Meditation on Happiness

We begin with music. It is our intention to influence our own happiness. Breathe calmly. Imagine you have full control over your hormonal levels and neurotransmitters, especially oxytocin and dopamine. Would you keep them at a constant, optimal level so you can experience the most happiness that is physiologically possible. A standard response to that is that our physiology doesn’t work that way. We can’t engineer our happiness like that, we would become like heroin addicts.

We keep listening to the music and become aware how it does influence our neuronal response. It’s as good as it gets. Happiness is an experience, so it has a duration, a beginning and an end. We know there is an important difference between evaluated happiness (after the fact) and the experience of happiness as it happens. Reflecting on happiness makes us aware of its fleeting quality, it humbles us with respect to what we strive for. What can we hope? How ambitious can we get when it comes to happiness?

We breathe. It somehow doesn’t sound right to call happiness an ambition. In our culture, it is supposed to be a by-product of something else, some achievement. This social side of happiness requires that we don’t consume it like apathetic junkies. When we talk about happiness, we mean respectful happiness, or socially accepted happiness. Essentially, this is the happiness that can serve as an example for other people. The public image of happiness plays an important rule in the social bonding of large groups.

In our complex world, we can register other people’s happiness, even when they are far outside of our social environment. We envy them sometimes, and we get anxious. The key to sustained happiness might be a relatively small but meaningful community of people who can understand each other’s happiness. Rather than jealousy, we would feel pride if our neighbor is a little happier than we are. Rather than feeling miserable, we feel invigorated and motivated. Such is my intuition of a happy coexistence of human beings. We are still listening to the music, and we are sharing a breath to end this meditation.

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