A joyful life with gratitude

Someday, I'm going to be happy!

Yes, someday I will have all the things I want, all the money I want, all the time I want. I will be in the place I want to be, eating my favourite food with my favourite people and my favourite music will be playing. The weather will be perfect - not too cold and not too hot. The sun will be shining - not so bright that I have to squint but enough to be warming and lovely.

On that day, all the burdens I carry will be resolved. I will no longer feel a gaping hole in my worth as a person. I will no longer feel shame and guilt for everything I have done wrong. I will no longer have fear or worry for the future. Everyone will like me. No one will be angry with me. The mourning I feel for my mother and grandmother - the pain I feel for those who have been lost here - all this will vanish.

And then... on that remarkable day when all the negative things of my life have resolved and dissolved - yes - then, I will be happy.

On that day I will be happy - and my happiness will last for a few seconds - maybe a minute max... because something will change and I will not be able to hold onto that remarkably set of circumstances that made me happy.

And then I will be unhappy.

For everything to be perfect is not a practical recipe for living with joy.

 

 

There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life.

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant's house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. "How powerful that merchant must be!" thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter.

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. "How powerful that official is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a high official!"

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. "How powerful the sun is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the sun!"

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. "How powerful that storm cloud is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a cloud!"

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. "How powerful it is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be the wind!"

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. "How powerful that stone is!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a stone!" he thought. "I wish that I could be a stone!"

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. "What could be more powerful than I, the stone?" he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

We are taught by every advertisement and by our very culture that we will become happy when we have something more - something different. Happiness is always “out there” in the next date, the next holiday, the new smartphone, the great new film,  the automobile with the unbelievably powerful engine, comfortable seats, that - by the way - goes 200 miles on a litre of petrol.

I think we know that happiness is here like nuggets of gold between the stones of our lives. We know somehow that if only we could see the rich vein of joy we live above, we would live differently. We would live more in the present and less cravingly of the future and its promises.

That is what this month is about. #ThinkThanks means having appreciation for what is already here. #ThinkThanks means touching wonder for the what we have.

 

Mary Oliver is one of my favourite poets, and I love her especially for the way she reminds us of the beauty in the mundane - of the wonders in the everyday things we pass by without noticing, without appreciating, without falling in love.

"What did you notice?" She asks, and she describes with love and wonder the simple things around her - the simple things that viewed with appreciation and gratitude are great miracles

"What did you hear?"

"What did you admire?"

"What astonished you?"

"What would you like to see again?"

"What was most tender?"

"What was most wonderful?"

So often, we cannot appreciate what is around us until it is gone. We don’t notice the wonder of our bodies until - by illness, accident, or age, we lose some capability. A cancer patient undergoing chemotherapy loses her ability to taste food and she then realises the miracle of the flavour of food. Sweet, sour, bitter, savoury - it all seems like a miraculous dream to her now that it is gone.

Living with gratitude means learning to love what is around us - to see wonder and feel joy in the mundane things we take for granted.

Buddhism teaches to ask question’s like Mary Oliver's - it teaches us how to learn to watch the world with love - how to be grateful for this moment and everything in this moment. Suffering comes - teaches that great tradition - from grasping and clinging onto the illusions of what will make us happy. Happiness comes from learning to appreciate the wonders that are already here.

We can learn to ask ourselves Mary Oliver's questions. We can learn to love the life we have, rather than long painfully for the life we think we'll love.

We can learn to love what we've got before it's gone.