The Art of Happiness | We're All Connected | Independence Is Illusion

Turtle Happiness
Has your science teacher ever told you, “everything is interconnected” and you rolled your eyes because of course everything is interconnected?
What about your minister at your church? Was it slightly more moving than your science teacher, and yet, still a bit on a sappy-side?
What about some hippy on the street who has had too much to smoke? You’ll hear him saying in a sing-song voice, “It’s all interconnected dude!” And he’ll probably have his stoned buddy with him who says, “Whoa... Dude... That’s deep.”
We’ve all heard it. Myself, personally, I’ve heard it from each of those sources at least twice. And yet, never on any of those occasions has it struck a deep cord within me.
For the first time, it really struck me while reading The Art of Happiness.
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From “The Art of Happiness” by Howard C. Cutler, M. D. And The Dalia Lama
"Within all beings there is the seed of perfection. However, compassion is required in order to activate that seed which is inherent in our hearts and minds..."
With this, the Dalai Lama introduced the topic of compassion to a hushed assembly. Addressing an audience of fifteen hundred people, counting among them a fair proportion of dedicated students of Buddhism, he then began to discuss the Buddhist doctrine of the Field of Merit.
In the Buddhist sense, Merit is described as positive imprints on one's mind, or "mental continuum," that occur as a result of positive actions.
The Dalai Lama explained that a Field of Merit is a source or foundation from which a person can accumulate Merit. According to Buddhist theory, it is a person's stores of Merit that determine favorable conditions for one's future rebirths.
He explained that Buddhist doctrine specifies two Fields of Merit: the field of the Buddhas and the field of other sentient beings.
One method of accumulating Merit involves generating respect, faith, and confidence in the Buddhas, the Enlightened beings.
The other method involves practicing actions like kindness, generosity, tolerance, and so on and conscious restraint from negative actions like killing, stealing, and lying.
The second method of acquiring Merit requires interaction with other people, rather than interaction with the Buddhas. On that basis, the Dalai Lama pointed out, other people can be of great help to us in accumulating Merit.
The Dalai Lama's description of other people as a Field of Merit had a beautiful, lyrical quality to it that seemed to lend itself to a richness of imagery. His lucid reasoning and the conviction behind his words combined to give him special power and impact to his talk that afternoon. As I looked around the room, I could see that many members of the audience were visibly moved.
I, myself, was less enthralled. As a result of our earlier conversations, I was in the rudimentary stages of appreciating the profound importance of compassion, yet as I was still heavily influenced by years of rational, scientific conditioning that made me regard any talk of kindness and compassion as being a bit too sentimental for my taste.
As he spoke, my mind began to wander. I started furtively looking around the room, searching for famous, interesting, or familiar faces. Having eaten a big meal just before the talk, I started to get sleepy. I drifted in and out.
At one point in the talk, my mind turned in to hear him say:
"...the other day I spoke about the factors necessary to enjoy a happy and joyful life. Factors such as good health, material goods, friends, and so on. If you closely investigate, you'll find that all these depend on other people. To maintain good health, you rely on medicines made by others and health care provided by others.

"If you examine all of the material facilities that you use for the enjoyment of life, you'll find that there are hardly any of these material objects that have no connection with other people. If you think carefully, you'll see that all these goods come into being as a result of the efforts of many people, either directly or indirectly. Many people are involved in making those things possible. Needless to say, when we're talking about good friends and companions as being another necessary factor for a happy life, we are talking about interaction with other sentient beings, other human beings.

