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​Hard-wired to seek happiness, yet conditioned to seek it outwardly

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Why does everyone seek happiness? It’s because bliss is the very essence of our being, our only reality, and that although we intuitively know this, we want to experience it, and we will never rest until we do. But if bliss is our essence, why don’t we constantly experience it? The problem begins at birth (all of our births): Our first act—inhalation—is an unconscious affirmation that our happiness (indeed, our very existence) depends on something external: air. That dependence only grows with time, as more outer necessities of life come into play: water, food, shelter. It grows further as sensory enjoyment (counterfeit happiness) enters the picture: We desire pleasing perceptions—and try to avoid displeasing perceptions—from the five physical senses. And it grows stronger still as we seek subtler gratification from other externals: love, importance, respect, fame, wealth, power, excitement, etc. Through these we get fleeting glimpses of happiness, and every time that happens, we become more convinced that they give us happiness. When those glimpses disappear, we seek to fill the happiness void with another fleeting glimpse. On and on we go, never realizing that the happy feeling comes from inside, not outside. External things and circumstances do not give happiness; if they did, everyone would like exactly the same things and circumstances. Over time, we become deeply conditioned to seek happiness outwardly. The more we do that, the more we’re disappointed, because we’ll never find lasting happiness outside of us. Overcoming the lure of outward happiness We cannot think our way out of this conditioning, because the mind with which we think is convinced that outward fulfillment is the sure way to happiness. Adding to the difficulty, this world—and our society—continually reinforces the conditioning. Meditation is a way to get beyond that conditioning, and touch the bliss within. For millennia, people who have found the ultimate happiness have testified that meditation is the only way to find true happiness. Different spiritual traditions give it different forms and names: e.g., meditation, prayer, inner communion, contemplation, self-offering, devotion. Some forms are more systematic, while some are less, but all arise from the fact that lasting happiness can be found only by going beyond the ordinary workings of mind and heart, and touching a more fundamental level of our being: the bliss within. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t enjoy outward experiences; in fact, they lend richness to life. But we don’t want our happiness to depend on them, as it has done for such a long time. Meditation can help us enjoy them for what they are: reminders of the superior bliss that is always within us. The more we focus on that bliss, the more our conditioned dependence on outward happiness will fade away, and the greater our sense of freedom will be.

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