The Key to Happiness.

a smiling woman riding a motorcycle

Photo by Julian Paolo Dayag on

This morning I was chatting with my kids as they waited for their school bus to arrive and somehow the conversation drifted upon the subject of happiness. As my son is only thirteen but highly intelligent he is naturally still excited about the life he will carve out, as well as all the fun things he’ll be able to buy when he gets older. Therefore today, as on many other occasions, he expressed his belief that possessing things such as a new car can bring about happiness.

Now any experienced parent reading this article will be familiar with the myth that parents are solely responsible for the way their children turn out. In fact so much the opposite is true. The myth is perpetuated by young adults that were raised in dysfunctional environments. For them it often seems so obvious that their parents are the root cause of all suffering. Yet the reality is that even children that are fortunate enough to be raised in an ideal environment develop their own personalities which are often quite different from their parents’ expectations. My son is quickly on his way to becoming a man so I must exercise extreme caution when suggesting ideas that conflict with his own emerging philosophies because maintaining healthy ambition is critical to a young man’s early successes. To quote from Scarface, “First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the girl.”

I’m not suggesting the character of Tony Montana is a role model. All I’m saying is that it’s important that young men desire to climb the ladder because the only other choices are to go nowhere or dig a hole. It would be great if everyone realized that money isn’t real but the world doesn’t work that way. For the moment we must keep up the pretense that little slips of printed paper are equal in value to our time, output and consumptive needs. Slightly later in life when my son is educated enough to earn a decent living and stand on his own two feet, I will no longer have to worry about my ideas shattering his illusions.

My daughter on the other hand is almost ten years old and still willing to listen to my ideas before passing judgement on them, which she then does unabashedly. Her quick wit and impeccable timing make her a joy to converse with and I can totally envision her becoming a stand-up comedian someday. What she wants to become changes too frequently for me to keep track of. I believe she currently wants to be an architect and a YouTube animation artist and producer. Before that it was an astronaut, scientist, author, inventor of the flying car and a Victoria’s Secret model among other things. When I was her age in the late 70’s I knew little to nothing about the world and wanted only to be Han Solo. That type of childhood went extinct with the birth of the internet.

The trade-off is that my kids are more than a little world wise, traveled, excellent in school, easily adaptable to unfamiliar people and environments as well as just being very interesting to talk to. Their communication skills make it easy for my parents to relate to them as well and I can’t express how much of a relief that is to me. My grandparents in contrast did make an effort but there were vast limitations to holding a conversation with them. One of the main differences was that they explained nothing about the world and when I asked questions I was scoffed at for not knowing the answers, presumably by some kind of osmosis while I was still in the womb. In retrospect I realize that despite their age and wisdom they existed in a little bubble and knew very little about the world themselves despite having seen a great deal of it. The Midwest has always been about 40 years behind the West Coast in modernity and it has taken 25 years of internet exposure to bandage the disparity.

So after very gently disagreeing with my son about the source of happiness my daughter piped in with her wide smile and good timing to ask, “So what can we do to be happy?” Not being a morning person I adlibbed something sketchy about healthy routines and time spent with family but the truth is that I did not have a prepared answer to give, even though the answer is simple. In order to achieve happiness there must always be an element of surprise in our lives. The trick to extracting happiness from surprises, is to welcome the bad moments as equally as the good.

This is not easy to do I know but it is a state of consciousness on par with attaining the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means to blow out, but it is more easily thought of as a state of consciousness in which one ceases to cling to reality as if we had some way to control it. We learn early on how to clench our bodies so as to graduate from diapers and it is in that frame of mind that we continue to brace ourselves for accidents every waking moment of the day. Think about how often we unconsciously curl our toes, clench our fists or teeth together. In this way we fool ourselves into believing that we can prevent ourselves from losing jobs or loved ones but no matter how much we prepare there’s always going to be bumps, bruises, shattered glass, spilt milk or sudden delays in flight plans.

There are routines we can adopt that help lower the anxiety that leads to clinging. These involve changes in diet and the adoption of exercises such as walking, biking, swimming, Yoga and Tai Chi. More importantly one should unplug from the internet as often as possible. Take mini-vacations from the news, politics or discussions about politics. Unplug Wi-Fi routers whenever possible, especially while you’re sleeping because they emit low level microwaves which are dangerous to your health and destructive to sleeping patterns. Learn about the dangers of stray voltage and take steps to avoid it and all electric devices in general. Read books, take up hobbies such as woodworking, gardening, fishing or even riding a motorcycle. Just don’t buy a boat or a motorcycle because you think it will make you happy. Both are great ways to have fun but if you try to turn a hobby into a lifestyle it’ll only take about 2 years to suck all the joy out of it.

