I am lucky. I have quite a few things going for me. I am healthy. I am employed. I have a hobby which I have begun to turn into a paying business. I have a beautiful wife and two beautiful children. My path has also been crossed by a number of individuals who have left their footprints in my life. It is important to remind myself of the importance of allowing such people into our lives. I do not know all of the answers. I need help as does everyone. I am willing to ask and am grateful when I have someone in my life who is willing to help.
I have a patient with whom I provide counseling. He is 85 years young. I say “young” not as a cliché but because he deserves to have that particular word follow his age. He continues to teach himself to play several musical instruments and continues to teach two dance classes every week. He also has cancer.
I have seen very little hold this man back. We have some of the most interesting conversations. I think it is safe to say I have learned more from him than he has me during our year-long relationship.
I find it interesting that many of us complain throughout the day about the things which we cannot control. “It’s too hot.” “It’s too cold.” I could easily go on and on. I too am guilty of complaining. If I am particularly resourceful that day I catch myself and think of this patient. I often find it necessary to remind myself of the energy which is wasted by complaining.
Over the years I have read several books about “happiness.” I do not know the secrets to happiness but if I have learned one thing over the decades I have graced this earth, I have learned that happiness is not something to be found by searching in books. Happiness must be found within ourselves. It is in the things we do each day. It is in the attitude which we have when we face difficult times. It is often found in the simplest of times. I recall when I was a small boy sitting with my dad in our backyard. Night was upon us and we were enjoying nothing more than each other’s company. Without looking at me and speaking to no one in particular, my dad said, “I wonder what the poor people are doing right now.” I had to ask what he meant and when he explained his comment he also explained it wasn’t about the “amount of money you had or how many material possessions you could count among your possessions, it was the simple things in life.” My dad said to me, “We are all healthy. I have a job and we have a roof over our heads.” I thought about this for some time and found myself smiling. Internally I asked myself, “Is that it? I mean is that all there really is to it?” I thought about this as I walked my daily paper route. One day as I was walking a smile simply crossed my face. I had few material possessions beyond those which I needed and I was happy. I had a family who loved and cared about me. I was happy!
A Buddhist monk from Vietnam, Thich Nhat Hahn said, “When you hug a loved one, breathing in, you can say, “I know my loved one is alive,” and breathing out, “I’m so happy we’re alive.”
My father grew during the depression. He watched as his father worked multiple jobs to feed his family. When I think of my father I am reminded of this comment by Vinny Ferraro. Mr. Ferraro said, “The Buddha taught that freedom is going beyond conditions. For me, the people who have been through the harshest conditions—and survived—have the greatest potential to transform the madness of their lives. See, that madness made them who they are. So if they can take that madness, claim it, and stand on top of its incredible energy, they can transform it into power.”
A quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson that I particularly enjoy is one which, I think embodies the persistence taught to me by my father. Emerson said, “The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”
Look inside yourself and ask yourself how truly happy you are. When you become stuck strip away the expensive clothing, the false friends and the other material possessions by which you have identified your own happiness and see if your true definition of happiness does not spring forth like water from a geyser. True happiness is what you make of it.