Taylor Tomasini

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Happiness. The good life. Why don't these come naturally?

The Dalai Lama writes that happiness comes from right practice -- practicing compassion, love, kindness, empathy... And we know from experience that happiness doesn't come easily. The same is true of the good life. Those who live true to themselves, struggle. They work for it. The work isn't what concerns me so much, as does the fact that knowing the right direction doesn't feel natural to us and our sensibilities. Or does it?

Closing Statement from Taylor Tomasini

I'm not sure why the conversation closed so quickly; must have been user error when creating it.

Many people brought of great points. Thought I'd summarize them here..

Mitch Smith:
Wrote that you should pursue the moment instead of happiness. I agree. It takes me back to writings like that of Eckhart Tolle who writes that living in the present is the most beneficial thing we can do.

Mitch also mentioned that it is all natural. Again, I think there is truth lingering there that I don't have enough of a response space to go into.

Rohna & Mary:
They definitely speak to the social and societal influences that tear us away from our innate sense of where we should go.

Colleen Steen:
Wrote about the choice to live true to one's self, and brought up the great point that we are all connected.

Thanks to everyone who submitted comments.

  • Mar 23 2012: From the very beginning of life, adults impose upon children in ways that interfere with their natural tendency to be happy. Unhappy ancestors, power and control freaks, fear-filled people passed their inaccurate and inappropriate ways on by brainwashing the young, manipulating them by provoking fear. Somehow truth in human communication slipped away. It is up to each of us to re-program ourselves according to our highest awareness of truth, of what is right. By accepting the brainwashing of those dead power and control, paranoic people, we gave up our own freedom of thought, belief, behavior. Religion has done much to interfere with human happiness. The image of Jesus Christ was passed on as primarily a suffering soul, so people think that to be high and holy, they must suffer. That is just one example of what I am talking about. Basically, happiness does come naturally. We just have to stop interfering with the natural tendencies of people - from birth and onward - to be happy. Happy Today.
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      Mar 23 2012: Your comment reminded me of something John Lennon said:

      "When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me happiness was the key to life-When I went to school - they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down "happy". They told me I didn't understand the assignment, and I told them they didn't understand life"
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        Mar 23 2012: Mary - thanks for sharing that great quote! John was/is one of my big heroes...
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      Mar 23 2012: Rhona, Amen! I'd just add that as we grow up and move through the developmental processes that take place in each of us, we're incredibly vulnerable (and not in the sense Brene was talking about) to and dependent on the folks who end up programming us...alas, based on the unsupportive programming they received...

      And we then proceed through life not realizing how much we've been controlled, and taught to control ourselves, by the thousands of messages we've gotten that shame us back into the box when we've attempted to move out of it...well, you already said something about re-programming ourselves, so I know you know what I'm talking about.

      I think the best tool we have for re-programming ourselves is a deep knowledge of how we actually function psychologically. Thanks to the great work done in fields like neuroscience, attachment theory, shame/affect psychology, trauma research, etc., we now have information that illuminates that for us. But few people actually know that, so I'm grateful for anything that moves that new information out into the public discourse.
  • Mar 23 2012: I would think it's the other way around. Happiness is an easy thing... but we're easily distracted with thoughts we don't thinkg and things we don't need. We make our way into happiness more complex each time because we can't believe it's that easy... love and be loved

    And I would say they DO come naturally, but we are not living naturally
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      Mar 23 2012: I agree Santiago,
      We percieve happiness/contentment to be complex sometimes because we do not believe in it. If we do not believe it and feel it with every part of our "self", then it is not our reality.

      I agree, we are sometimes easily distracted, and we often do not take responsibility for that distraction. See how many times it is said on this thread that we are "forced" to accept things and circumstances that we do not really want. We are not forced by anyone.....we make a choice.
      Love and be loved:>)
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    Mar 23 2012: Because you have been taught to not trust yourself. Work it out from there.

    Argh! I do care about everyone. Can't help it.

    DO not persue happiness - that is guaranteed to deliver sadnes, frustration and depression.

    Instead - persue the moment - it delivers all happiness, sadness - all the colours of the rainbow. Before you can laugh, you must cry .. before you can cry, you must laugh.
    Taste "now" and enjoy. There is nothing else.

    It IS all natural, but we are trained to not see it.
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    Mar 23 2012: I think that's because we are so lost in the synthetic and fabricated side of living which is advertised and forced upon us through our society.We are conditioned to believe that money=success=luxury=feeling like we are a sucessful person=respect=being appreciated by others=feeling like we belong somewhere=thinking that we are 'somebody'=happiness......I think happiness does come naturally to every one of us,however its up to us to either let these rims above enshroud our ability to see happiness or view the bigger picture and embrace the little flashes of happiness each day has to offer.
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    Mar 23 2012: When you make something abstract like "happiness" the goal, you will never achieve it.

    What makes you happy is not the "state" of happiness, but actions and thoughts - the process to happiness.

    Try new things out, read random materials and get out there to know what you do not like - to know what makes you happy in action and thought.
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      Mar 23 2012: Nicholas, I agree that pursuing an abstract 'happiness' is misguided and doomed to failure. And I agree with your advice about trying things out, etc.

      In my experience, my ability to do that in my life has often been thwarted by unconscious internal shame reactions; fear of failure, of looking ridiculous, etc. (That's why I never became a Rock Star! ;-)

      Learning about how shame actually works has helped me in my struggles to overcome my internal historical fear-based programming.

