The art of happiness.

My mind revolves mindlessly upon thoughts of happiness.
Only in the centre of my mind, where thoughts are still, do I experience it.

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote... “No mud, no lotus. Both suffering and happiness are of an organic nature, which means they are both transitory, they are always changing.The flower, when it wilts, becomes the compost. The compost can help grow a flower again. Happiness is also organic and impermanent by nature. It can become suffering and suffering can become happiness again.”

I think that in order to experience something, we have to be alive to the present moment. As soon as you start 'thinking', you are distracted into the past or future, and missing the present moment. In the painting, it is only where my mind is still, in the stillness of the wheel at the hub, that I can experience happiness. I believe you cannot be thinking and present at the same time, so experiencing happiness can only be achieved with a still and alert mind. I can think of many occasions when I should have devoted my full attention to my children, but instead I was thinking about other things. My happy memories are now exclusively of occasions when I was not distracted but focused in the moment. I don't have a single precious memory of being in a wonderful place when I was thinking about something else at the time!

I wonder if the memory and the actual experience are two different things. In other words, the recalled memory of happiness is different to actual happiness. I believe you can't have the memory without the experience and you can't have the experience without being alive to the present moment. When you are thinking about the happy memory, you are using that experience to help you with your life. It has become like a tool rather than an experience. I believe that is what thinking is solely for, to help us manage our lives. Meanwhile, life is experienced when we stop thinking.

I am struggling with the idea that perhaps you can gain the same happiness from a memory as when the actual event happened... but I think when dealing with memories we are always aware of a sadness because we know it is a memory and no longer real. Likewise, when we hope for better days, deep down we know that the hope is just a thought and not real. Can a memory become an experience of happiness? I don't think so. It is a memory of happiness, which has huge value but in a different way.

Mike Heseltine

To view the paintings please click here: Chapter 1

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