There is a Zen proverb that says that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When it comes being happy, I have been surrounded by numerous teachers for years, all of them practically shouting and shaking me by the shoulders to try to get me to improve my work-life balance. “They don’t understand, it’s part of the job”, I would think. “These are urgent jobs… I can’t say no!” The result is that I work 10 hours every day, don’t get enough exercise and miss out on things that I would really enjoy.
However, it has to be the right teacher that comes along, not just any old teacher. Last night before I went to sleep I watched a documentary. After surfing through the documentaries on Netflix I certainly didn’t want to watch anything horrible about prisons, crime or war that would give me bad dreams, so I picked one called “Happy!” I am so glad that I did. It made me think about life, happiness and what really matters and I have woken up, on the first real working day of 2016, with new enthusiasm to make changes.
On my many travels around the world I have often asked myself how the people I have seen living in such abject poverty in India and Africa accept their circumstances and, even more amazingly, seem to smile and be happy when I, a privileged European with a job, a house, lots of friends and a lovely family, spend so much time worrying and stressed out.
“Happy!” sets out to address this puzzle, and although I already knew most of what they said, it is a wonderfully inspirational illustration of those principles. It shows the benefits of being grateful for what we have, for meditating on what matters and creating a state of loving kindness in our minds. The beauty of altruism and generosity to others. The fact is that those of us who belong to close communities and have friends and family are far happier than those of us who do not. Money and material possessions are nice, but once our basic needs are met then they should not be a major reason for doing things. The importance of spending our time wisely and of achieving the almost trance-like state I have experienced when painting, writing and even cooking.
This year I’m going to intentionally do things to make myself happier. I’m going to visit my family more often. I’m going to switch off my computer and go for more walks with my dogs. I’m going to earn less money and spend what I have more wisely. I’m going to be kinder to everyone, including myself.
For more information about the documentary see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1613092/
Happy New Year!