You don't have to think about happiness to be happy. Well, not everyone has to. You may have to. I spoke about the four paths of Yoga in Holey Groups which is a model for how people can approach the same goal in their own way. A big part of the battle is just figuring out what works for you. In 'More Fool Me', Stephen Fry says Michael Ramsey defines wisdom as 'the ability to cope'. That sounds somewhat downbeat, but if you can cope, you have the perspective to extract the most out of life. The world is noisy. Lots of things go right, and lots of things go wrong. For me, knowing that there is no maliciousness to this noise and believing (with evidence) that things tend to get better over the long term helps me to cope. It also helps me ignore the noise as much as possible and try focus on what I can control.
But we are all different. I need to think about these things to make sense of it all. A lack of consistency in how I think about things leaves me disturbed and unhappy. Most of my approach to philosophy is to find a way of thinking that lets me think about other things. Other people have different approaches. They don't actually mind inconsistency in thought. It isn't even as explicit as that. Many don't even think about looking for consistency in thought. They feel ok. This allows them to focus on other things. Of the four paths, Bhakti Yoga focusses on 'love or devotion'. In their own way, each path is a form of concentration, a way of calming the constant worries that eat away at us sometimes. People who are inherently religious and think predominantly through emotion would follow this path. They find peace through worship or ritual. Music and art can also fit into this space. I was fortunate enough to teach at a school with a deep love of music for 18 months. There were many moments when I sat listening to one of the young students playing so beautifully that it was almost impossible not to elevate my thoughts above my worries.
My Bhakti Yoga has been in my art studio. I have been at the Wimbledon Art Studios for the last 4 years. As I paint, I take photos of my work and share them. During this time, most of my philosophical energy has been on investments and whether you can or can't grow your money more effectively than just passively putting it into the market - my head was full. Painting provides an opportunity to relax my mind and release my elephant to play. The style I have been painting in focusses on texture and colour. It communicates, but more in the language of food and music. When someone looks at a painting, I want them to know they love it without needing to know or explain why. I want it to resonate. I want it to taste right. I want them to be able to come back to it again and again and discover new bits that allow them to fall deeper and deeper in love with the painting. When they think of the painting, I want them to remember a sense of what it is, but to never feel they know the painting so well they don't need to see it again. When they look at it, I want it to be different depending on the light, how far they are standing from it, and at what angle they are looking at it. Like watching live theatre, every performance should be unique. I layer colour week after week and the character of the painting develops. I have to let go of layers where the painting is attractive but doesn't yet have the depth I am looking for. When a painting is done, it could be like sitting with your grandmother as she tells you stories from the past.
When I am painting though, I don't think of these things. I just paint. And I love it. And I am happy.