We like to know that we’re happy, don’t we? But when we look at ourselves, happiness is sometimes cloudy at best, especially when we get home from a hard day’s work, or sit down someplace after work with friends, and someone asks, “How was your day?” We often don’t know what to say, or we just mumble, “Oh, it was okay.” Then the conversation goes on to other topics. It seems that we need some kind of happiness stick for measuring the day we’ve just experienced. Fortunately, for many of us Dr. B. Alan Wallace of the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies, whose background includes a bachelor’s in physics, has given us four very helpful perspectives we can use to evaluate and clarify our day, perhaps even our life.
First, was your day full of goodness? In other words, did you do no physical harm to your body or that of others, except in the cases of accident, self-defense or to defend others? Did you not speak negatively to yourself or your family, friends, coworkers, or bosses? Did you maintain equanimity with your thoughts and emotions? Finally, did you sustain an awareness of your thoughts and actions during the day, and did you act appropriately, especially in the interest of compassion for yourself and others?
Next, do you feel happy rather than miserable? Rather than give this question a passing look, really go inside yourself and spend some time there. Find out if you’re thriving or not. Ask yourself, “According to the way I feel right now, am I able to meet adversity and life with equanimity?” Be honest with yourself, and don’t run away from the answer if it’s something you don’t want to see, hear, or feel. Maintain equanimity until you feel a neutral energy. If it’s going to take more time, then make an appointment to spend some alone time, treating this less than flourishing feeling with awareness and balanced attention until it dissolves.
Third, did you practice the truth? Review your day from start to finish with absolute integrity and scrutiny. Overt lies to yourself and others are easy to see; however, it’s the subtle ones that take time to uncover. Exaggerations to ourselves and others are still lies even though we may call them fibs or white lies. The problem with not being honest with ourselves or others, no matter how seemingly inconsequential it may be, is that we still feel the pain when we discover the lies or they come back to us from others. For example, during a meditation retreat, I maintained noble silence the entire time and did not commit any failures of truth. On the last day of the retreat when we could talk, I discovered myself in the middle of an exaggeration, and I immediately felt its pain. It was like a house of cards tumbling down. Obviously, I had damaged my own integrity even though others were not aware of it.
Last, ask yourself what you brought to the world that was meaningful. How were you helpful to yourself in the best interests of your coworkers, family members, friends, neighbors, and superiors? How were you directly helpful to others; for example, your children or your parents? Isn’t it obvious that if we can look at a day in our lives and see the qualities of goodness, happiness, truth, and living altruistically sticking out, then we’ve had a good day? It most definitely is for me.
Certainly, getting a high mark on Alan Wallace’s four perspectives for happiness at the end of each day is inspiring. Perhaps, it may even be better to find a few screw ups or flaws, for they give us an opportunity to understand the nature of reality through the purification of ourselves. Furthermore, using this measuring stick to review other periods in our lives is also profound. There’s a lot we can learn by uncovering our human errors, for it’s like the aging of wine with the right environment and the balance of time.