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     Volume 7 Issue 31 | August 1, 2008 |

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In Pursuit of Happiness

Sanjida Khan

Consider the case of a Kentucky couple that won $34 million in 2000. Thrilled to be released from the demands of their boring old jobs, they frittered their fortune away on fancy cars, mansions--losing everything that mattered in the process. They divorced, he died of an alcohol-related illness, and she died alone in her new house just five years after cashing the winning ticket. When it comes to happiness, only people you love and vice versa can bring it. If you've enough dough to buy yourself a luxurious yacht, but no real friends to sail with, you're sunk.

What do you want? A great job? A fulfilling relationship? Go sailing around the Pacific for a few years in your very own luxurious boat? Or just to get along better with yourself? Perhaps you want one of more of those things. But beneath those and many common wishes, if you take it a step further, often lies a wish to find happiness. Your choices control much of how much happiness you will find in your life. Focus on the present, not yesterday or tomorrow. When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us. Yesterday is a memory and you cannot change it. Tomorrow is just a fantasy in your mind right now. So live more in the now, focus on the present moment and today. Otherwise you might miss a great deal of happiness that is available to you right now.

There's no denying the fact, “man is fond of counting his troubles, but he does not count his joys. If he counted them up, as he ought to, he would see that every lot has enough happiness provided for it.” Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared. It's been rightly said by Mark Twain, “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Don't paralyze yourself through over analysis.

For most of us, early childhood was a time of rapturous happiness. Everywhere we looked were fresh new sights and experiences. Life made powerful impressions on us. We lived in the moment with each new experience, neither judging it against the past, because we didn't have much past to judge against, nor trying to build a future on it. We had little sense of time passing, and we lived in each moment that presented itself, happily and fully. We were less self-aware, and our thoughts were turned outward. It is that experiential sense of life that we want to recover that brings happiness with it.

Listen to your inner voice. Practice positive thinking. Look for the good in the moment. Optimism, hopefulness, curiosity and gratitude are part of the basket of emotions that makes up happiness. Don't take your life for granted. Setbacks are also part of life. Don't be hard on yourself. Give your time and your caring. Volunteer for a cause that you care about. Be curious about life. Be inquisitive. Watch a tree in the wind. Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open. Remember, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone.”

Our materialistic society has led us to believe that happiness cannot be obtained without having money. We learn from advertising, and from the media, that we need to buy trinkets and toys in order to make ourselves happy, or to fulfill emotional needs, and that the purchases they are trying to talk us into will provide us with the psychological comfort we are looking for. We end up owning something we either do not really want or do not really need, and the underlying emotional issues remain. We must realize not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts...

True happiness is much more than a smile on your face. It's a way of looking at the world. Let's say you lock yourself out of the house. If you're happy, experts explain, you won't scold yourself, kick the door, and fret that your day is ruined. Instead, you'll spring into action. You'll make a mental list of neighbors or friends who have a spare key, or you'll call a locksmith. As you wait for help to arrive, you'll use the newfound free time to read the paper on your doorstep or enjoy a cup of tea at the cafe down the street. Happy people are far more focused on the little victories and miracles than the problems.

The realities of modern life normally keep us buzzing with distracting mental chatter. Quiet time allows us to cut through that noise to find out what really matters to us. Perhaps rubbing cocoa butter on your belly in a hammock while you listen to waves rhythmically lapping against the deck of your thatched-roof bungalow? Sounds nice.

Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard's rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment - a little makes the way of the best happiness. As people spin faster and faster in the pursuit of mere personal happiness, they become exhausted in the futile effort of chasing themselves. Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you. If you ever find happiness by hunting for it, you will find it, as the old woman did find her lost spectacles, safe on her own nose all the time!

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