Finding Greater Happiness
“To be kind, honest and have positive thoughts; to forgive those who harm us and treat everyone as a friend; to help those who are suffering and never to consider ourselves superior to anyone else: even if this advice seems rather simplistic, make the effort of seeing whether by following it you can find greater happiness.”
― Dalai Lama XIV
For many of us, adding another big project into our already busy days seems an impossible task. Make no mistake, cultivating greater happiness is a commitment. In some ways, working towards a change in our mind requires the same effort as a change in our bodies. Just as sweet as the results of going to the gym regularly, the rewards for going on the quest for greater happiness are immense.
In a world where we are offered a dazzling array of goods and services by way of the internet, we might be fooled into thinking that increasing personal happiness is easy to achieve. Why is it not a click away? Surely we would be happier with that next purchase which has clearly made that person on social media so joyous. Yet, by falling into the trap of consumption driven by comparison, we are not moving closer to our own happiness.
The occasion was a big birthday. And it inspired two close friends to get together in Dharamsala for a talk about something very important to them. The friends were His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The subject was joy. Both winners of the Nobel Prize, both great spiritual masters and moral leaders of our time, they are also known for being among the most infectiously happy people on the planet.
― The Book of Joy. Lasting Happiness in a Changing World. By Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams
You might think that spiritual leaders have a fast track towards achieving greater happiness. In some ways you would be correct. But everyone lives through heartbreak, tragedy, sacrifice, and loss. These are fundamental human experiences and nobody gets a shortcut through it. The trick is building resilience so that the journey through hard times doesn’t completely cause a derailment.
What I found even more interesting than the friendship described in ‘The Book of Joy‘, is the fact that these two men come from opposite spiritual doctrines. In our modern world they should not be friends. If you look at the storm of polarization we have been experiencing of late, these men should hate each other. Instead, peeling back the layers of their friendship shows all the ingredients for what we need to be nicer to each other and ultimately to find happiness within ourselves.
I picked up ‘The Book of Joy’, as we left Cape Town heading for Casablanca, as part of our around the world trip. I had tried to read a book related to the locations we visited for longer periods. By spending time in the place that Desmund Tutu has called home, I felt a deeper connection to the story of his life and friendship with the Dalai Lama. Both Cambodia and Bali had taught us much about Buddhism, a philosophy towards life which I find very compelling.
Instead of leaving South Africa feeling despondent for how dire the situation is for all the people living in the townships and settlements, I am hopeful for the future. As many organizations around the world turn their attention towards solving poverty, the last piece of freedom for the region will be attained. As it stands, endemic poverty is a roadblock to true freedom and equality.
Probably the most enduring legacy of our trip has been the ability to dive into our memories at a moments notice. We saw first hand what the water crisis was doing to Cape Town, we lived with the restrictions. Ironically it was also a glimpse into the lingering divide between the rich and the poor, the haves and have nots. For an untold number of people, getting water from a stand pipe and carrying it by hand is a fact of life and always has been. The water crisis did not bring a threat to their everyday conveniences.
By learning about how everyone lived in a place we visited, we were able to compare and contrast to our life back home. It deepened a sense of gratitude for everything we have in our life in Canada. Even though we live in a neighbourhood where our home is one of the smallest, oldest and most modest, we realized just how good we have it on a world stage. Whenever we feel hard done by we only have to call up one of the images from various places on our trip. That is a good kick in the pants.
Our natural tendency is to compare upwards. We look at people with more money, nicer cars and homes and covet what they have. Even for the more evolved people who are able to compare themselves to those with less, it is still a useless exercise if we are not able to look inwards and be grateful. It is the ability to recognize the myriad of ways in which we are fortunate that will elevate feelings of joy and happiness. If we are to give weight to our thoughts, why not focus on those which are positive?
This idea of gratitude is but one way to achieve a greater amount of happiness. There are so many more, as evidenced by these articles:
- It’s a Three-Peat, Finland Keeps Top Spot as Happiest Country in World
- How you think about money can impact how happy you are in life, study says
- How Much Leisure Time Do the Happiest People Have?
- Cultivating Happiness
- 8 Daily Habits Of The Happiest People In The World
For more of my posts on ‘Emotions & Thoughts’, check out:
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