by Santa Shaara
The recipe for happiness...
|The following was written at the request of someone who was forever depressed by life. Forgive me if it seems a lecture, but it is the philosophy of my life, and it is an explanation for why I always wear a smile. It is my hope that if you are feeling down, it will awaken you to the wonder of life. If you find among my thoughts just one that helps, then I have achieved my aim.
You have asked how one can maintain an optimistic perspective on life. How could you not?
Rise up in the morning and look outside. The sky is an array of melted crayons. If you are early enough, the colors are the dark ones: the blues, the purples, the blacks. Then, as you stand there watching, the colors meld, and the reds spread over the darks; oranges flow, and eventually, along come the quiet yellows.
With a sky like that, how can you not feel happiness bubbling up inside you? Listen to the sound of its music; it's a creek in the middle of the forest, gurgling with flowing waters. Inside it is the sweetness of chocolate, the smell of fresh bread. There is love and warmth, and the feel of the pillow against your head when you are tired . . .
High up in the trees, the birds are singing. Do you not hear them? Your soul can match their song if you let it. Join with them. Take wing as they soar into the colors of that tangerine sky.
But, perhaps you are not a morning person. Benjamin Franklin believed that it was impossible to rise up into the day and not feel the winds of promise, but humans vary in their likes and dislikes. Maybe, you choose a later time to come to life -- to stretch and inhale the scents of flowers and grasses. The gentle breeze that waves the tree limbs can coat your face with blessings at anytime of day, if only you will open your heart to feel it.
I have a rule, a soft rule -- one that is more habit than enforced decree. The moment of my awakening, before my feet touch the floor, my mind sorts through the coming day. What expectations do I have? What is there to greet with eagerness?
This habit is so strong in me that thoughts come flapping wings of joy before I take my first step or even open up my eyes. When you greet the day with such a scanner of anticipation, there will always be a prayer of thankfulness on your lips.
The kitty who sends forth her sweet good morning meow is another source of pleasure to me. When I rise, her softness rubs back and forth against my legs. She is as eager as I to praise the day. So simple is her joy -- she needs only my awakening. It is my presence alone that cheers her. She awaits no breakfast when I enter the kitchen; she has no need of my care. Only her contentment in seeing me brings forth that morning greeting. There is a lesson in such appreciation that we humans need to learn.
Many happy people have animals. The horse that neighs, the dog that wags its tail, even the tiny goldfish, who seems oblivious -- all of them can bring us cheer. Who has ever watched a puppy or kitten play and failed to laugh? Animals brighten our days. They improve our health.
But there are those who have allergies and cannot find their happiness in pets. The beauty of the sky, the hummingbird visiting its feeder, and the baby taking her first steps bring them no smile. Do not despair if you are one of them; there are other methods of finding peace within your soul.
There is music.
In this world of war, where angry words are tossed about like frisbees, there is a place where humanity has perfected teamwork. Composers have written, conductors have led, and groups of people as diverse and multi-lingual as the United Nations, all gather together and produce symphonies of sound.
No one looking at such orchestras could be without hope for the future of mankind because those musicians come together and want to be together in order to create something beautiful. No matter what your taste in music is, you must appreciate that such an arrangement will be heard throughout the world, and people who do not speak the same language or believe in the same things, will hear it, and that piece will communicate the essence of all that is grand and wonderful.
Each time I listen to music, I think those thoughts, and the melodies those musicians are playing, weave around me like the ribbons of a maypole, and I am caught inside it -- inside the magic of song. Whether you have the same love of classical music, as I do, or you find Country-Western to be your choice, or jazz or rap, or the music of romance -- that selection can take you to another land, to a place you can visit whenever you choose.
That freedom of choice, even on its own, can make me smile. What power we have to slide in a musical disk and select whatever we wish to hear. How fortunate we are, and what happiness that special tune can bring. A happy melody can lift you up with its helium of song.
I like to think that happy thoughts are like the treasures we keep in the pocket of our memory. We can pull them out and count them, listening to them, watching them, remembering them.
I keep scenes of redwood trees in my chest of jewels. The visions I have of soft, rusty-colored pathways underneath a sky of dark-green, pine-smelling branches bring me comfort. With my eyes closed, I can hear blue jays scolding. A deer, with her speckled fawn beside her, noses at some mushrooms, but quickly leaps away as a restless squirrel chatters down at her. Those scenes are real in the image of my mind. They send a smile of gratefulness that such bounty is mine to enjoy.
