The Four Pillars of Happiness
The pursuit of happiness is a selectable path through life. But in order to remain on that particular path, a wandering-mind must be kept in check lest it wander-off into unpleasantness – resulting in discomfort. It’s been long established that one cannot focus on happiness directly. Then on what should a seeker focus? The Four Pillars serve as an indirect path to happiness: love, lightheartedness, creativity, and triumph. These four are the ideal concepts that a seeker can concentrate on.
The pillars, connected by the bond of mental-discipline, create a pen in which to contain the wandering mind. Picture four columns supporting a roof of happiness. Between each column, mental-discipline forms energy-barriers that keep the mind inside.
For “love”, consider concepts such as appreciation, adoration, enjoyment, and patience. For example: “I appreciate and adore many things in this world. I feel loved and supported by this world.”
For “lightheartedness”, consider concepts such as laughter, delight, frivolity, joy. For example: “I laugh and have fun, delighting in my experiences.”
For “creativity”, consider concepts such as creating, crafting, doing, beautifying. It’s about feeling creative. For example: “I create things that bring joy to myself and others.”
For “triumph”, consider concepts such as satisfaction, success, contentment, competence, confidence. For example: “I’m confident and competent, I feel like a winner – I don’t need anything in order to feel complete.”
These pillars also serve to moderate each other. If a pillar’s too short or too tall, the roof slides off. Obsessive love is moderated by lighthearted detachment. Frivolousness is moderated by love. Love steers creativity away from negativity. Obsession for winning is moderated by lightheartedness. The interaction of the pillars answers these questions: What should I love and to what degree? What should I create? To what degree do I pursue triumph? To what degree do I add fun and a lack of seriousness?
The Four Pillars answer the question: if I want to pursue happiness as a path, and I have to discipline my mind (pointing it in a particular direction), what should I focus on? Through conscious-awareness, shape a perspective infused with the feelings of love, lightheartedness, creativity, and triumph. An unsupervised mind is the enemy – it’s a ferocious chainsaw of ideas – it requires proper handling and attention at all times, boundaries must be set and maintained.
In addition to this, it’s important for the pen to keep expanding so the mind never feels locked in a tiny box. Grow it by becoming more inclusive, adding variety to the kindling of creativity.
An effective practice for implementing the Four Pillars is as follows:
Imagine how you’d feel while experiencing the best version of whatever you’re currently doing. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, you’re simply speculating about the feelings you’d experience in a perfect scenario.
For example, showering in the morning becomes: In the perfect version of showering, I’d feel ritualistically cleansed of all my woes and sins – I’d feel refreshed. I’d be energized, feeling giddy anticipation for the glorious day that I’m about to have. I’d be feeling like the designer of my destiny, crafting a beautiful world, ready to live a day made just for me. I’d feel creative – inspired!
Through the practice of imagining the feelings associated with the ideal version of every experience, the mind is taught to wander within the confines of the Four Pillars. Unhappiness is the condition brought about by unrestrained wandering. Whereas happiness is the condition brought about by a mind contained within the Four Pillars (love, lightheartedness, creativity, and triumph). Essentially the Four Pillars provide a safe-space in which the mind can play.
In other words: the mind is an unleashed dog romping wherever it pleases – oftentimes through mud and briars. By using mental-discipline, the mind can be leashed. Unfortunately, the mind still attempts to wander wherever, pulling against the leash. The four pillars are more like a dog-park in which the mind can wander only so far and the space is free of hazards.
In other, other words: in a kindergarten, a student’s nature might demand self-expression through paint. On the outside of the school, he might engage in graffiti. But within the confines of the kindergarten, he is only allowed to paint on paper at the easel. There’s always a suitable means of expressing one’s nature, and the Four Pillars helps to keep that expression enjoyable.