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Patricia Cruz

Professor Ditch

English 115

9 May 2018

The Stem of True Happiness: Space and the Human Mind

Happiness, precisely its source and meaning, has been a topic of controversy that has

been spiraled around by many philosophers throughout time, but how does one know what is the

real essence of happiness? As I see it, happiness can be experienced in many different variations

or forms, but a genuine feeling of happiness is often correlated with space. Not only can space be

defined as a physical element, such as location or environment, but it can also be defined as a

psychological element. In other words, space can also be interpreted as an internal space in our

minds, specifically how we think and our point of view. As I analyzed my life through the

philosophical lens of the Dalai Lama, Epictetus, and Laozi, I came to the conclusion that my

happiness is often constructed through the physical spaces I travel, such as home and school.

Despite this, I am able to positively influence my experience of happiness through my

psychological space in order to be able to act freely and be appreciative of my life rather than

being concerned with the ideas of others or the materialistic world.

As I analyzed my own life, I realized that my home was one of the main spaces in which

I was able to experience a real sense of happiness. I was able to construct this idea based on a

particular experience I had at home. During this time, I was doing what I often tend to do on

Friday nights, sit at home and watch movies with my family, but what made this experience

different was that my brother was there with us and he was enjoying himself, laughing and
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joking around with us. This was a rare phenomenon to me because our entire family is hardly

ever together, especially being that my brother lives away from home and he often distances

himself from us when he comes to visit, preferring to spend time alone. Because of this, I felt

that at that moment I was truly able to experience happiness in the way that I was able to

appreciate my life as it is, with everything and everyone in it. This concept that happiness relies

on appreciating life is supported by the philosophy of the Dalai Lama. In his article with Howard

Cutler, "The Sources of Happiness," they explain that happiness relies on one's mindset, such as

appreciating what one already has, rather than focusing on material items. Furthermore, in their

article they state, "whether we are feeling happy or unhappy at any given moment... is a function

of how we perceive our situation, how satisfied we are with what we have" (23). Through this

concept, I was able to analyze how space, in this case my home, was able to construct my

experience of happiness. To specify, at home is the only place where I am able to be together

with all my family and, therefore, am appreciative of the smaller, yet more significant, things in

life rather than allowing my happiness to be influenced by materialistic wealth that is easily

influential in spaces outside my home.

Although I am able to experience happiness through my home, this or any other physical

space is not necessarily a definite factor that influences whether I can be happy or not. What I

mean by this is that I have the potential to experience happiness in a space that I often associate

with an absence of happiness, such as school, through the control of my psychological space.

This idea derives from Stoicism, as described by Epictetus in his book, The Handbook of

Epictetus. He discusses how we humans are in control of our happiness through our thoughts and

emotions despite not being able to control what occurs around or to us: "if you think what is

yours is yours, and that what is not your own is, just as it is, not your own, then no one can
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coerce you... no one will harm you, because you will not be harmed at all" (88). To explain this

further, Epictetus believed that if we only focus on the things we can control, such as our own

thoughts, then we will not be affected by the things that aren't in our power, such as our

circumstances or environment. Therefore, it shouldn't matter whether I am at home or school,

surrounded by loved ones or not, because I am able to control my psychological space, such as

how I choose to think about my circumstances. For instance, more often than not, while I am at

school I feel stressed, discontentment, loneliness, or simply just an absence of happiness. These

emotions are usually due to the fact that I happen to take importance in factors that I have no

control over, such as the people I'm surrounded with or the things that occur to me in that space.

As Epictetus argues, if I were to control my own emotions, or psychological space, and feel stoic

about the things that aren't in my control, then adversity will not affect me, internally of course,

and as a result, allow me to have the potential to experience happiness despite the physical space

I reside in.

When comparing both home and school, the difference in my experience of happiness is

evident through my performance. For instance, while I am at home I am able to experience a

peace of mind and act freely, such as sing and dance around or simply just sit and rest, without

the fear of judgement from others or the constant feeling of desire that emerges when the life of

others is out in display and I, as a natural response, compare my own life to those with greater

fortunes. My home serves as a refuge from these desires or worries, therefore, allowing myself to

experience a true feeling happiness rather than pleasure or temporary satisfaction that comes

from obtaining material items. On the other hand, while I am at school, specifically on campus,

outside of the classroom, I often feel an absence of happiness that is evident through my

constrained behavior. To clarify, I am unable to act freely or do things that I enjoy in this space
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due to my concern for the judgement of other people or the lack of confidence that arises from

comparing myself to those around me. This fear of judgement and lack of confidence is due to

the concern for finding approval of others in order to make myself feel secure. Laozi explains in

"From the Tao Te Ching" that this concern for approval is a hindrance to finding happiness when

he states, "care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner" (11). Here, Laozi explains

that if I care for the opinion of others and only act according to their approval, then I will be live

in discontentment and I will not be able to act as myself and do the things I enjoy. As one can

probably conclude from these observations, my performance varies according to space but as it is

seen, once again, my performance truly relies on my mindset.

This connection between mindset and happiness seems almost too obvious, but its

importance not only relies on acknowledging their correlation but actually practicing a change in

mindset. Aside from the Dalai Lama and Epictetus, Laozi is another philosopher that obtains the

belief that one must arrange their mind in order to find happiness, which is another concept that

he explains through “From the Tao Te Ching.” This idea is most accurately summarized through

the following quote in the article: “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.

When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you” (14). Laozi explains

that one must appreciate their life as it is and once they’re able to do one will realize that they

have all that they need in the world. This is relevant to space because as long as one is able to see

space for what it is, simply just a place, a location and find joy in it, then happiness is obtainable.

This is apparent in my life, for example, when I admire the nature of my school campus instead

focusing on the negative aspects, I am able to experience a sense of joy and all worries

immediately dissipate. It is not until moments like this that I am able to gain a sense of
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happiness. For this reason, practicing altering my mind, or psychological space, based on a

physical space has resulted in feelings of happiness despite impending factors in that space.

As revealed by the philosophies of the Dalai Lama, Epictetus, and Laozi, my experience

of happiness changes through physical space and my mindset, as observed through my

performance at home and school. Although I associate happiness with my home and

discontentment with school, I have the power to change my perspective on either space and, thus,

allow myself to experience happiness in both spaces. More importantly, taking into action this

idea rather than simply acknowledging has allowed for a greater understanding and experience

for happiness. Through my own experiences and the theories of philosophers, I have come to

realize that happiness doesn’t rely on what happens around me or the fortune that I have, but

instead it relies on ourselves and stems from our own minds. Only through a positive mindset,

one is capable of achieving a true essence of happiness.


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Works Cited

Dalai Lama, and Howard Cutler. "The Sources of Happiness." Pursuing Happiness, edited by

Matthew Parfitt and Dawn Skorczewski, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2016, pp. 21-32.

Epictetus. "From the Handbook of Epictetus." Pursuing Happiness, edited by Matthew Parfitt

and Dawn Skorczewski, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2016, pp. 88-94.

Laozi. "From the Tao Te Ching." Pursuing Happiness, edited by Matthew Parfitt and Dawn

Skorczewski, Bedford/St. Martin's, 2016, pp. 10-15.