I wonder if you had any revelations as you worked through the inventory of items in a room? Now think about your whole house and what that inventory list would look like.
We have done several different types of meditations or awareness exercises now. What are your thoughts? What are your feelings? Has anything arisen within you, perhaps a new understanding, or a desire to make some changes?
Let’s recap the exercises so far.
1. Physical characteristics of money – what does it look like, what does it feel like, what emotions are triggered when you think about money?
2. Money is time – knowing the amount of time it takes to earn a dollar and practicing thinking of purchases in terms of time it took to earn the money.
3. Inventory of possessions – what things do you have, what is their value to you, what items on the list are absolutely essential to your life, what items are merely nice to have, what items would you take and carry on your back if you needed to flee you dwelling?
Now I would like to consider the distinction between fun and happiness. The two are related to each other but they are not the same thing. Happiness is a state of being, whereas fun is a state of doing. Happiness is a continuing condition, something that defines a general condition of your life. Fun is a feeling that arises because something was done.
Think of it like this. You can say the statement, ‘I feel happy’ or ‘I am happy’, but we don’t say ‘I feel fun.’ You can say ‘I am having fun’ or ‘I had fun’, but we wouldn’t say ‘I am having happiness’, or ‘I had happiness’. Hopefully you get the idea. Our language can give us some clues if we pay attention to it.
Fun can affect happiness but that effect is temporary. Scientists have studied the effect of various activities on the state of happiness in various individuals and have determined that the length of time that fun causes happiness varies between individuals and activities. But in all cases the effect is indeed temporary.
An interesting phenomena is when fun is derived through observing something the affect on happiness is much shorter then when fun is derived through actively participating in an activity. For example, if you go to the movies, that can be fun and produce an effect of happiness. But if you go to a movie and engage in a discussion about the movie with a friend the affect will produce a longer lasting affect on happiness.
The same can be said for example of sports. Watching a sporting event can affect happiness, but playing a sport will produce a longer lasting effect.
Since happiness is a state of continuing being or condition of self it is not possible to buy, though we can spend money doing things that are fun and so contribute to our state of being happy. Money doesn’t bring happiness it might however allow us to have fun. Spending doesn’t increase happiness it isn’t even guaranteed to create fun. Any fun that is created through spending money is short lived, doesn’t last forever or usually even very long.
I am currently reading a book I have found interesting dealing with the subject of happiness titled The Owners Manual for Happiness; Essential Elements of a Meaningful Life by Pierce J. Howard.
The importance of Sangha is one of the Three Jewels, which you know, if you have read much of my writing, that I believe in strongly and promote regularly. Here is another example of how being connected and staying engaged with others in community affects our assessment of our personal well being.
Connecting with and being engaged with people has, in studies shown that it can have the greatest and most long lasting impact on our happiness. There are a great many things that can be done together with friends, which cost no money, at all, take little effort and yet will last a very long time in terms of elevating our happiness.
Exercising and being active are also activities that contribute to personal happiness and do so over a longer period of time. Getting up, and out walking around the block or through the neighborhood is an excellent way to begin to move the body and affect happiness, and can be done so with minimal requirement for spending money. Both sitting at a computer and watching TV have been shown to produce relatively small impact on happiness.
It is as if in our modern society we have selected to do all the things in our lives that actually serve to move us away from happiness instead of towards happiness. We have cut back on personal connections and we have stopped moving and exercising as a natural part of our living. Now we need to be intentional about creating opportunities for these happiness-producing activities.
If we couple how we spend our money and free time on things that have minimal or no impact on our happiness with the way we feel about our efforts to actually earn that money we may have inadvertently filled almost our entire waking life with only things that cause us unhappiness.
Filling our lives with unhappiness or with things that produce little to no happiness may not have been our intention but it can happen if we are not fully aware of what we do or if our values have been swayed by misunderstanding or even false messages from outside sources. If we have taken someone else’s word for what should make us happy then we might be setting ourselves up for continued suffering.
If you believe you are not happy because you do not own some product, or use some item, then you are allowing someone else to dictate to you the condition of your state of being which is a message once embraced or felt is not eliminated by merely owning or doing something. Owning or doing are activities and as such are about doing related things such as having fun. Fun and happiness though are not the same.
The important thing I hope you will consider from this section on Buddhism and Money is what you do to actively contribute to your happiness versus what you think you do. Are your activities active or passive in nature? The more active they are the more likely they will have the greatest impact on your sense of well-being and happiness. Also do your activities connect you with others, do they foster human interactions, conversations, and life-to-life connections? The more connected you are and the more you engage with other people the more happy you will become and the longer that condition of happiness will remain in your life.
Our Buddhist practice, as all Buddhist practices really, serve to facilitate our examination of our lives to determine if we are living in a skillful manner so as to produce a state of well being and happiness not only in our own lives but in the lives of other around us. Our Buddhist practice also directs us to practice in community and connected to Sangha and not merely as independent isolated singular beings. Sharing our experiences or having shared experiences actively are potential sources of greatly improved and long lasting happiness.