Happiness and Neurotransmitters

March 12, 2017

This is such a beautiful photo, and yet, if I were to be as honest as I am capable of being, I did not see it live.  I simply saw an overflowing river in an area where I expected it to be overflowing.  When I got to this place, I congratulated myself on my predicition, and snapped the photo.  I did not see the blue of the water that was deeper than the sky itself, the reflections of the trees in the water, the bank beneath the water at the bottom of the photo.  And isn't this a metaphor for our sometimes less than spectacular lives.

 

There is a book called "The Happiness Trap," written by a guy last name of Harris.  He suggested that happiness was a fleeting moment, a feeling, not a state of being as some of us imply, and that when we are not happy, we and others will wonder what is wrong with us.  Actually nothing, but we will feel that there is, that others are happy, what is wrong with me?  Hence, the trap.  He further suggests that being happy, other than those moments when we are, is not a worthy goal, rather we should pursue something like balance. 

 

Mr. Harris did not say, but could have, that happiness is the right balance of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, and serotonin, the cultivation of some alpha or theta brain waves; a moment that lasts as long as those conditions, and though we may find this a very negative statement, consider this the next time you have one of those moments, and likely this statement won't effect our moment-they will remain rare, or otherwise most of us wouldn't be walking around with facial skin streched to the breaking point by the spasms of those thousand facial muscles.

 

I have noticed that my best moments are those short few hours following a long bike, those days I spend 7-8 hours in the saddle, the 100 mile days when I can finally climb off, hit the couch, and linger in the warmth of the thought "there is absolutely nothing I have to do right now," a truly luxurious feeling, a feeling fueled by endorphins, dopamine, and the absolute best of neuro cocktails. But I take them.

 

And I would like to say that the alternative to these fleeting chemical trips, is meditation, and no question it can be.  But if you expect it to be a "luxurious" experience every time, you will be disappointed.  It won't be and shouldn't be.

 

I wish that I were so aware that I could see the beauty of all around me.  There would be many more happy moments for me.  Someone once said that there are multitudes of mysterious things waiting in the world for our minds to develope enough to see them (paraphrased).  I don't seem to be there.  Consider that this phote was taken at about 80 miles into my ride, and that endorphins (likened to opioids) are meant to minimize the pain of my screaming muscles.  For sure, I was, at that moment, under the influence; and yet did not see.  I guess that is the wonder of the cameras that our little phones now have.

 

Tonight Sue complains, partly in jest, that there is a knot in the drawstring of her pajama bottoms. She says, again in jest, that it will ruin her day.  Now this knot did not get there today.  It's been there for awhile.  She says she's thinking of cutting the string-it is causing suffering.  I tell her I will untie it for her, and patiently do so.  It is not the most difficult knot that I have ever untied.

 

It is interesting that there are two methods to untying a knot.  One you grasp both ends, and pull as hard as you can.  In less than 1% of knots this will work.  In the other 99% it will make it nearly impossible to untie.  The other method is patiently working at it.  And this is my method for working at the "continuous moments of our lives," not expecting happiness, and certainly not grasping both ends and giving a good yank.  But rather, calmly "being with" the feeling that life is bringing you in this moment.  How's it working for me?  Not always so great.  But here I am.  I did get the hundred miles, and I did manage to preserve the beauty of that one moment on the overflowing banks of the Mohawk River.

 

A cyclist that I know of-he is the consumate vlogger at least that I know of- is doing a race across Austrailia called the Indian Pacific Wheel Race, unsupported.  Three thousand miles across desert, mountains, the outback.  It's gotta be brutal.  I am worried about him.  I am afraid that he is doing it for reasons that he may discover are not helpful once he is out there, once he is in it, in the pain and suffering that won't end, and no amount of endorphins can fix.  I wish him well, and hope that he finds the reason to finish.

 

In the end life is a giant puzzle.  There are not instructions, just data that is updated from time to time.  For example, at what point in your life did you hear about neurotransmitters.  Probably not first grade, or when you were 3-5 years old when it might have done you some good, when you could have shaped some habits that would have made you more adaptable.  But no.  If anyone knew this stuff they would have told us.  Right?  Would have told us that unhealthy activities, like drugs, sex, stealing and most of our daily activities, if repeated continually as a means of dumping neuros into our blood is basically what is called addiction.

 

So this giant puzzle.  We are all putting it together,  together.  Perhaps it is time to create some new habits.  To have a look around, patiently draw a deep breath, and untie this big knot together.

 

 

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