Skip to main content

happiness is a journey

Or how Zen can help us to stay focused and calm in adverse circumstances

Happiness can mean so many different things. It is one of those ephemeral categories that elude definition in absolute terms. People seem to set their individual standards for happiness and make judgments from their own point of view. And while some people run ceaselessly from one experience to another in hope of finding the ultimate happiness, others appear to be quite content with what they have. But what happens when apparently happy people experience adversity?

Last year in January a cupboard in my kitchen came off the wall and crashed on the floor together with my china and my collection of glasses. I was in the bathroom. I heard some noise, but thought that my neighbor had dropped something. Later, when I went to the kitchen, I could not believe my eyes. I could not enter the kitchen because the entrance was blocked by the damaged piece of furniture and the china and glass that was scattered all over the kitchen floor. Interestingly, I stayed completely calm. I looked at the spectacle and tried to assess the damage. In the sink I saw a plate, a Roswell mug from my husband, a tea cup and a saucer, and a water glass. I was busy writing in the morning and maybe a bit too lazy, so I did not wash these things right after my breakfast. And there they were. Intact.

The kitchen was a mess and the cupboard would have to be moved away and repaired or replaced. I had my few things left, so I did not have to run out to a store right away. I knew though, that sooner or later, I would have to go shopping to replace the broken china and the glasses and I would have to spend money that I originally intended to spend on something else. Moreover, the timing of this incident could not be worse because I was really busy and did not have the time to take care of the mess. But when actually is the best time for a little disaster in our lives? If we could, we would make them disappear before they even occur, but this is not how things work. Some things cannot be prevented. They just happen. There are people who believe that things happen for a reason so that we can learn from them and grow. The most important lesson you can learn is to stay calm and detach yourself from the event. Accept what has happened, clear the mess, and move on.

Years ago I might have had a minor nervous breakdown at the sight of my favorite china lying crushed to pieces on my kitchen floor. A bowl that could never be replaced. A favorite tea cup. Elegant wine glasses. Even though I knew that things did break or could get lost, but could actually be replaced, a loss would make me sad, sometimes even unhappy. I would have been sad for days reminding myself how horrible it was not to have that particular object, or a pet, or a person in my life anymore. But not this time. Not after years of preoccupation with Buddhist philosophy, yoga, and meditation. Not after years of a life in the present. Not after the realization that everything is transient, impermanent, and illusory. 

Very often we define ourselves through our possessions. Our possessions often have a particular meaning to us and their loss may be very painful. The more emotions or memories are associated with the object, the more unique and irreplaceable it becomes to us. We perceive the loss as something unbearable. There is no consolation. And definitely, there is nothing that could ever replace it in our hearts. Or is there?

In our day to day existence, no matter how happy and fulfilled, we have to face situations that sometimes are beyond our control. Some of us become completely overwhelmed, while others face the adversity with determination to find a solution. They refuse to give up or become victims. They do not delight in their pain and do not ruminate incessantly on their problem. Instead, they demonstrate incredible resilience. They acknowledge what has happened, accept it, calculate the consequences, look for a solution, and move on. It does not mean that they do not feel anything when adversities occur in their lives. Their emotions may be very intense, but they have learned that to worry about things that cannot be undone, prevented, or influenced in any possible way, is a waste of time and precious energy they could rather use to find a solution or to heal their own pain. The glass may appear to have a wrong size, but it is never empty. To accept what happened does not mean to resign oneself to the circumstances. Resistance and refusal to accept creates more tension and pain. To accept means to see the situation as what it really is and let go.

We are never completely helpless. We may not always be in control of the circumstances we are in, but we can always consciously chose the way how we respond to them. Herein lies the difference between those who feel truly happy and fulfilled and those who see themselves as helpless victims of bad luck, higher injustice, or some kind of punishment they deserve anyway. A shift in perspective would make a great difference, but it does not come as easily as one may wish. It involves mental and emotional discipline and most importantly, the realization that it is futile to hold on to things. Buddhism teaches us that everything is in flux. Nothing lasts forever. Because our minds need some kind of permanence in the floating world, they create an illusion of continuity. Sometimes the illusion is shattered like the china in my kitchen and whole worlds collapse. Yet, to those who live in the moment and savor its essence, the cracks in the surface are as impermanent and illusory as everything else.

Happiness is a journey not a destination. Travel well...

By Dominique Allmon

Creative Commons License
happiness is a journey by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at


Popular posts from this blog

how did buddha influence the world?

Buddha established a new religion which changed many societies. Already around 300 BC Buddhism gained political influence. Indian emperor Ashoka the Great established a Buddhist kingdom and based his reign on the Buddhists precepts.
Life of the Buddha - Tibetan Thangka Painting
Buddhism spread eastwards and forever changed China, Korea, and Japan. Buddhism wisely explained the human condition and offered consolation other religions did not give. It also introduced a culture of compassion into societies where survival depended on social status and where poverty was cruelly abundant.
But the new religion did not only impacted the society as such. It also changed the political constellations in these countries. And while other strong religions competed for political influence in Chine or Japan, countries such as Thailand, Tibet, or Burma became Buddhist kingdoms.
The entire south East Asia was changed by Buddhism - its philosophy and aesthetics. A monastic cult…

healing properties of howlite

Howlite is a calcium boron-silicate hydroxide that usually occurs in sedimentary rock formations. This mineral was named after a Canadian mineralogist Henry How who first discovered it a Nova Scotia gypsum quarry in 1868.
Tumbled white howlite healing crystals
The gem has a rather dull, porcelain-like white or ivory color with pronounced grayish veins that make it look like an albino turquoise. This fact is sometimes exploited by dishonest gem dealers who dye it and sell it as the more expensive turquoise.
Howlite is a rather soft mineral with a hardness 3.5 on the 1-10 Mohs scale. It dissolves in a hydrochloric acid solution.
It forms nodules that can be quite large and look like cauliflowers. Crystals are rare and sometimes form spiky aggregations. They are translucent or transparent, creamy white or light brown.
The largest deposits of howlite were found in Canada, mostly in Nova Scotia, but this mineral is also mined in the USA, especially in California, and in South Africa.

how to make a gem elixir

Gems and crystals fascinated people since the beginnings of humanity. Their beauty was only one aspect that attracted attention of our ancestors. Most importantly, they discovered their magical powers and learned how to apply their healing properties. Over the ages gems became a vital element of the holistic approach to health.

