There’s been increase in interest in happiness over the years. Is it related to demographics, to having more money rather than less? Is our happiness related to a sense of meaning and purpose? Is happiness a transient emotion? Is it a matter of perception? Alain de Botton writes in The Architecture of Happiness “(that) which we anoint with the word beautiful, alludes to a state that, on a psychological level, we can describe as mental health or happiness.”
Some research hypothesizes that happiness is linked to the content of our moment to moment experiences. For centuries, spiritual traditions and hermetic philosophy have affirmed that human happiness rests in the present moment. We really don’t have to go anywhere to find the truth of our happiness because it is contained within the core of our whole being. At this very moment. Our happiness is inherent within us all. Vanity Fair Managing editor, successful playwright, Congresswoman Clare Boothe Luce gave her her 18 year old daughter Ann this advice: “for the moment the main thing is to get what little happiness there is out of life in this war-torn world because these are the good old days, now.” A year later Ann, her only child, died in a car accident.
So “These are the good old days now.” Forget the “bucket lists” (a trite term I have always found leaves a clanging sound on the tongue, especially when most bucket lists appear more like silver platter lists) Live life now. Each moment of each precious day.
On Christmas Eve BBC’s Helen Fawkes discovered she had incurable ovarian cancer. She made a decision to live the life she had always wanted to experience and discovered that “these are the good old days now.” Helen’s “list for living” included getting a dog, moving to the countryside, exploring the ancient ruins in Rome, taking a speed boat down the Thames, having her book published, learning to play poker and seeing penguins in the South Pole. Externals which for Helen, hopefully brought her the happiness and fulfilment she was seeking.
Like happiness, what we hold dear to our hearts will be different for each one of us. It may take an act of will or the unlimited power of imagination to focus on the essentials and trim away the superfluous details that wallpaper the borders of our days. Turbulent emotions tear across our lives like tornadoes. They shatter our equilibrium and sense of calm. When we disengage from our addiction to melodrama and gossip, and treat ourselves with love and kindness we free ourselves of self-importance and the self-pity that clouds our contentment. When we focus on what is right, rather than on what is wrong, the world will mirror our state of consciousness. When we embrace change and let go, we live in the wonder of the unknown and release a spontaneous flow of Divine Intelligence into the material domain.
Psychologists purport that there are two essential human emotions: pleasure and pain and we respond to these through love or through fear. Love expands our energy field and fear contracts it so what we perceive as pleasure will be interpreted as happiness.
One way to bring our scattered thoughts to a midpoint of clarity is to imagine that an asteroid is hurtling towards our earth. All life on this planet will be irrevocably obliterated. What would be important then? What would define us? Foster Huntington reflected and defined what he truly loved and valued by imagining the scenario of a burning house. He collected a few precious things and photographed them. Then asked others to do the same. His beautiful book is titled “The Burning House”. It is filled with poignant photographs. A haiku that speaks of the uniqueness of our humanness and the vagaries of our selective perception of happiness.
So today, breathe consciously. Be deeply grateful for what you have right now. Be kind and gentle with yourself. Tell people you love them. And celebrate the important things in your life.
“These are the good old days now.”
Truly Madly Deeply – Savage Garden