If you wish to know joy, I recommend cultivating the habit of standing at a slight remove from yourself.
What does that mean?
If we can figure out ways of detaching slightly from our own ego, we can view ourselves more objectively. We can become an internal observer of what’s going on, rather than a self trapped in craving and unmindful patterns of consumption. Craving is one of the chief causes of suffering. It’s easy to fall into the habit of always desiring more, always postponing happiness until (fill in the blank: After I finish my degree, after I get the house paid off, etc.). It’s called “destination sickness” in some quarters. Happiness is always around the next corner, never precisely where we are. This pattern gets us stuck.
Fortunately, the antidote to this toxin is the heart of our practice: deep mindfulness of the present moment. Rather than “I’ll be happy after…” we say, “I shine the light of full awareness on the present moment. I recognize that all the conditions for happiness are available in the here and now.”
Breathing in, I am aware of the present moment.
Breathing out, I know that happiness is here and now.
When our mindfulness practice is strong; when our awareness is at its most lucid and calm, a minor miracle occurs: we’re no longer visiting old ghosts of the past nor worrying about the future. We’re firmly established in the here and now; our focus is strong and our clarity at its sharpest. And so it is that (ironically enough) that there’s no better way of dealing with the past and future than dwelling mindfully in the present moment.