles, but not so much on improving the inner-self. Again, there is nothing wrong in doing those ‘external’ things, but when we do these without inner happiness, we become a slave to the objects of our senses forever.
- The perceived happiness / pleasure from external objects is limited (e.g., try eating your favorite dish; but you can’t eat it forever), temporary (e.g., you consumed alcohol the previous night and the next morning you get up suffering from a hangover), and decreases over time (e.g., imaging watching your favorite show / movie over and over; it looses its charm over time).
- When we learn to be happy for no reason, then we have achieved self-growth as Happiness is one of the innate qualities of every soul.
- Commentary of Swami Krishnanada on Ananda Mimamsa presented in Taittiriya Upanishad explains the inner happiness concept beautifully.
- If we examine Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the self-actualization happens to be the ultimate goal of every human being.
Day # 13: Make Yourself a Better Person
- Yearning to better ourselves is our innate quality.
- Purpose of human endeavor is to keep growing until we reach our maximum potential. When we try to become better, we feel better. We need to channelize our energy in this direction.
- Swami Vivekananda has said that ‘Every Soul is Potentially Divine.’
- Every religion’s goal is to make us become perfect like God himself.
Day # 14: Do Good, Feel Good
- In Day # 14’s discourse, Swamiji talks about feeling good by doing good.
- It is in the very human nature to do productive work, be it doing household chores or studying or leading a project. If the work that we are doing isn’t making a difference, then we naturally feel that our efforts are being wasted (even if get paid for doing that work!).
- We all are born with different talents, strengths, and skills and as we lived our lives we have reached different levels from a personal and career fronts. With what we have, we can still make a difference in this world by utilizing and exerting ourselves to put our skills to good use. Let us not waste what we have either by saying “it is not enough” or “what can I do.” This reminds me of the story of a Squirrel who tried to help Lord SriRama in building a bridge to Lanka in the great Hindu Epic of Ramayana. The Squirrel wanted to help in building the bridge by carrying sand and little pebbles and didn’t get deterred even after getting mocked at and threatened by others. Lord Rama noticed the Squirrel’s service being offered with great affection and faith and blessed it.
- When we do good / contribute to a good cause in whatever extent we can, we feel good and that leads to happiness!