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  • Daniel K White

What is Happiness?

There are likely to be as many versions of happiness as there are people on Earth: What makes you happy, what makes you come alive, will be different in some tone as compared to me. I like hip-hop, you may like classical. I enjoy a latte, you may enjoy iced-coffee. And so on, we all have our tastes and preferences. This is great, as there are unlimited tastes to be enjoyed in this world, but I also wonder if there is not a core doctrine of happiness, if you will.


Many psychologists have suggested certain criteria necessary for the highest happiness we can enjoy. Meaningful vocation, autonomy, enough wealth, safety, partnership, community, connection to nature, appreciation of beauty, and spirituality are some of the criteria commonly discussed. I think all of these are important, but I tend to take a more direct approach to the center: I believe that connection to the source of what we are is the most important aspect of happiness.


The other day, a funny Universe wink-wink moment happened. I had just bought a cajon drum the week before. I've been totally enthralled with my drum, losing myself in play and practice. I decided to spend a free day entirely devoted to play: No metronome practice, just the free expression I love so much. I was boom-bopping my way through the afternoon, getting in touch with some hip-hop style beats. All of a sudden, through the window I see a man approaching my front door. He was dark-skinned and had dreadlocks. Was I dreaming? No, of course not. Of course the Universe would send a Rastafarian man to my front door in the midst of my ecstatic drumming.


"Hey mon, I heard the drums brudda, nice!" He said when I greeted him at the front door. In the six months of living in this home, which is nestled deep in the woods and far from the path of any passerby, no one has ever come knocking on my front door. He knew the woman who lived here years ago, and he thought he would drive out to check on her. I invited him in and we chatted for a while.


We were talking about the Rastafarian spiritual tradition, and he was telling me about the Nyabinghi tradition where Rastas gather with certain drums and chants to celebrate and praise life. On his request, I looked for a video of such a gathering on YouTube. When I clicked a video, we had to first watch a 15-second advertisement. I immediately cursed the advertisement out loud, "Stupid ads..." but my new friend was unperturbed. He still wore his soft smile and said, "No, no man, it's all good, it's all good, no stress man, we keep the good vibes." In that moment, I realized how instinctive impatience is in my body-mind, and I realized how this man effortlessly was standing in his "cool."


The mind untrained can be more destructive than an out-of-control elephant, this is a yogic saying from ancient India. We may not think about this often, but with a mindfulness practice, it becomes easier to see just how quickly our minds can flash to anger, disappointment, or some other form of judgment or cursing of the present situation. The act of training the mind is simply the practice of returning the mind to the heart: To the felt-presence of peace, love, and joy.


The heart is where Enos, my Rastafarian friend lives his life from. I saw it in the twinkle of his eye, I felt it in the warmth of his smile: This man was rooted in his philosophy of "I and I," knowing that the I in me is of the same spirit as the I in him. Living this way, could it be other that all people are his family? Could he feel anything but being at home in this world? To know what Enos knows is I believe a cornerstone of the foundation for happiness.

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