What Stops Us From Feeling Happy More of the Time?

Note: this is the first of a two-part series.

When was the last time you can remember walking around with a smile on your face, a laugh in your belly, at lightness in your heart and a sense of exuberance at the sheer wonder of being alive?

There is so much that seems to be weighing us down that lightness and fun are missing elements in many people’s lives.  Just look around.  Business is serious.  Sports are serious.  Relationships are serious.  Parenting is serious.  Even food has become serious.

We worry about the preparations for our outdoor party as we concern ourselves with the weather.  We don’t enjoy the miracle of our children’s growth as we worry about how they will turn out.  We don’t enjoy the abundance we have in our lives as we worry about the future—of our health, careers, relationships and our retirement accounts.  We diminish the present as we worry about the future.  In essence, we lose the freedom to soar that comes from enjoying the vast riches that life has to offer in the here and now.

What if you knew your life would work beautifully even if it rained the day of the party?  Even if your children didn’t turn out the way you hoped, even if you lost money in your investments.

Susan Jeffers, in the book End The Struggle and Dance With Life (St. Martins Griffin) talks about taking off on an airplane on a very cloudy day.  The plane climbed through the fog and dense cloud cover.  It was dark and gloomy and, to some, frightening.  At one point, the clouds began to lighten, and all of a sudden the plane burst into the glorious light of the sun.  She described that it was hard to believe that reaching a place of intense clarity and light was simply a matter of rising above the clouds.

Rising above the clouds is a metaphor for how many of us live—our refuse to live our lives.  Most of the time, we are immersed in fog and heaviness, not understanding that all we have to do is learn how to fly above the various clouds we inevitably encounter in our lives.

Jeffers suggests that most of us have an immense capacity for taking things for granted.  But when we take things for granted, we never get to see the magnitude of the gifts that are constantly being placed before us.  As a result, we feel only scarcity—instead of a feeling of abundance.  Taking things for granted is one of the greatest assaults on the quality of our lives.  Yes, the world is a mess.  Your life might be a mess.  And despite those facts, there is so much to be grateful for that it staggers the imagination.

The riches of the world envelope us, yet we cannot see.  Why?  We are in the habit of focusing on what is terrible about life and ignoring what is wonderful.  Our task, then, seems very simple—to stop focusing on what is terrible in life and begin focusing on what is wonderful.

How?  I will address that question in next week’s column.

“In the world to come, each of us will be called to account for all the good things God put on this earth which we refused to enjoy.”  —Talmud

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