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Balanced Hedonism
Day-long Retreat with
Sandra Savine, Terre Sisson & Mary Michaud
April 23rd, 10am–5pm
North Garden, VA


The Art of
Practicing Happiness Under Duress

Having been confronted with another recent medical crisis in my family, I explored once again the question, “Where is the happiness now?”

If happiness is conditional:
For example, being happy when I get what I want (my favorite)
Wanting and receiving comfort for my body (another favorite)
Having answers that give relief to my mind (who doesn’t want that?)

Then with some awareness, I can certainly acknowledge this conditional happiness and savor it to make it even richer. But what about when life is having it’s way with me and I am not getting what I want? Consequently my body is not comfortable with the tension, and my mind is overwhelmed with uncertainty.

We have all heard: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Of course, that could be interpreted a couple of ways, however, getting tough takes pure resolve, which can work temporarily, but it isn’t fulfilling.

The Dalai Lama tells us that, “Inner peace is the principal cause of happiness.” During brief moments of stillness I can access that which always resides within: stillness or inner peace. Sometimes, though, the feeling of being overwhelmed is so much louder than the calm, that it becomes difficult for me to access the peace. What to do?  Awareness on my breath certainly helps calm the nervous system, but it still doesn’t feel fulfilling.

One technique I use during duress is to rely on my senses to absorb the pleasure of a moment: Hearing the birds, especially the wood thrush; watching the sky during the daytime and the nighttime; floating in water; smelling freshly cut grass; and listening to music access spontaneous pleasure. I pause. I feel the joy and savor it, and just for a brief time, all is well and I am fulfilled.

Another technique I use to access my inner peace is to bring my awareness to my active mind; I stop for an instant and conjure up a positive image, thought, place, memory or person. I fill my being with this nurturing, positive force. This too is fulfilling.

The situation hasn’t changed; my body-mind still quivers from the unknown: I am still not getting what I want, but through this shift of awareness in the moment, I reduce my suffering and build a stronger foundation of inner peace and pleasure. And, on some deep level of understanding, I know all is well.

It might be a long way off from experiencing happiness for no reason (said to be the highest form of happiness), but we all have to start somewhere.


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