Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How to be Happy

It is a hallmark of being human that we constantly desire to be happy. And it is a common misconception that happiness is something that "just happens" - such as happiness just happens when I fulfill all my desires; or happiness just happens when I get my way.

The truth of the matter is that happiness is cultivated, encouraged to grow. There are several key nutrients that make happiness flourish.
First - letting go.
If we hang on to every little wrinkle of what is wrong or what didn't go right, we become overwhelmed with the impossibility of things actually going right. Letting go allows us to have the bigger goal in mind - where are we headed, why do we want to get there, who can help us, does anyone get hurt in the process. Hanging on to the details is like micro-managing. Letting go is leading with vision.
Second - use leverage not force.
If we want to be happy, we need to encourage others around us to be happy. There is a teaching story that illustrates, a kind of catch-more-flies-with-honey: The North Wind and the sun got into a competetive spirit and decided to find out who was better. The look around and see a man with a coat on. "First to get the man's coat off wins!" says the North Wind. "You're on!" replies the sun. So the North Wind blows, and blows on the man, to blow the coat right off! The man responds by pulling his coat tighter around him, struggling to get out of the wind as fast as possible. Again and again, gusts of wind rain down on him, and again and again he grits his teeth and pulls his coat tighter. "Bah! My turn!" says the Sun. With gentle benevolence, the Sun beams his light through the clouds... and slowly looking around him with joy, the man takes his jacket off, hangs it on his arms and whistles a happy tune.
Look around you at the effect you have on others. Do they grit their teeth and run from your presence as soon as possible? Or do they bask in the warmth of your presence, the gentleness of your asking? Experiment with different ways of "getting your way" and report back to me the difference!
Third - appreciate the 95%.
The key word here is to appreciate. The mind is a problem-solving machine - that is it's main function. If we only listing to the mind, then we go about living as if everything is a problem. Well, the same problems can be seen as challenges, or better yet, as adventures! Learning anything new is an adventure into territory never encountered before - or else you wouldn't be learning anything!
But more than a set of problems, life is also love, and intimacy, and the joy of receiving help and the joy of being useful. These things actually comprise the 95% of life that we miss when we only focus on the problem at hand.
Take time to smell the roses! Slow down. Don't let your fear drive you, let your joy guide you!
A Few Final Words
Keep working on these three things and you will see with time happiness automatically grows. It isn't a "just-won-the-lottery" sort of happiness - this is a deep-abiding, lasting satisfaction that gives meaning and joy to living. This is the heart of being alive. This is where spirituality starts, the place where the soul comes alive. Enjoy wtih your journey, and remember to smile!

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