The 4 KEYS to Happiness


Last week my inspiration came from The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali which is the text of Raja Yoga (Ancient Mental Science). Patanjali is considered the ‘Father of Yoga” and even though the Sutras (the word Sutra means thread), were written somewhere between 5000 B.C. and 300 A.D., these short two or three sentence “threads” of advice are applicable even today.  My favorite of all of the 200 Sutras was my message last week.

“By cultivating attitudes of friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff retains its undisturbed calmness”

At first glance your reaction may be… this seems kind of like a no brainer. What I love about this message it actually requires deeper exploration to find the true meaning. These are the 4 keys to preserving our own Sukha Shakti (Radical Happiness).

Friendliness toward the happy; it’s easy to be friendly to a happy person, but friendliness without envy or judgment is a bit harder. True friendliness at someone else’s happiness is a practice. When we cultivate that practice, we retain our own calmness/happiness.

Compassion for the unhappy; again on the surface this seems pretty straightforward, but often when we see someone in a worse off place than us, we don’t feel compassion for them…sometimes we feel relief for ourselves, sometimes we judge them and wonder what they did to deserve that situation. When we feel and act with genuine compassion, that is the chance to preserve our own calmness/happiness. Truly, our compassion may not change or improve the other person’s situation but the act of compassion retains our calmness. That’s what matters.

Delight in the virtuous; we have all met that amazing person who seems like they have so much to offer and instead of learning and gleaning all the wisdom we can from that person, we look for their hidden faults, we wonder if they are “for real”. If we could truly delight in the virtuous qualities in everyone we meet…imagine how happy (not to mention wise) we would be.

Disregard toward the wicked; for some people, this is the most challenging of all. When someone wrongs you it is natural to want revenge, to teach them a lesson. Well, the universe has a wonderful way of handling that for us. It’s called Karma and it works every time. It is a relief to know that we do not have to be responsible for payback, Karma handles that. All we need to be responsible for is retaining our own Sukha Shakti. Not handing over your Sukha Shakti to that person is the biggest revenge of all. You are happy. Karma takes care of the rest.

With our 4 keys, we flowed through our class and explored balancing on our heads, our hands and our feet.  I asked my students to practice letting go of judgement in themselves and envy of those around them who had space or strength or flexibility that wasn’t available to them at that moment.

I also asked them to cultivate true compassion for themselves without negative criticism. We practiced delight when our bodies felt strong and virtuous in Malasana and Trikonasana  and disregard toward the wicked or negative thoughts that may have creeped into our minds while holding Eagle pose or Bakasana.

As always, I reminded my students to bring their “Keys” with them off the mat and practice working from a place of preserving their own happiness by finding friendliness for the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous and disregard toward the wicked.

I also had the opportunity to use those very valuable keys this week and I was reminded that determining which one to use can be a journey.  As with this Sutra, what appears one way at first glance, actually may need a deeper exploration.

I encountered someone this week who was directly criticzing me in a non-constructive way. I breathed deeply and thought about compassion and indifference. At first I was using the”indifference” key as I felt her criticism was coming from a bad place, but then I realized the “compassion” key was the right one. I know I am the most critical of others when I feel a weakness in myself. This person was not being wicked, rather her own feelings of inadequacy were the motivation for her actions. Instead of anger, I found true compassion for someone who was unhappy inside.  Afterwards I felt light, I felt happy, I had retained my Sukha Shakti. Thank you Patanjali.