By Nyk Danu
I often use Metta, or loving practice with my students in my yoga classes.
Over the years I’ve shared the phrase, “may you be well and happy” with my students many times without thinking much about it. I mean who doesn’t want to be happy right?
Until I looked a little deeper. I’ve often wondered if there has been something lost in translation somewhere?
According to dictonary.com the definition of happy:
adjective, hap·pi·er, hap·pi·est.
-delighted, pleased, or glad, as over a particular thing: to be happy to see a person.
-characterized by or indicative of pleasure, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind.
-favored by fortune; fortunate or lucky: a happy, fruitful land.
See Synonym Study at fortunate.
Is it just me or doesn’t that seem to be an impossible task? And doesn’t it seem the opposite of another Buddhist concept of Impermanence? If Happiness or Joy is when we are glad, fortunate or lucky, then what about when we aren’t? If Happiness is the feeling we get when we have our desires met (whether acting, thinking or dreaming), then what about when we don’t get our desires met?
If all things by nature change, how by the above definition could we ever be happy for very long? And wouldn’t wishing happiness for ourselves or for others be sort of futile?
When I was studying Traditional Chinese Medicine I was introduced to the idea that too much joy can cause disharmony and illness. At first glance, this concept to a western mind can seem ridiculous (or at least it did to me).
How could someone be too happy or have too much joy?
Chinese medicine is a holistic approach with a focus on harmony. It is believed that too much joy scatters your heart Qi so it can’t rest in the heart. That can then can cause all kinds of imbalances in your health, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness, and even mania.
Have you ever witnessed someone get such good news or such a big prize that they faint? It’s like their whole system is overwhelmed with happiness. It’s the perfect example of heart Qi scattering and not being able to anchor and rest.
Now hang on before you think I’m being negative or a buzzkill to your happiness, keep reading. I think there is a better way.
Contentment is the feeling of not being attached to how you get your desires to begin with. Contentment is flexible and adaptable. Contentment isn’t dependent on fruitfulness, luck or fortune. Contentment is the acceptance of the way things are in the moment and an understanding that things will change.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, happiness and joy are connected to the element of fire which of course can blaze out of control and then burn out. Happiness is wild, unrestrained, and fleeting. Whereas contentment to me feels like the gentle warmth of embers. Fire tempered by a solid dose of the earth to ground it.
Contentment is perspective and a sense of knowing that everything is of the nature to change and settling in patiently for the long haul. So in a world obsessed with happiness, I think I will choose to be content how about you?
May you be well.
May you be safe.
May you be peaceful and at ease.
May you be content.
Nyk Danu lives in the enchanted city of Victoria on magical Vancouver island, where she teaches Yoga to those who are not human pretzels. Nyks’ classes are filled with those who are not human pretzels, the Underdogs, Rebels, introverts, Geeks and Bookworms. When Nyk is not hanging out in Yoga studios You’ll find her expanding her personal tattoo collection. Or just as likely curled up at home with a cat on her lap watching Star Trek or immersed in a book. You can learn more about Nyk and sign up for free Yoga videos on her website nykdanu.com
Editor: Dana Gornall
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