I’ve been thinking a lot lately that we’ve become a culture adverse to feeling down or unhappy. You’ve probably seen this in your own daily life. How many people do you think fib to you each day when asked “how are you?” If you’ve ever stopped to notice you’ll probably remember someone recently who just didn’t seem okay even when they answered “it’s all good”.
But sometimes friends, it’s just not all good. Sometimes there are real tragedies and real heartache and real difficulties that we’re experiencing. And that’s not all good. That’s sad, depressing, anxiety inducing or even just lumpy. Sometimes life is lumpy and that’s okay. In this post I want to try and give you some ways for you to experience how to be happy in life.
The answer to how to be happy in life, is the same answer to how to change your life. And the answer to those questions is to a very large degree contained within the question how to help people.
And perhaps the best way to be of help to people is to offer them a place of acceptance. Because sometimes things just don’t go well for you. And putting on a brave face, or a stiff upper lip as the Brits would say might seem courageous but I’d rather suggest that it is disingenuous. But I understand, society puts a lot of pressure on us to always be happy. We and our children are being drugged into a stupor of artificial ambivalence that we mistake for contentment or even worse… happiness.
So if you want to be happy with life then I’d ask you to first learn how to help other people. And the first thing we can offer them is safe harbour. A safe harbour is a shelter from the storm and that storm can often be their own personal turmoil, but it can also oftentimes be the storm of judgement and unacceptance.
Offer someone just a moment of your time. A moment to fully accept the reality of their situation and the ability to explore than honestly and openly with you. We don’t necessarily need answers from you. Just some non-judging empathy.
Children are wonderful at this. They can so freely give of their emotions and release their feelings. Not always appropriately but that’s a different story. Yet we grow up putting a cork on the colourful bottle of life’s emotional vibrancy. Perhaps this is to a degree why we are so stressed and overweight and unhappy. Because we think we’ve got to pretend that it’s all good all of the time. And it’s just not.
This is not to suggest that we should dwell and bathe in life’s lemons. Not at all, but it is to suggest that without allowing ourselves honesty with our feelings, we’re misleading ourselves and others.
If you want to know how to be happy with your life you’ve first got to accept that life isn’t always about happiness. And when I say to be happy with life it is more of a contentment that comes from a deep and honest understanding of this journey. Happiness can only be experienced by having known it’s opposite. Sadness and sorrow is just as valid as happiness and joy. The 2 are just different sides of the same coin.
But if you can come to an understanding that all things pass, that sorrow and joy are a tag team where the one rests while the other toils you will be well on your way to a deep and abiding contentment about life. And at its essence I think this is what the Buddha was trying to teach us. You can learn how to make your life happy if you can learn to allow some sadness in.
If you can open the door of your heart and soul to sadness and allow this forlorn, travel weary companion to come in and sit with you for a while, you my friends will be on your way to a life full of riches. The kind of richness that the Buddha spoke about. You will have come to understand that sadness and happiness are companions and sometimes the one carries the other. And if you are in touch with your soul in this mad, mad world you will feel anguish and sorrow. But through that pain you will be able to fuel the brightness of your own soul like a thousand candles burning brightly in the darkest night.
And that bit of light can light up the whole world and fill you to brimming with joy. For it is the spark that can set the world ablaze and bring the warm light into the darker parts of others. And when you’re helping people and burning up that pain into a bright ball of light you’re bringing joy to the world and that joy is contagious and spreads like wildfire within and without.
So if you want to know how to be happy in life and you’re not feeling at this moment. Perhaps you feel the pain is an unbearable burden, do me a favour my friend and try this out. Reach out to help someone. See if you can’t help lift someone else’s burden. You’ll be surprised at how much lighter your own pain seems to get.
Visit an old folk’s home and listen to their stories. Visit an orphanage and read children stories. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. There are millions of options to reach out and help others. The world is in desperate need of your help and it offers the keys to the kingdom of happiness. Tell me if you don’t feel a deeper joy or happiness in your own heart when you’ve reached out to help another.