It’s well said that life is certainly not arranged for one to be happy. We can never be perfectly happy, and when we are, we know that it probably won’t last. Conversely, if we don’t know how to handle our mind, we can keep on suffering for months or years at a time. On any small pretext, we can become severely stressed. If we fail to manage our mind, instead letting things go out from our control, it can lead to thoughts of, or actual, suicide. Once people are trapped in their own vicious cycle of toxic and distressing thoughts, it becomes extremely difficult to break out of that cycle.
India is the most depressed and also among the unhappiest countries in the world. Nearly half of the working population is mentally stressed. Millions suffer from anxiety. The reasons are multifold, but the main reason is that we don’t know how to care for and manage our mind. We attach more importance to physical rather than mental exercises like meditation. We must also learn from our experiences, which give us valuable lessons. The following are the hard realities that we should learn for our spiritual growth.
We are imperfect and insecure humans: Humans have evolved from apelike primitives though the process of evolution. For more than two million years, humans lived as hunter-gatherers. For more than 95,000 generations, according to evolutionary biologists, they were hunting animals and collecting plants, fruits, and seeds for their food. They were also protecting themselves from predators and extremely harsh environmental conditions while trying to deal with illness and disease. Therefore, fear and aggression got embedded in their collective psyche. Now in the modern world, though living conditions have come up a notch or two, the same part of the brain so easily triggered by fear and aroused to aggression – the amygdala — remains active.
We are modern humans with a partially primitive brain. This is the reason we are so fearful and anxious. Mentally fragile, we tend to become angry (and even violent) at the slightest provocation. Unless we make consistent efforts, it’s difficult to manage our mind and thoughts. Mind is negatively biased as well, as it wanders randomly when unfocused and inattentive.. Even a small negative event or interaction with others can feel distressing. Our thinking is also flawed as we suffer from many cognitive biases, as explained earlier in this book. Because of all these qualities, we humans are imperfect and insecure. This reality we must acknowledge and realize as we continue along life’s journey.
We can never be perfectly happy: while there may be many things we want to achieve in life; the ultimate purpose is to be happy and live life to the fullest. However, many of us don’t set our priorities with this goal in mind. Almost all of us strive to be successful in life rather than realizing happiness. We are led to believe that if we possess wealth and comforts, happiness will automatically come. And when we do become wealthy, most of us are inclined to chase after even more pleasure and emotional gratification. In the process of seeking so-called happiness, we tend to create bigger desires. After just a few months of new-car ownership, a desire may arise for an even better one. If we buy a lovely home, it’s almost inevitable that an even lovelier one may soon be in in our sights.
Satisfaction and contentment never come from the pursuit of wealth, material goods, or pleasure. We tend to forget this basic fact. Money of course is needed for happiness, but only to a certain extent. Then it becomes neutral, and further pursuit of it is counterproductive. Rather than seeking happiness in the outside world by way of possessions and indulgence in pleasures, we need to look inside our mind. We must learn to manage our mind if we want happiness. This we mostly don’t do. That’s why we can never be perfectly happy : we don’t set our priorities straight and more importantly; we look for happiness in the outside world.
True reality of the world is beyond our reach: Each one of us perceives reality in our own unique way. Through our senses, we receive sensory stimuli that are interpreted by our brain and stored as internal models of reality. Unique to each individual, these mental constructs, and all their assumptions, are shaped by our educational, social, and political background, and resulting belief systems. Therefore, there is no way by which we can know the objective reality of this world. Now fake news and “alternative facts” through social media are further aggravating this problem. Across the world, reality is being distorted and manipulated by social media. We must, in any case, remember that what we think we know about the presumed truth may not be based on truthful and objective information.