      As I've noted elsewhere, Brene Brown's presentation is a great starter for a much deeper conversation. I hope it actually prompts that deeper examination, and doesn't become just another issue d'jour that people gulp down, applaud for a while, and then run off in hot pursuit of the next hot issue...
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        Mar 23 2012: Go into a book store - psych section - I would wager is a majority of "self-help" books and guides to happiness. Overstating, what we agreed on.

        There is a long realized fact, our we strive for "happiness" is innate - through (emotional) attachments, emotions, rationalism and materialism - through our thinking behavior.

        At this point, need to teach the children about their natural cognitive biases and how to critically and analytically think about situations - life, reality, etc. - to be better than our nature, but an enhanced form of that nature through intellection - perhaps technological progression.

        Let's hope for the mind before the machine to be higher cognitive.
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    Mar 23 2012: Flies consider warm feces to be an important part of "the good life" and it brings them " happiness". If what you consider to be the good life, and the resulting happiness, is elusive perhaps your expectations are too far outside the boundaries of "natural" progression. QUOTE: "To fill the hour- that is happiness." - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
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    Mar 23 2012: Because everything is so unnatural and artificial these days. People living on top of one another in apartment blocks...going to jobs from morning till dusk in a complete state of denial...I am not a human being...I am a corporate product... I represent my company...I cannot do or say anything which might misrepresent them and their opinions therefore I cannot a) mention politics b) mention religion c) do or say anything that might be taken as offensive by any minority in the world etc etc. We buy food unnaturally fed on growth hormones and vegetables and fruit that are covered in pesticides then washed in bleach. Our wages are kept just high enough for us to spend and just low enough for everyone to have to continue working in fear of losing their job. we are bombarded with advertisements not only between every TV show but during the shows also. We are force fed products that we are not particularly in need of but which become necessities and we are forced to depend on institutions such as banks in order to get a home. We are told we have a choice...ha...wake up!

    If we lived in the country with no TVs, living off the land and depending on and helping our neighbours, free to think what we want, act how we like (so long as don't harm others)...then happiness would come more easily...

    but try telling a peasant that he is happy!
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      Mar 23 2012: Dear David,
      What a bleak picture you paint of our world! I think I live in the same world as you do, and I have a very different perception of it.

      Thankfully, my mother taught me that happiness/contentment is a choice. If people are going to work "in a complete state of denial"....it is a choice. If people are not noticing the beautiful nature all around us, it is a choice. If people buy unhealthy foods....it is a choice. Personally, I LOVE plucking fruits and vegetables off the vines in the gardens...growing most of my food is a choice I've made my whole life. If people are "bombarded with advertisements" on TV, I suspect s/he knows how to turn the TV off? Although I watch some TV in the winter months, it usually stays off for all the months of summer....it's a choice I make for my well-being. We are "forced to depend on products that we are not particularly in need of"? Are you kidding me? Who forces that practice? I believe it is a choice.

      I live in the same world you do David....I think! I make a choice to watch TV or not...a choice to help my neighbors...or not....I feel very free to think about and know what I want and need....and I am happy/content and awake.
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        Mar 23 2012: As much as I agree with you that everyone has a choice, if we keep choosing as you say we will eventually exclude ourselves from society by having less and less in common with other people. I don't want a mobile but my wife insists for hers and our children's safety...I don't want a bank account, but my company makes it a condition of employment and receiving wages...I want to eat healthily, but nowhere do they sell affordable organic produce...I like to keep up on the news on television but have to put up the newscaster stopping to plug the latest internet deal...of course I can choose not to do these things...but is it really a choice if it means having a permanently angry wife...no job...no money for anything other than organic carrots.... I think it's great that you can pluck an apple from a tree... I live in a flat, and as it happens, in tiny plant pot in front of my door, I have apple trees growing. If, in the future, I am able to pluck an apple from the tree, it is not because of choice...it'll be down to a tremendous amount of luck. Not everyone can choose to live healthily as easily as you. In a town near Glasgow, the average life expectancy is 56. Why? Because it's easier to buy hard drugs than it is to buy fruit and vegetables.

        I'm actually a fairly positive person on the whole. upbeat, always singing a song. I try to ignore what gets me down and try to get on with life...but it can be awfully difficult to keep it up when you're being bombarded from all sides. Choice...choice...
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          Mar 23 2012: Dear David,
          I sincerely hope we do not exclude ourselves from society by having less and less in common with other people. I believe we are all connected, so I see us becoming MORE AWARE of our connectedness:>)

          I understand that life sometimes may limit us in certain ways. I cannot grow food in the winter for example, because I live in cold country, where the gardens are under snow for a few months.

          You seem like an insightful, intelligent, resourceful person, and I have confidence that you will face your challenges wisely. I also percieve, based on your comments I've read, that you ARE indeed a fairly positive person.

          I LOVE that you have dwarf apple trees! There are lots of dwarf fruits, veggies and herbs that grow very successfully in pots. Perhaps this is the beginning of your "potted garden"!
          Good luck with your quest my friend:>)
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      Mar 23 2012: What you say is true.....it is reality.....but now let me say this.

      I'm sure you know that it is our choice whether we allow all these negative things to control our happiness.

      I have said it before in TED conversations on happiness:

      Some people do not KNOW they have a choice.

      They monotonously follow everyone without so much of a brief moment of meditation on themselves and where THEY want to be and where they are headed.

      David, I agree with your statement, I think it is a big part of why most are not happy.....and how insightful your ending.......grass is always greener...huh!!??