At a recent retreat I met a gentleman who spoke very candidly about…

At a recent retreat I met a gentleman who spoke very candidly about his dissatisfaction with life.

He came up to me and said in plain words ” I have money, I have power but I feel very dissatisfied. On probing further he claimed that he wanted fame. In Fact he wanted to join politics and wanted to be known to. He wanted everyone to know who he was.

I found the whole conversation very fascinating. He was in no mood to take any input or suggestion on how to deal with the dissatisfaction. All he wanted was name, fame and money which he believed were the only prerequisites to happiness.

When I asked him to define happiness, he had no answer. He just wanted to be happy without really knowing what it meant.

How can anyone be happy if they don’t know what happiness means to them? Often we confuse happiness with pleasure and most pleasures are temporary. Pleasures are related to our 5 senses whereas happiness transcends the senses.

Our conversation kept on going on different tracks and the debate became very interesting. He kept insisting that only if he achieved fame as he already had money and power he would become happy.

He even boasted about his innumerable lady friends despite him being a father of two grownup daughters and the husband of a woman whom I eventually did meet.

He had a challenging personality and did not want to change the way he carried on with his life. I was at my wits end as he wanted me to give him a recipe for happiness but was unwilling to use any of the ingredients.

The ingredients being,

Acknowledgement and Gratitude towards things as they are.

Quite, self probing time or meditation.

Work without desire for reward.

Physical exercise with some yogic breathing and postures.

Becoming of service to the people around.

And finally doing something just because it brings joy and not because it will help you achieve something.

Eventually he did get convinced into taking baby steps towards increasing his happiness quotient. We started with an agreement to take long walks with an appreciation of the scenery or anything that would catch his eye.

We also agreed to become grateful for all that he had going for him.

Till now he had kept a vital piece of information away from me. He was an alcoholic. He had started depending on alcohol for the temporary high and was now completely dependent.

Alcohol as we know, is a depressant and therefore dependency on alcohol leads to the exact opposite of happiness. No wonder he was angry. He was not allowed any alcohol at the retreat and was probably suffering from withdrawal.

I could empathize with him. His brain was not allowing him to think or behave rationally. Once I figured out the cause of his haughtiness and stubbornness, it was easier to talk with him.

Fortunately, his family was very supportive and they were the ones to send him to the retreat. The fact that he had managed to go alcohol free for 10 days was a huge accomplishment and we started with an appreciation of that.

Soon he had figured out so many things he was grateful for and could not wait to give me his list.

I had met him at the tail end of his retreat so am not sure how much help I could offer but he seemed a bit more optimistic about bringing about a change in his life.

My suggestion to anyone in a similar predicament;

Define what happiness means to you.

Understand the difference between momentary pleasures and lasting happiness.

Try and do something just because it brings you joy – it could be painting, writing, gardening, cooking, singing, dancing, hiking, cycling, etc.

Learn some sort of pranayama- a breathing exercise that brings about calmness and balances the two hemispheres of the brain. A balanced brain is a calm brain which is usually a happy brain.

Do an act of kindness/ altruism. What goes around, comes around.

Try and relax into life, life is what it is, no amount of fretting or fuming will change things. Change will only happen when the mind is calm.

Breathe into happiness, you can’t buy or forcefully grab happiness.

It appears when you least expect or desire.

Hum the song Que cera cera – whatever will be will be – the future’s not ours to see, que cera cera 🙂


Shveitta Sethi Sharma
Chief Happiness Officer
School of Happiness

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