Some more extreme measures to let go of clinging are to become a student of Taoism or Buddhism. Hinduism is fine if that is an inherent part of your culture but when Westerners adopt Hinduism it is important that they question their motives. Hinduism is a religion that developed over thousands of years to provide guidance for every single aspect of your life. If you are a young Westerner and have not yet learned about your persona or your ego, the adoption of Hinduism will equate to little more than playing a game to avoid self-discovery, shame or judgments about your lack of progress in life.

Too many younger people believe they can cheat the system by dropping out of conventional life to live like a wanderer. They’ll maybe live in a van for a few years or travel the world on a small budget and it might seem romantic for a while. Eventually however these hollow pursuits inflict the mental and physical scars of living as a gypsy. Their appearance becomes gaunt and their clothes shabby, a fashion they embrace to drive away prying eyes. Tattoos and piercings that started out as decorative badges of courage are elaborated upon to the point that people are no longer recognizable. In this state of mind a Westerner can lose grip on reality and end up looking like a Sadhu covered in ash and dreadlocks, except that they won’t be holy, they’ll merely be failed actors of a performance no one ever heard of or paid to see. Yet by that point the show must go on by any means possible including drugs, theft or prostitution. That is not the way to happiness. The freedom to do as you wish must be earned.

The Taoist way is much simpler, one need only follow the course of nature. To learn how, you can read the Tao Te Ching, (an easy read,) and learn how to practice Tai Chi, (possibly the easiest martial art to learn.) Taoism is an ancient philosophy that was intended to be a guide for rulers as well as a pastime of reflection for more elderly people. There are Taoist religious practices that you need not concern yourself with. If Tai Chi doesn’t appeal to you, you could substitute it with Hindu styles of Yoga. In that case it is fine for Westerners to immerse themselves in the history of Hindu gods and the Vedas as long as it’s for the purpose of education and facilitation of Yoga. Or if you’d like to get your feet wet in Buddhism you can start by studying its history as well. There are a few different branches of Buddhism so rather than trying to decide which one is right for you I suggest that you first become familiar with The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path. In this way you can best understand the concept of letting go.

If you prefer to do none of these because it all seems too strange to you, I suggest practicing ways to let go of control on your own. If that means purposely spilling a glass of milk every day until you can finally laugh about it then so be it. You should do whatever it takes to eliminate the anxiety of maintaining control because that is the only way to sustain happiness. So you bought a motorcycle to have some fun but you’re too busy with work to ride it and now it’s broke down. Big deal, learn how to fix it and let that be the new adventure. The hardest part will be to separate yourself from the anxiety of being stuck in a rut. Whether it’s a job or family responsibilities, doing the same routine day after day can be mind-numbing.

There’s never a solution to all the hardships of life but we can try to remind ourselves that nothing is permanent. The job you hate today might be teaching you something that you could still take pride in and use later on. The feelings of being trapped in a marriage will likely seem insignificant compared to the payoff of having grandchildren. There wouldn’t be a way to measure our triumphs if we didn’t experience failures or hardship. The key is to just keep plugging away and take life as it comes because that way you’ll know in your heart that you did your best and earned the right to make your own choices. Never yearn for surprises but be accepting when they come whether good or bad. In this way you can program your mind to exist in a state of happiness regardless of whether you’re a Buddha or a butcher.

Conan De Moe  2/19/2020


Enlightenment and how not to get it


Every few years, humanity produces a new batch of spiritual acolytes that are fresh off the boat and ready for bear. Due to some random circumstances they each have had a unique yet not dissimilar taste of expanded awareness and are eager to acquire more knowledge of the who, what, why’s and where’s of mystical phenomena. Flower children and the like will attribute it no doubt to an alignment of the stars or some other such nonsense. Don’t believe a word of it. However there does seem to be a correlation with spiritual awakenings and springtime, which I suspect has more to do with being cooped up all winter than anything else. After all, few things compare to the first taste of a warm spring breeze after six months of winter.

Cabin fever takes no prisoners, infecting even the most die-hard fans of wintertime activities. It’s like a load that you’re never able to set down, gaining in weight day by day until it takes on a dimension of its own whose gravitational pull endeavors to extinguish all joy. Shadows of madness seep in to fill the vacuum. Perhaps you are standing on a frozen lake, or perhaps you are the lake, whose dreams are so entangled in its frosty crown that it must daydream of what it’s like to be human in order to ward off an urge to cascade over a cliff and put an end to its misery. Then at last the ice cracks, springtime springs and the mind snaps back into place with an ecstasy akin to the thunderous refrains of an Ode to Joy.

