Happiness requires something to do, something to love and something to hope for." A Swahili proverb.
An eternal truth: we are meant to be happy. Not fake happy, like when someone asks, "How are you?" and you respond "Good," but really mean something else but for the sake of social niceties, you say what you think others want to hear. The kind of happy that I am talking about can light up the sky, makes you glow, and brings joy to others! That is the kind of happiness that I think is accessible to each of us, each day, all day long.
During a trip to Israel this spring I was blessed to have met a Ud, an 80-something year old Holocaust survivor. He taught me a profound lesson on happiness.--that no matter what pain you have endured, you can be happy. The human spirit is tenacious, resilient, stubborn and somehow, someway, will find its way to joy.
Ud was just a child when he was imprisoned by the Nazis and "lived" in a concentration camp for three years before he was rescued by the end of the war near death. His entire family was killed, including he thought, his big brother who was imprisoned with him. I use quotes round the word lived because you can't call living what he did in three years amidst hate, death, loss, and violence. And yet, he survived and later, thrived. Ud moved to Israel after the war, fell in love, had children, and lived a full life. Decades later, he found out his brother was still alive in Poland but had converted to Catholicism. He'd not told a single person in his new family of his ordeal as a child or that he was a Jew. The two brother's eventually rekindled their relationship and were close before his older bother died.
As Ud shared his story I noticed that his eyes sparkled. Happiness lived in his heart. He glowed. Yes, he saw how grotesque and gruesome humans beings can be toward one another. But, he did not let those painful memories get in the way of his happiness. He had access to happiness and he took it. He also was filled with hope and purpose.
I asked him, how is it that he managed to find happiness after what he'd gone through? "Of course," he said. "Why not? It's better to be happy."
Three essentials to happy
The Swahili proverb points to three essentials that can bring us happiness:
You are special. You have a gift to share. You have a purpose.
Imagine waking up each day with an enthusiasm to get to work because what you do, whether it earns you a million or not much at all, is what makes you happy. Money is irrelevant and you would do this even if it did not earn you a penny. There are millions of people in the world who wake up each day feeling just like that. They are happy because they are living their dharma. Are you one of them? To express yourself authentically, however that expression comes out, in song, in gardening, in math, in food, in words, in service, is ultimately one of the ways that happiness will arrive and stay. Find your purpose, nurture your gift, share it with the world. Be happy.
Love--love someone, love many ones, love yourself, allow yourself to be loved
Love is all that matters. It's above all else. What ingredients does love have? Compassion. Kindness. Humor. Patience. Expansion. Sweetness. Joy. Find something to love, if you can't find a human being, seriously, go find a pet. I once interviewed a famous actress who said she became a mother of two human babies after adopting a dog. It was through loving her dog and the dog loving her back that she realized how deep love can be and how big her heart was. Adopt a tree. A cat. A river. A city pigeon. Something-- just shower that thing with all the ingredients of love. Watch love bounce back. Ultimately, this essential is about feeling connected to something other than you.
Have faith. Like Cornel West be a prisoner of hope. Besides love, I think hope is what keeps the world going.
Ud stayed hopeful that he would survive and he did! In the Buddhist bible there are many riddles. One of them asks, "What is the most amazing thing about human beings,?" I can think of many reasons that makes us amazing, but according to the sacred Buddhist text, it is that human beings act like they will live forever. That denial is based on faith. Faith is what we have when we have nothing else.
So, go get it this thing called happy. It's yours for keeps.