In Defense of Happiness - Our Name Matters

What we call ourselves matters. 

Most of our new community members find out about the Zen Happiness Project on Facebook. A group name on Facebook has to stand out in the noise, quickly tell a story of what we do together and offer a benefit for those who might want to learn more. 

So what does our name the “Zen Happiness Project” mean? I’d like to break these three words down and share how I hope they shape our community. 

Zen - A Zen Buddhist practice changed my life. It is a rich and deep tradition. We trivialize the word in this country with countless books entitled "Zen and the art of XYZ" or designer products like "Zen Water" at $9 a bottle. I mean to point to a substantive and meaningful practice that has laid out a path to awakening for tens of millions of practitioners over the last 1,500 years. 

Happiness - Happiness isn't the goal. Rather, happiness is a sign we're on the right path. A good life, one of harmony, wellness, purpose and concern for others is a joyful life. On two occasions I had the opportunity to do service work in Quito, Ecuador at a school that helped families in extreme economic need. The families I met lived good lives and were joyful in the face of great challenges. I believe this is because they were in community and caring for one another. Through those actions they created lives of meaning and purpose. We can’t sustain a truly joyful life for any length of time if our happiness is selfish and self-centered. 

Project - Project implies there is work to be done. I didn't get to a good place in my life by wishing. Zen emphasizes practice over philosophy or reading. I got well (read, got happy) by taking action; I change, drop bad habits and build good ones, meditate, and do good for others. My worldview is deeply shaped by the concept that our lives only contain the meaning that our actions infuse it with. I want my life to be one that is animated by love, service, harmony and kinship: that means I continually act in ways that are good for me and my fellow human beings.

My wish for our community is that we practice living our lives fully and completely, with and for others. 

In the spirit of the awesome holiday of Thanksgiving, I want to express gratitude for Sheila, Sofia, Kevin O, Rebecca, Kevin C, Mark, Danielle and my mother Ruth who each, in their own way, have been helping create a supportive community. The selfless effort of my friends is helping the thousands of people that come in regular contact with the Zen Happiness Project. For that, I am truly grateful. 

What does the name the “Zen Happiness Project” mean to you? 

May your practice be strong! 

- Anthony A. Cernera, M.Ed.