“Happiness is something that comes into our lives through doors we don’t even remember leaving open.” ~ Rose Lane
I recently watched a wonderful documentary called Happy. It was a perfect reminder to focus on what is important in life.
So much of what Westerners think of as happiness has to do with material success. However, some of the happiest people on earth have relatively limited material belongings. Instead, they find happiness in relationships, experiences, and in living in the moment.
Being present to life as it unfolds can bring tremendous joy. In fact, it can be freeing to embrace the notion that this moment — the present — is the only one in which we can live. Although we often dwell on the past and daydream about the future, we cannot actually live in either place.
Now is all there is.
And many of us waste experiences that might otherwise leave us quite content, by turning our focus to things that aren’t here yet. We imagine we can be happy once we’ve gotten married to the ethereal, perfect, un-slob-like spouse of our dreams.
You know, the one who listens to us, wants sex only when we do, fixes our plumbing, gladly cleans up the dog’s vomit, and, without complaint, makes us a meal that would make a professional chef jealous. Once we get the job, promotion, car, house — fill in the blank – then, and only then, we can be happy.
What we forget is that our lives are a series of moments. Present moments strung together.
We cannot forge any sort of lasting happiness by daydreaming about what we want, or wishing we’d acted differently (or others had acted differently) in the past.
If only we’d taken a different road.
If only we’d tenderly risked our hearts.
If only we’d tried something that scared us to death; something that we wanted desperately to do, but were too cowardly, too completely lily-livered to even attempt.
However, if we live in the burning, bright aliveness of the present moment, we will have fewer feelings of ‘if only.’ We will naturally have fewer regrets.
Happiness in this world.
One of the tenets of the Buddhism I practice is the notion of absolute happiness. We are told that by embracing Buddhism and practicing diligently, we can become absolutely happy.
Absolute happiness is not the same as the warm rapture we feel as we fall in love with someone new. It is not the thrill of a victory after a brutal struggle.
Absolute happiness is a state of being that allows us to be happy no matter what is going on in our daily lives. Whether we are sick, broke, or jobless — or the opposite of those conditions — no longer matters. We ride the big waves instead of drown in them.
Happiness is an inner state of life. It is not a destination one can find on a map.
Every day, we choose to be thankful for the blessings we have. We remain present to our many challenges and our equally plentiful joys. We find happiness in the act of being human, in the profound fortune of just being alive.
We are happy because we are still here. We have another day.
In this way, we are truly blessed.
“We share our good fortune. We open our hearts to those who might be suffering. We begin from the recognition that all beings cherish happiness and do not want suffering. It then becomes both morally wrong and pragmatically unwise to pursue only one’s own happiness oblivious to the feelings and aspirations of all others who surround us as members of the same human family. The wiser course is to think of others when pursuing our own happiness.” ~ The Dalai Lama
Burdens that are shared are half what they might have been.
Every day, I realize that I can choose to live in joy or I can choose not to.
So many of our experiences are colored by the way we choose to interpret our circumstances. Perception = reality.
So, even in these troubled times, where half the world is convinced the world’s about to end, we can still be happy. We can still spread joy and gladness. We can still foster change and support those whose difficulties are making their lives challenging.
We can hold someone’s hand. We can walk their dog or bake a cake or wash some dishes. We can get on our knees and pray for sweet relief.
“Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain.” ~ Helen Keller
When we are in pain, we can and should turn our attention to someone else’s suffering. We can help them grocery shop, weed, or clean. We can talk them down from the metaphorical ledges they may have staked out inside their minds.
I recently helped my mom program phone numbers into her cell phone, clean out her email account, and download books to her Kindle. All of these things seem relatively simple to me, but to someone nearing 80, my help allowed her to relax, to settle into her day, and to stop worrying about things that had frustrated her for months. Doing these small things for her took me very little time, and it made her so happy.
I guess the message is to remember that we are fragile. We all need each other.
We are ephemeral, mortal beings.
The time to be happy is now.
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