EDITION: April - June 2013

The Road to Happiness

By Jerry Brownstein
Moving through the events of your life is like driving down a busy highway with many twists and turns. At every intersection in the road of life you must decide which direction to take – which decision to make. There is always one way that leads to real happiness while the other takes you to the same old dead end of mediocrity… or worse. These decisions should be really easy because each one of us is equipped with a guidance system that is always ready to steer us in the right direction. This is our wisest self or soul self, and it acts like an inner GPS that is designed to keep us straight on the Road to Happiness. In every situation it tells you which way to go, and if you make a wrong turn it gently guides you back onto your path. This seems like a foolproof system, so why is it that even though we all want joy, love and abundance in our lives we don’t always make the choices that will make that happen? The problem for most people is that our GPS for happiness was disconnected early in life. We cannot hear the instructions from our wisest self, so we follow instead the unconscious instructions of our old habit patterns. To get on the Road to Happiness we need to reconnect with our inner wisdom, and the first step is to find out how we got disconnected.  

Are you aware that your conscious mind controls only about 5% of what you think and do, while the other 95% is controlled by your subconscious mind? This subconscious mind that runs most of your life is merely a collection of beliefs and experiences from your past. From the moment you were born it has been downloading and storing everything that you have been exposed to, and this accumulation of input from family, friends, culture and media has become your basic persona or habit mind. The way the brain works is that whenever you are not making a conscious choice your subconscious habit mind will automatically step in and choose for you. Those choices are always based on information from your past, because the subconscious mind has no ability to think creatively – it can only repeat what it has in its memory. No wonder people keep having the same problems over and over again – they are unconsciously repeating the same old patterns – unconsciously following the same old dead end roads to unhappiness.

The way to restore your free will and regain control of your life is by learning to live consciously. Remember, the subconscious only takes over when the conscious mind is not paying attention, so if you increase your awareness then your conscious mind will be in control for much more of the time. You can achieve this higher level of awareness by cultivating mindfulness which simply means remembering to use your conscious mind – remembering to make intentional choices rather than being run by old subconscious programming. A mindful person resists their automatic habitual reactions, and then chooses to follow the guidance of their inner wisdom. Here is an example of how it works in everyday life. Imagine that you are involved in a certain type of situation that has always made you angry in the past. As the situation unfolds your anger starts to rise within you as it always has before… and then you stop for a second. Mentally you take a step back from the situation…  you then ask yourself this question: Is that who I want to be in this situation? Listen for the answer that comes from your heart (the inner GPS) – it will always take you in the direction that leads to true happiness. Deepak Chopra puts it this way: “Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.”

This sounds very simple but it is not always so easy. In fact it can be quite a challenge because you must overcome an entire lifetime of being programmed by the ideas, actions and beliefs of your past experiences. Even when you are determined to be mindful you may still continue to think, say and do things that are not in harmony with whom you wish to be… and that is OK. It is natural for these engrained reactions to persist, but don’t worry because that resistance will eventually melt away if you maintain your intention to be mindful. The simple key is to become aware of when you have unconsciously followed one of your old patterns of behavior… and then gently correct yourself. That’s all you have to do! Your mind will automatically start to create new pathways in your brain that are aligned with your new choices, and your old subconscious reactions will gradually lose their strength.  

Mindfulness reconnects you to your inner GPS by building stronger lines of communication between your conscious mind and your inner wisdom… stronger connections between your brain and your heart. This process of personal evolution reprograms your mind so that you stay on the Road to Happiness by listening to the guidance that comes from within. So whenever you come to a crossroads in your life remember these words of wisdom…

“ It is only with the heart that one can see rightly;
what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
(The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)