“I was complaining that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”
Many Buddhist teachings postulate that the root of all suffering is to want and long for that you do not possess. Following this train of thought – why do we not reverse the dynamic and direct our energy into appreciation of what we already have. Is this not the key to happiness?
Funeral or Celebration?
Have you ever met a person that is so unnaturally happy, even though his or her life is crashing down around them, and wondered what is wrong with them? Are they faking it? Are they putting on a mask? They are probably in shock? Or are they genuinely happy against all odds?
I have had people question these things about me, even though I do not consider myself to be unlucky at all.
Yes, like many others, I have experience the heartbreaking loss of people I love dearly. It hurts and leaves a permanent scar. There is no other way to describe it. Even though you know everyone and everything will die, it still hurts.
But like I delivered it in my speech on the funeral after carrying a coffin with a loved one to the altar, I will say so again:
Those that say you are unlucky for losing a person you love, have it completely backwards. You are lucky, to have had the privilege of having such a great person enter and leave your life.
In a twisted way, I believe any great funeral should be a celebration.
This is not a denial of emotion, or some esoteric strength of character only a select few can posses. It is simply the power of gratitude. This life and the universe owes you nothing. Everything you have, will have and will lose is a gift completely out of your control.
The Parent of all Virtues
Gratitude, in my view, is the antidote to suffering and the key to happiness.
It dispels negativity and invites positivity.
When feeling gratitude, you cannot be angry.
When feeling gratitude, you cannot be sad.
When feeling gratitude, happiness follows naturally.
Gratitude is about focusing on the positive and inviting and nourishing the positive into your life. After all, your life is completely what you focus on. It is a popular topic for many philosophers and religions, and according to Cicero, it was not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.
In fact, no matter how much goals, material possessions or achievements you gather in your life – if you do not feel gratitude for any of them – they are essentially worthless in terms of your overall happiness.
Conversely, if you feel intense gratitude for the things you do have – right now – how can you ever suffer?
And there are so infinitely many things to be grateful for if you simply open your heart for it.
Just some examples of things I felt grateful for in the past couple of days:
- Having the ability to travel Europe without a care in the world with my best friend, enjoying every single moment of it.
- Each subsequent breath while I was breathlessly hiking up a mountain.
- Having had a brother so great and wonderful that I still feel intense grief over his loss after years.
- Having so many wonderful and lovely people that wish to be with me enter my life, that I feel forced to disappoint some of them by focusing my attention only on a select few.
- Having the ability to taste the orgasmic sensations of a chocolate bar in my mouth.
- The refreshing deluge of water from clattering rain after a long day.
- The privilege of being born in a wealthy country that allows me to shower under hot water for an hour straight without worry for my survival.
- A surprise call bringing a new deal offering for my business dealings.
- The unconditionally loving touch of my pet’s wet nose.
- And so infinitely many more others, too much to write here ..
Just the past couple of days!
Notice how all these things I felt gratitude for are essentially gifted to me completely out of my control. Whether you believe in a creator or nature – these wonderful gifts did not originate from your labor. They are simply there. No work is required to appreciate them other than the ability to notice them mindfully and letting the gratitude flow from your heart.
Happiness is free. You simply need to embrace it and let it in.
However, for some reason unknown to me, most of us (including myself) start life with the inability to truly appreciate and grasp these complimentary handouts of happiness.
Like all virtues, gratitude must be trained and cultivated. And I consider this to be perhaps the most worthy endeavor that anyone can undertake.
Allow me to propose a method.
On your quest for finding gratitude in all things, consider creating a gratitude journal, and making it a task to write a new entry in this journal every single day. In the shower, before bed or during dinner, consider an aspect in your day that you are grateful for. Find something new and unique to write in the journal every day.
As you grow in your ability to feel gratitude, start to challenge yourself and focus the search for gratitude in those areas in your life that bring you suffering, grief or anger. Realize how even these negative emotions only occur because you experienced something beautiful in the first place, or be thankful for how they give you growth as a person.
And over time, you will even experience gratitude for feeling gratitude.
The well of happiness will have become infinite.