Searching for Happiness

I want to have a happy life, yet confronted with illness, old age, and death, suffering is inevitable.
I want to have a happy life, yet modern science confirms that happiness is short-lived, followed by a craving for its return.  Dissatisfaction is inevitable.
Are we (Am I) condemned to a life of fear and emptiness?
Some people respond by looking for the "Meaning of Life."  I believe there is no such thing.  Others narrowly define happiness as the "Absence of Pain."  I  find no appeal in this approach.  More to my liking is Buddha practical manual for overcoming Dukkha (Suffering, Impermanence).  I started to follow his teachings, and one day I will continue.  Meditation is probably the most robust approach to a better life, but the path is long.  However, while looking, I may have stumbled on a shortcut.  The shortcut does only a partial job, but I hope it does not conflict with Buddha's path.   I realized that by changing the object of my search from Happiness to Contentment, I could reduce (not eliminate) suffering, and dissatisfaction.

To me, striving for contentment, means, building it into my life.  I believe that a stable platform of contentment will fortify me against the inevitable suffering.  Furthermore, in my experience, the building process itself, is a source of challenging fun.  Although contentment will be achieved gradually, I recognized three distinct levels which form a hierarchy of contentment.
  1. Comfort
  2. Passion
  3. Creativity
Comfort 
Comfort is the lowest level I would aim for.  Below that level, one is probably struggling with more urgent problems than achieving happiness.  It is supported by three pillars:
  • Healthy Body
  • Active Mind
  • Love and Friendship
These pillars do not occur on their own.  Their construction requires intent, planning, and effort of execution.  Even after their construction, they require continuous upkeep and improvement.  However, once in place, they support a platform of resilience that will aid in enduring any hardship.  Not all three need to be of equal strength.  Life will inevitably weaken one or the other, but the other two will carry the weight until it can be rebuilt.  Even though this is the basic level, I would not mind spending the rest of my life in that state.

Passion
Passion is the second tier in the contentment hierarchy.  It adds content and meaning, but I do not expect it to provide the "Meaning of Life".  It is a happy distraction from fear and craving.  It too requires the building of foundations, of which, I counted two
  • Talent
  • Dedication
Both talent and dedication are required for developing a passion, and they are both within us.  We are all born with some talents, and it is our job to find the one that gives us joy,  Once found, dedication is required to develop it. While at first, dedication may seem like a chore, it becomes easier as we progress, until it turns into a passion.  I consider dedication as the parallel effort to meditation.  Passion is not the equivalent of striving for excellence.  The latter implies a high level of competitiveness which, while not contrary, is not necessary for my definition of passion.

Creativity
At the highest level of the hierarchy stands creativity.  Unfortunately, I do not have the personal experience, nor the required research, to describe the path to get there.  I am sure though, that it requires Passion.

Note
This hierarchy is an initial, and probably temporary model.  I am not even sure if at applies to others.  I hope to draw on you (the reader) to critique, offer edits, and allow me to refine this approach.

Sleeping With Monkeys


Location:
Brazil, Amazonas Province, Palmari Community,  a short hike into the primary forest.

♫ Somewhere over the forest, way up high,
sits a treetop platform, there we will spend the nigh(t)

But how do we get up there?








Not to worry:  Gear and rope, a short lesson, and you are ready.

Really?



Up you go
    Sit
    Pull feet up
    Stand, pull harness up 
Repeat 200 times

Easy to say!










Almost there...















We made it

Almost gave up

Time to enjoy the view.








A night visitor.  A porcupine seeking salt.

Did not sleep much.  Too cold.







Woke up to monkey howls, and an Amazon Sunrise













Coming down.

A zip line, then rappelle