I read a great piece today from Brian Kim. It came in an E-mail, but I’ve added his site to the blogroll, because he gets to the heart of things rather quickly on what can be a complicated matter of happiness. If you came here direct to my post, here is the link: briankim.net.
The quote that stuck in my head is, “Don’t compare outputs.” Three simple words with so much to tell us. In essence, Brian is telling us that happiness is an internal function…don’t judge ourselves relative to the outside world, but on our effort…did we do our best? It is the pursuit of excellence, especially inner excellence, that determines our happiness in the long run. While this is quite true, where we often get caught up is in what should we pursue excellence? Is our pursuit a virtuous one? Of course, this can be a rather difficult matter if we have not observed some of the simple answers right in front of us.
This is where I often turn to a practical application of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism called the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Check the link for an in-depth discussion, but simply put, these five are:
- Respect Life, rather than Killing
- Be Generous, rather than Taking
- Be Loving, rather than Lustful
- Listen Carefully, Speak Wisely
- Nourish Your Body, rather than Poison It
I’ll admit, Buddhist thought can be a lot to take in, especially in one big gulp. It requires some effort, study and meditation. In essence, though, it all boils down to this. Before I endeavor to take part in any action, thought, speech, or pursuit I can ask myself:
- Does it hurt others?
- Does it hurt myself?
This must be an honest and deep evaluation, in which you must search for the answers to these two questions without rationalizing your pursuit. Your answer will determine if you should, if the pursuit is virtuous. More simple, not easy stuff, right?