"So you can see that all these factors are inextricably linked with other people's efforts and cooperation. Others are indispensable. So, despite the fact that the process of relating to others might involve hardships, quarrels, or cursing, we have to try to maintain an attitude of friendship and warmth in order to lead a way of life in which there is enough interaction with other people to enjoy a happy life."
As he spoke, I felt instinctive resistance. Although I've always valued and enjoyed my friends and family, I've considered myself to be an independent person. Self-reliant. Prided myself on this quality in fact. Secretly, I've tended to regard overly dependent people with a kind of contempt – a sign of weakness.
Yet that afternoon, as I listened to the Dalai Lama, something happened. As "Our Dependence on Others," was not my favorite topic, my mind started to wander again, and I found myself absently removing a loose thread from my shirt sleeve. Tuning in for a moment, I listened as he mentioned the many people who are involved in making all our material possessions.
As he said this, I began to think about how many people were involved in making my shirt. I started imagining the farmer who grew the cotton. Next, the salesperson who sold the farmer the tractor to plow the field. Then, for that matter, the hundreds or even thousands of people involved in manufacturing that tractor, including the people that mined the ore to make the metal for each part of the tractor.
...And all the designers of the tractor. Then, of course, the people who processed the cotton, the people who wove the cloth, and the people who cut, dyed, and sewed that cloth. The cargo workers and truck drivers who delivered the shirt to the store and the salesperson who sold the shirt to me. It occurred to me that virtually every aspect of my life came about as the result of others' efforts.
My precious self-reliance was a complete illusion, a fantasy. As this realization dawned on me, I was overcome with a profound sense of the interconnectedness and interdependence of all beings. I felt a softening. Something. I don't know. It made me want to cry.
(Excerpt from The Art of Happiness, "Dependence on Others vs. Self Reliance", written by the 14th Dalai Lama & Howard C. Cutler, M.D.; Pages 71-75)
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There is a fine line between corny and deep, and sometimes the line is just completed erased. When that line is erased the thought of something being corny or sentimental becomes moot – irrelevant.
That line is erased when:
  • The speaker is sober
  • The speaker has conviction and dedication
  • The listener is open, respectful and introspective
This is a formula for awe*, inspiration, motivation and ultimately for action.
*The sensation of awe is actually a biological advantage. Learn more by watching this three minute video.
"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead." – Albert Einstein
When your science teacher tells you everything is interconnected, you’re thinking about the lion who eats the antelope, the antelope who eats the grass, the grass that drinks the water from the soil, and the droppings of animals that create the soil.
For some reason it comes across as "corny" when the science teacher says it, but it is profound when watching the Lion King. Part of the trick might be the dramatic music.
This is either support that movies move people, or that class-rooms don’t. Or both.
I first read The Art of Happiness in 2009. After reading it cover-to-cover once I found myself reading it again, and again, in pieces in the intervening years. I never fail to feel uplifted after reading a chapter out of this marvelous book. It is a testament to the beauty of humanity.
In contrast, when I read Chicken Soup for The Teenage Soul as a teenager I felt that the entire thing was hokey and corny. Oddly, people kept trying to make me read it, but I couldn't never get through more than a couple pages. It's too bad nobody could have given me The Art of Happiness when I was thirteen or fourteen.
After reading that chapter for the first time I wrote in my journal, "I can honestly say that I’m experiencing the “softening.” I feel much more drawn to the idea of interaction with people, especially with the accepted fact that I need those other people, even if they are not the same people who manufactured this laptop or the ones who made my shirt. Indirectly, every human being has influenced me, I just can’t trace how. To deny that, to pretend to be reliant on myself or any one person or even just a handful of people is unrealistic and naive. I see that now."
It's not that we are dependent or independent at all. It is that the idea of being one or another itself is flawed. We are neither and both.
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Another short excerpt from page 63 of The Art of Happiness:
Sometimes when I meet with old friends, it reminds me how quickly time passes. And it makes me wonder if we've utilized our time properly or not. Proper utilization of our time is so important. While we have this body, and especially this amazing human brain, I think every minute is something precious. Our day-to-day existence is very much alive with hope, although there is no guarantee of our future. There is no guarantee that tomorrow at this time we will be here. But we are working for that purely on the basis of hope. So, we need to make the best of our time.
So, let us reflect on what is truly of value in life, what gives meaning to our lives, and set our priorities on the basis of that.
Once you accept the fact that compassion is not something childish or sentimental, once you realize that compassion is something really worthwhile, realize it's deeper value, then you immediately develop an attraction towards it, a willingness to cultivate it.
And once you encourage the thought of compassion in your mind, once that thought becomes active, then your attitudes towards others changes automatically. If you approach others with the thought of compassion, that will automatically reduce fear and allow an openness with other people. It creates a positive, friendly atmosphere.
With that attitude, you can approach a relationship in which you, yourself, initially create the possibility of receiving affection or a positive response from the other person. And with that attitude, even if the other person is unfriendly, or doesn't respond to you in a positive way, then at least you've approached the person with a feeling of openness that gives you a certain flexibility and the freedom to change your approach as needed.
[End Excerpt]
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I really like this part because it’s a good reminder of how to not start a conversation. When you answer the phone exasperated, and demand; “What?!” you automatically cut off any possibility of a deep or meaningful conversation. If the person on the other end wanted to tell you something serious or sentimental, they’ll probably change their tune to “oh, just want to say hi... guess I’ll talk to you later since you’re busy...”
It brings new meaning to the phrase, "If you don't have anything nice to say, then don't say anything at all."
Gehlek Rinpoche Buddhism Quote Buddhist
I, too, have often wondered if I'm spending my time wisely, which is why I started logging everything June, 1st, 2012. I even started logging how much time I spent logging things daily starting after the first 90 days, and so I can tell you with certainty that I only spend an average of nine minutes a day logging my activities. Nine minutes a day and I can tell you exactly how much time I average at each activity of importance to me. I slept an average of eight hours and eight minutes each 24 hours during the month of November, 2012, for example.
Since reading The Art of Happiness I have become particularly fond of reading positive uplifting books. You can check out my book recommendations page for more informative motivating books.
For another bit of uplifting joy, I stumbled across this blog post called "21 Photos That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity. I must say, I really, really enjoyed the post. It really did make me feel happier. I choose the things I decide to share with my website readers quite carefully, so you know I really did feel a bit of faith renewal going on when looking at that post!
For more uplifting content in your life, sign up for my free e-course below to the right. The e-course is about motivation, success, healing, happiness and practical little things you can do to really feel good about your life and yourself. Over the course of over thirty free lessons you will learn techniques to fight stress and to resolve difficult situations. This course is free now because it is in beta and I'm looking for feedback, but it won't be free forever and ever, so sign up now and get your free seat reserved!
Thank you for reading my darling friends, family and fans! You are what make this worthwhile. Namaste and akent’annos! (The divine in me sees the divine in you and may you live healthily and happily to one hundred years old!)
~ Raederle

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