Exploring Happiness: A Review

In Autumn 2023 a small group of people of various ages and walks of life gathered at the Rigpa centre in Dublin. Those who were based in the city made their way to the centre on Wicklow street—a small and cosy room in one of the street’s brick-wall buildings, with colourful and astonishingly detailed brocades of Tibetan origin hanging on its walls. Others, who were based outside Dublin, be it in Cork, Belfast or England, joined the room virtually via Zoom. Whether physically or virtually present, all the participants shared a curiosity to explore the meaning of happiness. 

In this admittedly ambitious quest, the participants were guided by two qualified instructors: Eric Soyeux and Natascha Geuzenbroek. With an experience of over twenty years in the study of Buddhist teachings and practices, and in their transmission to non-expert audiences, Eric and Natascha tuned in all the way from Amsterdam every Thursday at 7pm for twelve consecutive weeks to share their insights on the nature of happiness with the participants at Rigpa Dublin. Over the course of one hour and forty-five minutes, the two instructors shared scientifically backed-up evidence on the workings of empathy, compassion, love, and kindness; they performed guided meditations; and dedicated time for discussion, during which the participants had the opportunity to ask questions and express their thoughts and ideas. 

After the end of the twelve-week course, some of the students shared their impressions on various aspects of the course, including the hybrid setting, the course’s content, and its delivery by the instructors. Charles, one of the students who attended the course in person, writes: 

‘Being in the Rigpa centre with other students is always an authentic experience and having the teachers in front of us on a big screen is lively and actually works.’ 

Similarly to Charles, Maura—a student who participated online—also comments on the hybrid setting of the course:

‘I wish to thank the organisers for the opportunity to participate online on the Exploring Happiness courses with Eric and Natascha, who were also online, and with participants who were attending in the centre. This was a fabulous course. I almost felt I was in the same room as Eric and Natascha even though they were online. […] I really appreciate the opportunity I have in participating in these courses online, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to attend the courses in Dublin.

With respect to the delivery of the course, Charles notes that there was ‘a great connection with Natascha and Eric.’ In his words: 

‘Natascha and Eric deliver clear happiness courses over 12 weeks, have concise explanations, use videos to illustrate, and lead very interesting discussions. The duo complement each other nicely, they are warm and reply with deep attention to questions and always make sure we get the point. I could see and feel their knowledge comes from continuous studies and long practices. They make us happier!’

Katerina, a student who joined the course in person, also shared her impressions on the delivery of the course: 

‘Eric and Natascha created a warm atmosphere of love and kindness. They guided us through ideas and meditation practices, they listened attentively to our thoughts and responded with care to our questions. I found their course at Rigpa to be truly inspiring.’

Commenting on the content among other aspects of the course, Maura writes: 

‘The course was so rich and well structured each evening. I felt that the interaction between the instructors, the participants online and those in the centre worked perfectly. There was great sharing among every one. I wish to thank Eric and Natascha who put so much effort into delivering this course for 12 weeks as I benefited so much from it.’

The rhythms, lifestyles and dynamics of the modern world often render happiness a chimaera: an unrealisable dream, yet which everyone desires. Setting attainable goals for its participants, the course at Rigpa Dublin did exactly what it promised to do: it helped students to begin or continue with the process of exploring happiness. And as the students’ testimonies suggest, the course brought them a step closer to understanding with their minds and hearts what it means to be happy. 

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