It has been a while since the last ‘blog’, and if I recall accurately, in Oct. 2019. Time has perhaps stood still for most of us since March 2020.
For some of us, we have found new ways to entertain ourselves – whether it’s online shopping (making Jeff Bezos even richer) or finding out that the simple pleasures that we have for so long taken for granted has renewed in us a sense of wonder. For others, we have embraced new routines and may not be ‘going back’ to the old ones. The world has changed for us and so have we changed.
On a personal note, my health has taken me on a few journeys on roads full of curves and switchbacks. It has been debilitating and I have struggled to practise one of the Four Sublime States of the Mind in Buddhist teaching – Equanimity (Uppekha in Pali, the language of the Buddhist scriptures): The ability to accept “what is” without resistance. Acceptance is not about passivity or giving in. Embracing acceptance merely gives us options to consider since we are no longer resisting.
There is a saying that goes: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”. This has been attributed to Viktor Frankl (author of Man’s Search for Meaning, holocaust survivor, neurologist and psychiatrist) or is a Buddhist saying, depending on where we look.
I added a third line: “Suffering equals our denial of/resistance to pain”.
Last week, I facilitated a workshop on Happiness and have been instantly reminded of the elements that I included where we can design our ‘happiness’ – Kindness, Gratitude, Contentment, Generosity and the Four Sublime States.
The Kindness Diaries (2015) by Leon Logothetis, who experienced a crisis of conscience, serves to remind us that there are people who often perform random acts of kindness without expecting reciprocity. A truly altruistic acts or, what psychologists call, pro-social behaviours. I prefer to call them Random Acts of Appreciation.
And of course, Gratitude includes appreciation. We often forget to be grateful for what we have whereas there are so many others who are grateful even when they have little or nothing. John F. Kennedy once said:
”As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
Eudaimonic (as opposed to hedonistic) happiness lies in contentment. Contentment is the knowledge that we have enough. Contentment means to be happy with what we have, who we are, and where we are. It is about respecting the reality of the present. It is appreciating what we do have and where we are in life. This is the most important element that I find solace from and inspiration for in my current battles with my health. I had mentioned t0 one of our kids that I am fed up of having one issue AFTER another, and then correcting myself that it’s one issue ON TOP of another. It may be that having worked in Mental Health for over 26 years (and still do as a casual group services clinician) is what’s sustaining my mental health !
The Book of Joy (2016) is also truly inspirational for me – five days with The Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu, two leading spiritual masters sharing their wisdom about living with joy even in the face of adversity, sharing personal stories and teachings about the science of profound happiness and the daily practices that anchor their emotional and spiritual lives.
Lastly, we have generosity – the virtue of giving good things to others freely and abundantly. I love the book: The International Bank of Bob (2013) by Bob Harris, an insight into the inspiring memoir of an ordinary American who turned his brief brush with opulence into a joyful adventure of investing in the world’s working poor.
The world of micro-credit and micro-financing was developed by Muhammad Yunus, a Bangladeshi economist who founded the Grameen (meaning village) Bank, and who subsequently was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006.
Let’s look beyond ourselves.
Maybe we are happy because we are grateful, kind, generous and contented; not the other way round.
I like to think that I am happy because I laugh, not that I laugh because I am happy.