Some people say, “I want to be happy, but I don’t know how.” They have little glimpses of happiness, but feel unfulfilled or lonely or a sense of emptiness a lot of the time. The best starting point is to try and feel better about where you are right now. Cultivate an appreciation for whatever gifts life sends your way, even if they appear to be tiny. According to Buddhism, the nature of the mind is enlightened. So our nature is good. The big problem is the negative habits of the mind, how you look at everything. These mental patterns can get quite built up and rigid, and they color and influence our perspective. Everyone has the capacity to be happy, but you have to change your mental habits and way of perceiving things.
A very good approach is to notice any peaceful feelings and encourage them, as I have already suggested. Nurture whatever peaceful and happy moments you have now and allow them to blossom.
Also, if you’re unhappy and you want to be happy, that in itself could be an obstacle. It might sound strange, but a certain kind of wishful attitude could be limiting and restrictive. You compare yourself to others, which is counterproductive. Or even though you hardly know what being happy is but you keep insisting to yourself that you should have some kind of terrific happiness. It’s like setting the bar too high rather than taking a gradual approach. Instead of getting you there, it causes trouble because you can never seem to live up to some ideal.
If you can learn to be more tolerant of your unhappy condition and minimize your mind’s sensitivity toward it, that itself will become a stepping stone for happiness. If you don’t mind as much whatever it is you perceive as painful or depressing, you will lighten your burden.
Try to reduce the degree of resentment toward the so-called unhappiness, that will be a big achievement. Change what you can to improve your situation, and don’t worry about what you can’t change. Be more accepting of things at this very moment. Find humor or a spark of enjoyment wherever you can. That begins to move you toward more happiness.
Excerpted from: Boundless Healing, Tulku Thondup, Shambhala Publications