So what are these spiritual awakenings or mystical phenomena that nudge people toward the path of seeking? To answer that let’s begin with what they are not. Awakenings are never what can be put into words. By that I mean that people often describe their experience as a realization that everything in the universe is connected. However this realization is a result of your intellect trying to make sense of the experience and is therefore a byproduct of the experience occurring after the fact. The experience itself is a sensation, not a realization. No intellectual processes are involved at all. Because the experience occurs in this state of no mind, it is impossible to improve your odds of attaining it. When and where a mystical experience manifests is random and unpredictable.

All of that seems counter-intuitive at first because our subjective reasoning is always flawed to some degree by the biochemistry of the brain. Try to remember that our minds are not hard drives but fleshy things swimming in fluid. Perception of reality is therefore skewed by such things as hormones and the readiness potential of pleasure receptors. And if we are to be honest with ourselves, a great many of us are mentally unstable at the best of times. If you are suddenly accidentally engaged in expanded awareness but are ignorant of such mystical phenomena, your imagination will scramble to fill in the blanks left by your intellect. This is unfortunate for people that are predisposed to being receptive of mythological based archetypes because they may waste years venturing down rabbit holes that only obfuscate the development of authenticity.

It is not merely the ignorant and gullible who are at risk of obfuscation. Even highly learned individuals who have devoted their lives to such matters can fall short of their aspirations. The reason for this is that they dared to dream in the first place. Such endeavors are inseparable from anxiety and therefore ultimately self-defeating in nature. Yet even those who should know better persist in their folly generation after generation. The reasons for this are complicated and intertwined with ancient history.

One must remember that ancient cultures did not thrive due to the emergence of iconic individuals alone. Kings, warriors and holy men were the embodiment of institutions maintained by their followers. In this way a person could project their ideals onto an idol of flesh or stone that represented a higher purpose within reach. However in the case of spirituality the institution and its methods are too often misinterpreted as being the method for attaining the mystical experiences of the institutions founders. This confusion is so prevalent that enlightened masters must waste a great deal of exhaustive time and effort explaining the difference to their followers. Being enlightened does not equate to having endless patience and energy, so it’s high time people started figuring things out on their own.

Why is there still confusion? Well, there’s always an abundance of con-artists around that love to prey on the weakness of others. The other problem is that religions and philosophical practices of the East and West are not only alien to each other but evolved by incorporating older religions steeped in superstition. The Western tradition of learning is for the teacher to provide answers to the students based on the current understanding of things. The Eastern tradition of learning is to present ways in which the students can come up with the answers on their own. Each way is acceptable when it comes to things such as mathematics but for the study of mystical awareness both ways are unavoidably biased and therefore flawed. One constant is the limitations of language to describe things as well as the mistranslation of other languages and regional dialects.

Other ways in which a spiritual guide may fail his students are that the teacher may have misunderstood things when he was a student. Or in the case of an older spiritual guide that has taught for many years, he may have grown frustrated with his students’ inability to grasp the concepts and so changed his teachings to some variation of: just try to be a good person. What’s important to remember is that whichever method or religious practice you choose to supplement your mental health and overall well-being, it should be practiced for those reasons alone. In my opinion one of the best examples of how to do this is by studying Taoist philosophy and Tai Chi. Yet unless you are retired or plan on becoming a Taoist master yourself, you should be cautious that the Taoist methods do not interfere with you career. Family and security must always come first.

The sensation of spiritual awakening is similar to a sexual orgasm. But unlike an orgasm the sensation of awakening, which centers around the pineal gland, may last minutes, months or years and is not physically draining but energizing. If you’ve ever had a chance to experience it even briefly you likely felt transcended for a while, although there are some that find it disturbing. A person that manages to maintain the sensation of spiritual awakening full-time is an enlightened being.

If it’s just a sensation then what makes such people so enlightened? The reason is that the sensation does not originate from the body. You cannot stroke a pineal gland to the point of climax. The sensation is integral to the workings of the nervous system, but it originates from external vibrations in the fine scale fabric of reality. We are not solid beings but anomalies of waves floating in a sea of waves that can be separated into the layers that form the cosmos. Therefore there is no such thing as empty space. Within the ocean of the quantum realm there are vibrations that result in compositions that operate like software to give structure to the reality we perceive. An enlightened being is perpetually tuned-in to the software of the universe, also known as cosmic consciousness. This does not give him a direct link to some external divine knowledge, but instead augments receptors in the brain such as microtubules which facilitate access to a level of consciousness we are not normally privy to. This means that enlightened beings are the exception because of abnormal brain activity. Such people have a higher likelihood of providing sound spiritual guidance because their intuition is enhanced. Their brains are perpetually rewarded with pleasant sensations as long as their thoughts and actions continue to resonate with the frequencies that maintain order within the quantum realm.