I carry also, a picture of me riding a horse along the waves in the sand. I am astride bareback, and I feel the horse's muscles clenching and loosening rhythmically with his stride. His mane flops in the breeze of his canter.
When I see that scene, the smell of ocean is in my nose, even as I sit in the dentist's chair. The spray of the waves clashes against my bare feet as the dentist drills. Even in such a disquieting place, I find happiness in viewing such memories.
It is powerful magic to have our individual collection of pleasant thoughts. We can savor them whenever we choose. Each one of us is truly prosperous with recollections, even if we are penniless, for all of those memories are free to browse whenever we wish.
I once read a story of the value of peeling onions. A good cry can make you feel much better was the theme. Perhaps, that is true, but I believe more strongly in the opposite. I love movies that bring me laughter. I love funny stories, jokes, and comics that are silly. Laughter heals. It makes the bubble of our inner happiness come alive.
Yet, I cannot spend every moment laughing. My stomach would hurt, and I would accomplish little. That is why I have chosen to befriend the smile. It accompanies me everywhere and attracts the grins of other people. Smiling people create optimism. Try it. Even a forced smile turns into the real thing when it becomes a habit.
I can imagine that by now you are thinking that I'm a dreadful liar. Perhaps you believe that no one has a life so perfect they do not encounter sorrow, pain, or disappointment. Of course, I do, and of course, I have. I am human; that is part of the definition of life -- the highs, the lows, and the placid, plodding in-betweens. But I am not a piece of clay that others may mold with their tempers. I have the right to happiness, and I insist on it.
A waterfowl ignores the rain. Worrying over the fall of heavy wetness will not prevent that rain from falling, and ducks and swans know that soon the showers will cease, and the sun will shine again. Water drips down into their pond abundantly, but the birds remain untouched by it.
We are not waterfowl, but we can learn from them. We can shower, or sing, or write (!!!) away the cold, dampness of disillusion. We can accept that our problems will fall in steady downpours. We can ignore the beat of them, allowing them to flow off our shoulders, like the water sliding off our feathered friends' backs. We can float above their stress in our own pond of contentment.
The Chinese say that if you want happiness you must plant a garden. Each time I look at a new blooming rose, I know they are right.
Have you ever really looked at a rose? The petals overlap like a velvet maze. If you were an ant you would be lost in their enfolding exquisiteness -- the gentle yellows, the rosy pinks, the deep crimson red. I have a rose bush with flowers that change colors as the blooms ripen. Its fragrance is not as sweet as the Peace rose, but each bud is a kaleidoscope of different hues of orange and gold.
Imagine living in a world without the colors of flowers and leaves. I give thanks to God (whatever name you give him) for roses and trees, and for the persimmon sky at dawn and sunset. I give thanks every moment and every day. How could we not be grateful for such wonder?
But I have stumbled from corner to corner, and still, I have not told you the direct route to happiness. That is because, I fear, that you will not believe me. You will scorn my knowledge of its path. Yet, I know with surety the answer for which you are seeking. The quiet of the morning has told me. My silent prayers to God, which comfort me -- they have told me. My meditations and memories of all things pleasant -- they also, have given me the truth.
If you try to guess it yourself, saying, "The route to happiness is love." I will not deny your statement. Yet, that is not the whole. Perhaps, you will add, "Happiness is thankfulness and prayers." Again, I will not reject your supposition. "Then what!" you may demand with full-voiced irritation.
I will tell you:
To be happy, you must bring happiness to others.
It is such a simple truth. Pet the cat, and she will purr. In doing so, both of you will know the warmth of contentment. It is thus, that happiness arrives in its perfect and complete circle of existence.
Giving without thought of return always brings its own reward. Pass on a kindness and that tenderness you feel at giving such a gift will thaw every bit of sadness inside your heart. When you are spreading cheer to others, you cannot be sad.
Now, you know the truth. Now you are armed with the treasures of life. Sample them.
Breathe in the wonder of this Earth; be thankful for music, laughter, the sky at dawn, the sound of the ocean, and God, who always listens. Be thankful you have Writing.Com to cherish your words and your thoughts, and to bring you new friends.
Remember that love is to be shared.
And never forget to bring happiness to others. For in so doing, that happiness will return to you, multiplied sweetly into serenity and peace.