How can I become happy? It is, perhaps, the central question of human existence. Look around and you’ll see people trying desperately to achieve happiness. We accumulate wealth. We seek validation in romantic partners. We drown our pain in food or alcohol or cosmetic surgery or expensive designer shoes. Increasingly, we clamor for “happy pills” and expensive therapy sessions. Yet, as a culture and as individuals, happiness eludes us. We know there must be a solution somewhere out there–mustn’t there?–and if only we keep searching, we’ll find it.
Actually, says Blair Lewis, PA–a holistic physician assistant and author of the new book Happiness: The Real Medicine and How It Works (Himalayan Institute Press, 2005, ISBN: 0-89389-245-9, $14.95)–this mindset is wrong. Happiness is not something we have to seek out or acquire. It simply is . . . and when we eliminate the “noise” that’s obscuring it, happiness is revealed.
“Happiness has always been our only pursuit,” writes Lewis. “Through the grace of those who have attained the happiness I sought, I am able to share with you a comprehensive approach to quieting the noise in your body, breath, and mind in a manner that will allow the perennial joy hidden in the deepest recesses of your heart to flow forward. In that life-changing moment you will experience the peace, happiness, and bliss that you have sought your entire life.” Lewis shares the ups and downs of his own life-long pursuit of happiness with refreshing candor. Throughout the book he weaves insights and advice regarding the holistic tools and techniques that have helped him “quiet his own noise” and find happiness: pranayama, yoga, rejuvenation herbs, and meditation.
But perhaps most important, he identifies and explores the six universal traits possessed by happy people, an ancient list taught to him by the late Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Below, excerpted from Happiness: The Real Medicine and How It Works, is that list:
Happiness Trait #1: A Quiet Mind. “A quiet mind requires stillness,” writes Lewis. “Slowing down the train of thoughts begins with an outward blockade of sensory input. To quiet the lake of the mind, the neighbors (the five senses) have to stop throwing pebbles in the lake. In time, the lake becomes still, and the mind is transparent. As waters clear, the jewels at the bottom of the lake become visible to the surface-dwelling mind. This initial glimpse of our inner wealth propels us further in the direction of self-exploration and self-transformation.” Meditation is an effective way to quiet the mind. At various places in his book, Lewis offers insights on beneficial techniques. The following was shared by his teacher, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, Ph.D.: “To be happy requires no effort. That is why meditation should be effortless. If you work hard at meditating, you are engaging the mind, and in the end, you will be tired. Meditation is refreshing and empowering if you let it be natural and spontaneous. Stay focused on the coolness and warmth of the breath or any valid tool to meditate on. But do not struggle; do not work at it. Just observe your mind and gently guide your attention to the proper object of your meditation.”
Happiness Trait #2: Self-restraint. “Having worked in a modern psychiatric clinic for twenty years (and counting), I have noticed that most of my patients are simultaneously infatuated and repulsed by their own desires,” reveals Lewis. “They know they should stop certain behaviors–their actions make their lives miserable–but they cannot escape the strangleholds. Their own lifestyles ensnare them because they lack self-restraint.” Yoga’s method of self-restraint begins with an external approach, attempting to organize the student’s life and living environment. This approach is very concrete and provides quick, tangible results. Once this external aspect is manageable, the subtler, internal techniques are taught. Begin by creating stability in your world as you know it. Next, create a clean home and a predictable schedule. Then fill your home with love, honesty, respect, and openness. You are making new choices that create new grooves through which your mind can flow. You are preparing yourself for the internal path of self-transformation.
Happiness Trait #3: Endurance. “Self-transformation is not a sprint; it is a marathon,” writes Lewis. “To finish the race, you are going to have to find and organize all of your memories of success and survival. Endurance can be supported by a solid, historical foundation of your successes and accomplishments. You will need these reminders when doubt and fatigue rise up to question your self-worth and block your efforts. They can weaken your endurance if you truly doubt your ability to succeed. In life, we must reflect more upon our wins than on our losses. “The greater your goals, the greater your challenges,” he continues. “Total happiness is the complete destruction of the myth of total failure. Enduring any setback and rising up again are the structures you are building on. To quote Churchill, ‘Never, never, never give up!’ Train your mind to focus on your successes and strengths. Conquer the world within you and you have conquered the entire world. This is true endurance.”
