I have just had a conversation with a dear friend of mine that circled the central issue of his current unhappiness and stress in his life. It was long and complicated and heated, kind of like talks between old friends can sometimes be. After much gab, we came to the conclusion that he cares too much about what other people think, which is not at all uncommon. We’re all guilty of this, but he complained specifically of feeling undervalued by everyone in his life lately.
My response was perplexity, and then said this: “Let me give you some advice, [dear one]. It doesn’t matter who thinks you’re right or wrong. They’re not living your life. You gotta be alright and right with yourself. So everything that’s stressing you out… Fuck that. If you’re sure you’re right, carry on.”
I’ve certainly learned this lesson long, long ago.
So, the question was then what makes us happy. And I had to reduce it the barest components: Animals do not willingly seek pain and stress in their daily lives; they seek pleasure and the satiation of their needs. Humans complicate things a whole lot. We have a terrifyingly powerful and complex neo-cortex that often gets in the way. This is why meditative practice tends to work: it bypasses the thinking brain and goes straight for the feeling brain.
Maybe it’s selfish. Certainly, it is self-centered. But that’s the basic truth of our species. Happiness is within us, it is all about ourselves and how we chose to relate to–or not relate to–the world around us. So yeah, fuck that and carry on.