Happiness is what we’re good at…
Sometimes I look out at the world which humans have sculpted, excavated, planted, drilled, bull-dozed, landscaped, cultivated, and I wonder what is it that humans are really good at on this Earth?
Cheetahs are good at running fast. Mice are good at hiding and squeezing through unbelievably tiny spaces. Swallows are good at catching bugs in the air while Rufous Hummingbirds can migrate LONG distances and remember where their food sources are along the way. Dogs are loyal and protective while cats are… well… cats are good at being cats.
What about humans? In what domain are we uniquely qualified? After all, there are 7 or 8 billion of us; surely we’re good at something. Recent accounts would suggest that it ain’t driving since a semi-truck side-swiped me on the freeway a few weeks ago and tore off the passenger side mirror from my car. And it’s not cooking. Ask my husband. Some people are good mechanics or artists or chess players or scientists, but not all of us are. Is there something we, as a species, are generally good at?
Despite our differences around the globe, we have a lot in common. A few basic things rise to the top.
#1 We want to be happy.
#2 We want to be free of suffering.
Reflect upon your own desire to be happy; is that something you learned in third grade, or is that something hard-wired into your system? I think we have some valid research now to suggest that we function better when we’re not so stressed or in pain. I am willing to go out on a limb and suggest that our default is joy. Our prime directive is contentment, peace, serenity. Happiness.
I’m pretty sure, by and large, nobody smiles with satisfaction when they have had a lousy frustrating day. It’s just not our nature. And there it is.
Sure, we get some zany ideas about how to go about being happy, but at the end of the day, I look back and ask myself, “Was this a good day? Did I experience joy? Peace? Awe? Contentment? Some kind of connection within?” or is there a lingering disturbance, frustration, sense of overwhelm… some form of suffering? My hope is for more of the former and then reflect, “What could I learn from today to help me feel more joy and less pain tomorrow?”
One doesn’t have to be a millionaire or a famous person to be happy. Simply take inventory of your basic good qualities… you can see, hear, feel, taste, smell… you can be kind, you can appreciate and be grateful, you can learn. And…yes, you can be happy. That source is within each of us, and it can be cultivated.
Of course, there’s a roller coaster that challenges us or rather an entire theme park with hundreds of forms of chaotic excitement. Sometimes it’s difficult to be here. Some days you get an “E Ticket” ride with huge ups and downs and go arounds. This should not be confused with innate joy. The roller coaster is an adrenalin rush. Excitement and joy are different. Probably excitement and fear have more in common.
Thankfully, we have tools to help us walk away from the theme park. Mindful movement, yoga, working with your breath can be both a gateway and transportation out of the chaos and back to that inner realm where unshakeable peace and innate joy reside.
The mind thinks, “Oh, an ice-cream would make me happy or perhaps a movie or a music concert or dance”. While there may be some short term relief, external happiness is pretty fleeting.
“…of all the things that we do in our lives to feel good, peace makes us feel the best. Contentment makes us feel the best. There are many things in this world that have strings attached. Contentment doesn’t. Peace doesn’t.”
And for no extra charge, when we’re in that place of steadiness and ease, we can be like a lighthouse in a storm offering safe harbor to those caught in the waves of stormy seas.
So yoga is more than just releasing tension in the shoulders or hamstrings; it’s a lighthouse in the storm beckoning you to return Home, and in so doing, you can extend a light out to others.
True joy is innate; it’s unshakeable and ever-present. Just because the clouds may be obscuring the sun, doesn’t mean the sun isn’t up there shining.
Of all the gifts and tiny talents we have, the ability to experience joy and gratitude, contentment and compassion are best.
Happiness is what humans are good at…it’s our nature.