Happiness Trait #4: Loss of Interest in Worldly Charms. “To struggle and fight for elusive charms and false promises delays our maturation into true happiness,” Lewis writes. “All of us have hoped that glittering trinkets would bring us everlasting joy. It is only a matter of time before you recognize this absurdity. When you do, your struggle will end . . . Becoming free from the pull of ‘animal-like drives’ is the goal–not the shunning of all the wonderful objects and experiences that life offers. “When you view the charms of the world from a balanced, internally satisfied perspective, the temptations become options instead of uncontrollable urges,” he clarifies. “Achieving clarity about your role in the world and the possibilities the world can offer you will lead you to freedom–freedom from the charms and temptations of the world that previously were a daily source of despair and conflict . . . Swami Rama said it best: ‘You have to learn how to live in this world and yet remain above.'”
Happiness Trait #5: Freedom from Conflicts and Distractions. “Technology has transformed all of us into extraordinarily social beings–cell phones and instant messaging have put us at the mercy of our connections,” writes Lewis. “You can be called, paged, or emailed no matter where you are. Your privacy is evaporating. ‘Oversocialization’ used to mean that you were spending too much time visiting and not enough time paying attention to your needs. Today, oversocialization is due to our overavailability to anyone and everyone.” He goes on to explain that it took him years to realize that he was not responsible for pleasing everyone and finding solutions to other people’s problems. “Slowly, I started making better decisions, and my internal conflicts started to subside,” he writes. “By becoming more responsible for me, I let people become more responsible for themselves. The crowd that I thought I would have to shun never actually left. However, they completely changed their behavior toward me, and for the better. I was amazed.”
Happiness Trait #6: The Desire for Happiness. “Happiness is our only pursuit, and every human being is perfectly equipped to start and complete this journey,” Lewis writes. “All logic and reason tells us that happiness is within our reach, that we will not be satisfied until we attain the state of everlasting happiness . . . This precious commodity brings us comfort and joy, warmth and security. It is this search for happiness that takes a person to a church or a mosque, a priest or a guru, to the stock market, the casino, the battlefield, or a lonely place on a mountaintop. “A burning desire to be happy means blooming right where you are planted,” he adds. “Relinquishing all requirements for the world around you to change, your efforts of self-transformation allow you to blossom immediately. You will be freed from all the subtle influences of the past and from all of the anxieties of the future. Living in the here and now is the permanent address of happiness. It takes time to gather enough experience to realize the importance of letting go of yesterday in order to find happiness today.”
Taken out of context, all of this philosophy could make one forget that Lewis is actually a health care professional. But Happiness: The Real Medicine and How It Works makes clear his belief that soundness of mind and body are interconnected and even indistinguishable from one another. Lewis ends the book with a hopeful vision that the medical community will feature a comprehensive approach to patient care. As he so aptly puts it, “To analyze a human being based only on biochemistry is to analyze a poem based upon the kind of paper it is written on.”
“The word ‘disease’ itself implies a lack of ease,” he concludes. “If our body and mind are not at ease, we must look for the cause rather than suppress the discomfort. And when we are at ease with our emotions, our thoughts, and our conscience, we call this state ‘happiness’ . . . I believe one day we will see a new specialty, an expert on happiness, someone who can assimilate the many aspects of health, emotions, and happiness and lead the patient toward a complete cure.”
About the Author: Blair Lewis is a seasoned and recognized expert of holistic medicine, Ayurveda, and yogic sciences. Trained in the tradition of the Himalayan Institute, he has been a physician assistant and holistic practitioner for over twenty-five years. Specializing in the holistic treatment of chronic disease, Lewis has successfully developed modern strategies from homeopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, yoga science, and meditation therapies to help thousands of people find meaning and purpose in their lives. He is a frequent author of articles in national magazines, the creator of a free monthly Internet magazine, and a teacher of holistic health through his audio training courses. He has several free publications on meditation and yoga available at AliveandHealthy.com. He is also the co-author of Homeopathic Remedies for Health Professionals and Laypeople, published by the Himalayan Institute Publishers in 1990, a book that sold over 33,000 copies. About the Book: Happiness: The Real Medicine and How It Works (Himalayan Institute Press, 2005, ISBN: 0-89389-245-9, $14.95) is available at bookstores nationwide, major online booksellers, at seminars and live events featuring Blair Lewis, at AliveandHealthy.com, and direct from the publisher at 800-822-4547 or HimalayanInstitute.org.