Gems were used for healing in many cultures. We find them in the Stone Age cultures, in ancient Egypt, China and India. We read about them in Old Testament and in works of Aristotle and find prescriptions in Middle Ages.
The modern crystal therapy is based mostly on the work of the Medieval abbess Hildegard of Bingen who systematized crystals and their properties and incorporated gems into a holistic health concept. She used gems and crystals both, externally and internally: the healing stones were either placed on the body or used in preparation of elixirs that were to be ingested by the patients. 

To make a gem elixir simply place cleansed gems - raw or t…

healing properties of carnelian

Carnelian, also known as cornelian, is a translucent, micro-crystalline chalcedony quartz. It is closely related to sard and sardonite which only slightly differ in color and hardness. Its color ranges from orange and pale red to dark brown and comes from iron oxide (hematite) colloidally dispersed in the trigonal crystalline structure.

Carnelian is a rather prevalent mineral. It occurs in the cavities of many rock formations, but most often it develops silica-rich rocks that solidified at low temperatures but it is also found in volcanic rocks. Carnelian typically forms nodules and cone-shaped masses. Considerable amounts of Carnelian have been found in India, with some of the oldest known deposits in Bengal. Carnelian is also mined in Brazil, Uruguay, USA (mostly in Texas, Colorado, and North Carolina), Botswana, Madagascar, and South Africa.

In the Middle Ages carnelian was called carneolus. This name derived from the Latin word carneus which meant fleshy, made of flesh. The Frenc…

healing properties of smoky quartz

Smoky quartz is a macro-crystalline variety of quartz. Like other quartz crystals smoky quartz is a silicon dioxide mineral. It usually forms transparent hexagonal, rhombohedral crystals. Macroscopic crystals commonly occur as horizontally striated hexagonal prisms terminated by a combination of positive and negative rhombohedrons forming six sided pyramids.

The name smoky quartz derives from the smoky color that ranges from grayish-brown to dark brown and even black. The smoky color results from natural exposure to radiation. It forms from free silicon that was released from silicon dioxide during the formation of crystals. Smoky quartz is a rather prevalent mineral that is mostly mined in Colorado, USA, in Brazil, Australia, Madagascar, Switzerland, and Scotland where it is considered to be a national gemstone.
Since ancient times smoky quartz was used in many cultures because it was rather easy to cut it to gems and ornaments. This beautiful crystal was considered s…

healing properties of apophyllite

Apophyllite is a potassium-calcium fluoride-silicate mineral from the family of phyllosilicates. It is structurally related to the zeolite family of minerals and commonly found with zeolites in basalt, granite, and gneiss formations. Like the zeolites, apophyllite has high water content and therefore, good energy conducting properties.

Apophyllite forms cubic or pyramidal crystals that can either be transparent or opaque. The color ranges from white, green, yellow to peach. There are also colorless forms. The name apophyllite is derived from the Greek word apophylliso which means "it flakes off". When heated, apophyllite loses its water and begins to flake.
Apophyllite is a fairly prevalent mineral. It can be found in abundance near Trentino in Italy, near Belfast in Northern Ireland, on Faroe Islands, near Kimberley in South Africa, and in Guananjuato in Mexico. Considerable amounts are also found in the Harz Mountains in Germany, on Mont St. Hillaire in Canada,…

healing properties of aquamarine

Aquamarine is a variety of beryl. It is a relatively common mineral that mostly occurs in pegmatite rocks and is often found together with the ordinary beryl. The biggest deposits were found in Brazil, Colombia, United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Russia, India and Pakistan.
Aquamarine with Muscovite
Aquamarine forms pyramidal crystals that can be quite large. Its color ranges from pale blue and transparent turquoise to bluish-green and depends on the concentration of the iron particles within the hexagonal crystalline structure of beryl. Heat is often applied to improve the color of aquamarine crystals. The bluish-greenish hue is responsible for the stone's name which comes from the Latin "aqua marina" or sea water.
The stone was well known and valued in Antiquity. It was regarded as a symbol of peace and tranquility. Aquamarine jewelry was highly prized not only for its beauty, but also for its protective value especially for sailors and those …

healing properties of phenacite

Phenacite, also known as phenakite, is a rare beryllium silicate mineral that has been traditionally used as a gemstone. Phenacite has been mined together with emerald and chrysoberyl from the mines near Yekaterinburg in the Urals region of Russia where it was usually found in form of large crystals embedded in mica formations. Phenacite is also found in granite formations of Urals Mountains, Russia and Pikes Peak region of Colorado, USA. Considerable amounts of phenacite are also found in Madagascar, Myanmar, Norway, and Zimbabwe. Probably the most beautiful phenacite comes from the Minas Gerais near San Miguel de Piricicaba, Brazil. The stones excavated from these mines are famous for their rare beauty and exceptional clarity.

Phenacite occurs as very well formed free trigonal (rhombohedral) crystals, large prisms, or relatively small prismatic wands. It may also form a small clusters. Phenacite is either transparent or milky and comes in different colors. Very often it i…