There is a parable about this concept, that I first heard from one of my favorite and most impactful teachers: Eckhart Tolle. I recall it may be Buddhist in origin, but its essence has shown up in many forms and mediums over the years. It comes to me frequently, sometimes like a whisper, other times like a brick wall crashing on me, to bring my attention back to the lesson.
(A quick disclaimer here, please refer to your own definitions, literature and authoritative resources for translations of words. I aim to share my experience here. I do not have expertise in the English language.)
The parable goes something like this: An old Sage was asked “What is the secret to happiness?” The response was simple: “I don’t mind what happens.”
The word “mind” in that sentence has many facets. First, it may refer to the one we often think of as a verb, a possible synonym for “being annoyed” or “bothered.” Using this meaning, the Sage’s response is “I am not bothered, or annoyed by what happens.”
An additional inference of the word “mind” in this context is the idea of relinquishing control. When I lived for a semester in London as a college student, we often joked about the “Tube” system (the British underground rail) which would faithfully announce “Mind the gap” as the train doors were about to open or close. It meant, “Be careful, be aware of, and control (yourself around) it…don’t step into the dangerous space between the train car and the platform.”
I don’t “mind” what happens, not only means to remain “unbothered” by a circumstance, it actually refers to an ability to resist our need to control it, work around it, and interpret it. “I don’t mind what happens” with this definition, means something along the lines of, I don’t label, assign value or try to control something. It means letting things be as they are.
I may have unintentionally stepped into a (more so than usual) complicated concept for this post, but since we are here let’s keep going. You may be thinking “No problem, so in order to be happy I just have to 1. Not be bothered by anything and 2. Not control anything.” Got it. (Sarcastically of course.)
But actually, the answer is Yes. Happiness is a state that results from the acceptance, and non reaction, to what IS. We aren’t statues. The parable isn’t saying we should be immune to the human experience.
Quite the contrary. Not minding (being annoyed by, or trying to control) circumstances, events and outcomes means allowing them, all of them, to come and go exactly as they are. We don’t want to be like bouncers at the entrance to an elite club (our experience) and decide who/what gains entrance, and send others packing. The Sage’s response indicates that happiness is found in letting it all just be as it is.
Another way to put it, also from Eckhart is to take the stance that “I have no complaints, whatsoever.” Deceptively simple, try spending even one full minute embracing this statement, and saying it as it were true. Notice how hard it can be to even allow the possibility of complete acceptance and peace.
Discover what elements of your “self” even exist, without your attachments to what is wrong, what needs fixing, what is annoying you and what you try to, in every waking moment, control. Allow who you are underneath all of the things you “mind” to evaporate, and introduce yourself, even if for the first time, to the happiness that is unavoidable when we have no complaints whatsoever, even if only for a minute.