The purpose of our lives is to be happy.
– Dalai Lama
It’s a new year and while there is much to be grateful for, there is also a collective fear in the air as wars wage on, ecosystems continue to deteriorate, and inequality grows. If the purpose of life is, as the Dali Lama says, to be happy, we seem to be missing the mark. But, what if happiness had nothing to do with our possessions, outer circumstances or even our challenges? What if it was an inside job? There is increasing scientific and spiritual evidence that we can cultivate joy and happiness by developing presence, perception and practice. There is also indication that joy and happiness are contagious and might very well bring about the shift in direction towards a more life sustaining way of living and being on the earth.
As a journalist and researcher I have a tendency to read a lot of scary material about what is happening in the world. My radio show, teaching, consulting and workshops come out of my commitment to make the world a better place – to inform, inspire and support the revolution in consciousness towards a more sane, humane and just world. Recently I realized that I had a belief that with so much pain and suffering in the world it would be arrogant and self-centered for me to be happy. But wait, there’s so much beauty and goodness in the world. Could it be that recognizing and embracing the beauty and joy that surrounds us, pain and suffering could be alleviated? I had fallen into the media trap of focusing only on what isn’t working when there is so much to celebrate and be grateful for in our world.
Our joy and happiness is up to us. Our suffering or well-being is not solely determined by what’s happening in our present circumstances but to a large degree by our relationship with what is happening.
– James Baraz
Christine Price, my Gestalt meditation teacher often used the quote, “pain is inevitable, but suffering is a choice.” But, can we really choose to be happy and joyful? We are bombarded with negativity in our culture. Newspaper editors have a phrase, “if it bleeds, it leads.” Advertisers use our feelings of inadequacy to sell us their products. Our culture encourages self-indulgence and competition over cooperation and reflection in myriad ways. What if our children were raised to put happiness above “winning” and joyfulness was the measure of our success?
So what does presence have to do with choice? Most of us spend very little time during our days being present. We are either driven by our past experiences or concerned over our imagined future. These mental states of denial of the now are what constitute the voices in our head, limiting our happiness. We could continue to live as an expression of our egos, or be present, here and now. This is the first step towards choosing happiness and joy in our lives.
The past perpetuates itself through lack of presence. The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future.
– Eckhart Tolle
Being present with what is happening moment to moment is a practice. As any meditator knows, the mind is a busy place. It’s like grand central station and there is a new train leaving every minute. The trick is to not get on board! We can choose to stay beside the track and watch the train go by. As the thoughts pass through, we can put our attention on our body sensations, feeling emotions, and focus our awareness on what’s happening in the moment. We can focus our attention on looking for the beauty, love and joy that surrounds us. We can choose to find joy even in the most difficult of times. This is the secret of the sages and why we so often see them smiling, even laughing. It’s not that they don’t see the tragedy, the suffering and the challenges of life. They just don’t dwell in them and instead focus on the beauty, joy and wonder of life itself. Being happy and joyful is something we cultivate by looking for it.
Since the beginning of history focusing on the breath has been a way to slow down the chatter and become more mindful, more present. When we slow down and observe what is happening in our mind and body a whole new world of possibility and perception opens up. We come alive and we have the opportunity to make a real choice. It is only from this place that we can choose authentic happiness. Every day when we wake up we can choose life, happiness and joy. We can choose to not deny our humanity and circumstances but to embrace them inside of the joy of just being alive.
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.
– Viktor E. Frankl
When we choose joy our hearts open, we feel an expanded sense of connection with others and the web of life. We have challenges, but we know we are not our circumstances. We are so much bigger than that! Shamans know the importance of honoring the spirit of the elements and receiving the unseen guidance of the Spirit world and power of nature. Our breath connects us with the spirit of air, our body is the clay that dances with the spirit of the earth, our tears are from the water from which we came and connect us to our compassion and the cycles of life and our passion is the fire that comes from the sun and gives us light and life. Let’s be thankful for the life we have been given and celebrate. We are so much grander when we are joyfully grateful and our life resonates with life itself.
It is possible that by stepping fully into the joy of being human we could ignite a fire in the hearts of every person we touch. You know people like this, people you just want to be around because they are over flowing with joy and happiness and it’s contagious. Think of a world gone mad with joy, happiness and celebration. How beautiful life could be if we focused our attention on bringing more joy into the world… I invite you to join me in practicing the cultivation of joy in your life and bringing your happiness out into the world. Let’s have a joy-filled coming out party. Let’s dance and sing to the beauty that surrounds us. Let’s be joyful for the world and the future generations… Know that our joy has the potential to transform the world!
With love and joyful blessings,
We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.
When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.