I wrote in my introduction to this project that this Kid Cudi song was the perfect place to start. ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ is overwhelmingly optimistic, but it actually comes from a space where Cudi is really struggling with his mental health, and is in a seriously dark place. I want to start this series at the lowest possible point, where all hope seems to be lost. But this is where there is a choice, and probably the most important choice there is:
1. Give up
2. Pour all your effort into improving your mental health
Thankfully, Cudi chooses the second option, and undoubtedly, in every situation, the best option. But this isn’t an easy choice to make, by any means. This first step in our ‘roadmap to happiness’ sounds incredibly simple, and obvious, but it is also the most significant step.
“I’m going in pursuit of happiness, and I know, everything that shines ain’t always going to be gold”
This step involves creating that intention to pursue happiness, to strive for this goal. The Dalai Lama sets out the mental process behind this, starting with LEARNING about mental health and why it is important to be happy, followed by rousing the CONVICTION that this is something worth pursuing. Then comes the DETERMINATION, the resolution to achieve this objective, which subsequently manifests itself in ACTION, the initial practical steps made to put yourself on the right track. Finally, there needs to come a certain amount of EFFORT, because it is possible to reach the ‘Action’ stage, but just be going through the motions.
If the process has really occurred, and you haven’t just gone from ‘Learning’ to ‘Action’, without developing any real ‘Conviction’ or ‘Determination’, then the Dalai Lama says that ‘Effort’ should follow logically and easily. It is the desire to really go for this, to try your best - at the end of the day, that’s all you can do.
At first, my personal reaction to this lesson was that, while this process clearly seems important, surely if you just create the intention, that initial flint that sparks the lighter, the desire to be happy, then won't the rest of the sub-steps follow fairly easily?
But on deeper reflection, it does seem to make sense that bypassing ‘Conviction’ and ‘Determination’ would obstruct our path to happiness. If we’re relying on intention alone, without any real ‘Conviction’ or ‘Determination’, then when the going gets tough, we might not have cultivated the necessary amount of commitment to stick with it.
During meditation, there is always something that you should try and focus your attention on, and this is often the breath, or perhaps an object in front of you. So it might be interesting to try playing the song right before starting a meditation, and then treating the chorus as a kind of affirmation or mantra.
“I’ll be fine, once I get it, I’ll be good”
Which song are you choosing for today's teaching?
PS: Just to warn you, there are hard drug references in 'Pursuit of Happiness'…in no way does this blog advocate pursuing these on the road to happiness!!