If mystical experiences are so similar in nature and relatively widespread, why are enlightened beings so rare? Well I’ve already explained that it’s an abnormality but without doubt many enlightened beings were never recognized throughout the ages. Such people would have faced wars, starvation, plagues, insane asylums, torture, burning at the stake, crucifixions and the like. There were undoubtedly some that preferred to keep it to themselves for various reasons. It takes a very special set of circumstances for an authentic enlightened being to become a teacher let alone an icon from which a new religion is born.

Among the most famous and influential enlightened beings was Siddhartha Gautama, better known as the Buddha. What helped to set him apart was that he came from wealth and so would have been educated. Beyond that he most likely just got lucky, being in the right place at the right time. He would have experienced luxuries in his youth which were balanced out by his years of aestheticism, neither of which resulted in his enlightenment. When it finally did occur at random there would have been a period in which his elevated state of consciousness was undeniable to the people he interacted with. Only then would he have been compelled enough to take on the burden of bringing about positive change in the world. Knowing that there is no tried and true method for attaining enlightenment the Buddha instead instructed his disciples in the ways to live that best resonated with his enhanced intuition. And we see this same repeated pattern of attainment leading to subsequent instruction in enlightened masters throughout history.

Bodhidharma, who is credited as being the founder of the Zen branch of Mahayana Buddhism, is said to have experienced an early life that was very similar to Siddhartha Gautama. Too much of his biography is wrapped up in legend to know anything for sure. However, legend or not, Bodhidharma made a lasting impact on Buddhism. Tales of him staring at a cave wall for nine years certainly add fascination to the practice of zazen. This sitting form of meditation must have been a welcome respite to samurais weary from training. Yet now zazen is popular in an age where the average participant is not daily physically weary to the point of exhaustion. Therefore it would be wise for Zen masters to revisit history and realize that in times of plenty the more traditional way to have an authentic experience was by going on a pilgrimage. This involved walking and just basic all around motion. Which is why I think Tai Chi may be a more productive way of maintaining health and mental well-being.

So where can I find one of these enlightened beings now, and how will I be able to tell him apart from the others? The first thing you should do is listen to a master lecturing that you are unfamiliar with, and if you are not inspired I recommend that you move on. The inspiration you feel should be undeniable. But be careful, because the higher your desire to meet an authentic enlightened being is, the higher the chance you may see things in them that do not exist. When Steve Jobs was a young man he flew to India to meet Haidakhan Babaji and I can’t think of a better example of a delusional American projecting his fantasies onto an ignorant peasant just because a few ignorant villagers claimed he was a reincarnation that appeared magically in a cave. What a load of crap.

Then there are and were those special few people of immensely high character which were cultivated from an early age to be spiritual guides. They walk the walk and talk the talk but ultimately do not possess an equal ability to inspire followers the way an enlightened being can. Of course one must mention Jiddu Krishnamurti, who was heralded around the globe as the next biggest thing to come. That is until he came of age and gave up everything in favor of gallivanting about in sports cars. His persona was very much that of a kindly prince and he was applauded later in life for the choices he had made. Yet despite his obvious insights into consciousness and mystical experiences he lacked the ability to inspire.

From there one can turn their focus to the Dalai Lama himself. Unwavering in the face of adversity the Dalai Lama has endured with a smile. He has lived up to all expectations and more as a holy leader. But a holy leader is not automatically an enlightened being, and no matter how much I listen to his lectures I have never felt inspired by them. The people that surround him certainly look enamored with him but then so do most people when they meet anybody famous.

The only authentic enlightened being that I’m aware of at the moment is Jaggi Vasudev Sadhguru. His enlightenment happened accidentally one day while he was supposed to be picking up materials for a building project but decided to take a break instead and sat down on a rock on a hill where the locals like to go. He is Hindu and although he is knowledgeable about his religion he never attempts to make his lectures about religion. He doesn’t promise anything and he isn’t for sale. Sadhguru volunteers his time to make the world a better place by promoting conservation and the planting of trees. He also has a large following of volunteers that are involved with improving health and well-being through healthy diet, guided meditation and yoga. To hear him lecture is to be inspired. When he is asked questions about nearly anything and everything he never hesitates and almost always provides unique insight. Indian culture is very old and alien to the West. Sadhguru is very aware of this and has traveled the world for many years at his own expense to promote peace, prosperity and healthy habits that are easily adaptable to all cultures.

I hope this article helps to clarify what enlightenment is.

Conan De Moe 2/7/2020