Deep, Abiding Joy

Deep, Abiding JoyThere didn’t have to be beauty.  A little wave of pleasure now and then would probably have been enough to keep things moving in the right direction.  You know, a little relief from the dullness and drudgery, the anxiety and stress.  A little bit of comfort, a tickle, a taste might have been all that was necessary.

But the world is strewn with beauty nevertheless.  Every corner of it.  It comes in endless hues and shapes and shades.

There didn’t have to be awe, or savoring, or exultation.  We probably could have moved forward with no bigger carrot than a hot, cooked meal and a warm, dry bed.

And yet wonder strikes us now and then so deeply that it takes our breath away.

Why should there be splendor?  Or tenderness enough to make our eyes well with tears?
Why symphonies?  Why poetry?  Why dance?

Why are we so moved by goodness?  Why do we yearn for truth?  What is this mystery in which we find ourselves?  And why do we seek to understand it?

Why is it at once so simple, and so grand?  And why do we feel such gratitude for the very fact of our being, and such deep, abiding joy?

What the Brook Sang

Simple GiftsI listened to the brook today, and it sang this little song . . .

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.

~Shaker Hymn

If you would like  to hear the melody, here’s one rendition I especially liked.  Or search for “Simple Gifts” at youtube.com and find one that pleases you.

And that’s my simple happiness gift to you today.  Enjoy!

Love Rocks

Love RocksAs I walked along the dry edges of the creek snapping photos, I found myself wondering what aspect of happiness I would write about tonight.  Then I looked down and laughed.

Right in front of me a heart shaped piece of blue, water-buffed glass rested on the rocks.  “Love; Rocks,” my brain labeled the scene.

Synchronicities are just so cool.

“Love rocks, hey?”  I said to myself.  “Can’t argue with that.”  Especially in spring, when all the earth’s critters – even the featherless two-legged kind – have romance on the brain.

Here’s to romance!  Here’s to the force that makes the world go ‘round.  Here’s to the birds and the bees.

Here’s to love’s toughness and strength, to its tenderness and generosity.  Here’s to the way it opens us up, letting us see the world through each other’s eyes.  Love rocks.

Love lifts us and comfort us.  It nurtures and corrects.  It forgives and heals us and inspires us to reach for our very highest selves.

Love lets us see the best in each other, and in ourselves.  It lets us tolerate each other  when we’re not too sure we like each other’s quirks and shortcomings.  “We like each other because,” the saying goes; “We love each other anyway.”  Love rocks.

Love delights and sparkles our lives.  It gives them depth and meaning.  It turns strangers into neighbors, and neighbors into friends, and friends into families and communities. It connects.  It supports.  It builds.

Love is the highest, truest thing we know, the most universal, the very stuff from which everything is made, the essence of life.  It sings itself through all that is.  It transcends time and space.

Love is in every gentle touch, every laugh, every smile, every word of gratitude and kindness, every gesture of giving.  It’s the basis for every virtue.  It’s what gives us courage and gives life zest.  Love rocks.

Open your spigots and let love flow.  Pour yourself a mug of it.  Splash some around.
The more of it you give away, the more of it you get.  And that is its miracle and magic.

Love rocks.

The Sweet Light of Happiness

The Sweet Light of HappinessA cold, steady rain washed down the windows, turning the outside world into a smear of gray.  It would have been a fine day for hunkering on the couch with an afghan, a movie, and a hot cup of tea.  But weekends are the only time I have to tackle tasks that take unbroken hours of concentration, so the tea and I plunked down at my desk instead.

As it turned out, it was a Murphy’s Law kind of day.  The unfamiliar software I was struggling to learn had the hiccups.  Both my pen and my printer ran out of ink.  And just as I started to make headway and get into the flow, my neighbor dropped in to chat.

It was late afternoon before I realized I still needed to pick up a few groceries, and that I hadn’t yet captured my photo-of-the-day for my photo project.  What on earth could I shoot in this dim light, with all the rain pelting down!  I grabbed my grocery list and camera and set out to see what I would find.

One thing my nine months of taking daily nature photos has taught me is that beauty isn’t dependent on weather or season or time of day.  Like happiness, it’s always there, just waiting to be recognized.  You simply have to clear the lens of your own perception to see it.  And you do that by letting go of your wanting things to be different than they are.  That’s the key.

As I tucked my wet grocery bags into my car, and turned on the windshield wipers to clear away the rain, a glimmer of white caught my eye from the parking lot of the hardware store on that far edge of the shopping center.  They had put their nursery stock out, and it included some kind of tree that seemed from the distance to be in blossom.  I drove over.

It turned out that every one of the blossoms on the young trees was damaged, the edges of the flowers wilted and brown.  They must have been caught in the freezing cold the last couple days brought us. But as I turned to leave, I saw a few pallets of flowers standing in front of the store’s doors.  Their bright colors called me, and although they were windblown, and many of the blooms were closed in their own version of holing up against the rain, some tiny white ones gave off a sweet light, and some of the pansies were gaily dancing.  I snapped a dozen shots and then noticed that I was broadly grinning.

As I drove home, the wet gray sky seemed pearly and luminous.  I noticed the subtle shades of spring green that began to paint the fields, and the faint glow of pink in the woods as the maple’s buds swelled with new growth.  How alive the world was!  How vibrant!

I think it was Emerson who once observed that the quality of light is always perfect, regardless of the time of day.  When you allow yourself to see things as they truly are, their beauty always shines through.  The sweet light of happiness shines every moment, unceasingly beaming its tender, relentless joy.  And it’s all ours for the taking, would we but let go of our wanting things to be other than they are.

Get Your Happiness Buzz On

Buzzing with Happiness.

Right this very moment, life is blooming everywhere.   Its shining waves sing themselves through the farthest imaginable edge of all creation, for they are creation, calling forth everything that exists.  And that’s a fact.  (Ask any quantum physicist.)

The only sensible thing to do is to dive right in.  Wallow in its pollen.  Let it splash all over you.

If perception creates, choose to see joy.

Life is a trip.  Get your happiness buzz on.

Beeeeeeeeee!  Wheeeeeee!

The Happiness of Renewal

The Happiness of RenewalSuddenly the roadside is strewn with tiny coltsfoot, as if Mother Nature had waltzed through with a hole in her pocket, dropping bright gold coins.

Gather a few.  Spend them on some new beginnings.  That’s what they symbolize after all—the season of fresh starts.

Dig out your dream-seeds.  Plan a new garden.  Renew your goals and the promises you made to yourself about moving toward the tomorrow stars that sparkle on the edges of your mind.  Anything is possible.  Make a fresh start.

It’s the season of renewal.  Breathe in its hope and gladness.  Feel the resilience of happiness springing anew in your heart.

“I can! I can!” sing the flowers.  Despite winter’s frozen night, the sun has returned to warm the nurturing soil.  Send down some new roots.  Push up some new shoots.  The whole of nature is conspiring for the growth and blossoming of your dreams.

The Happiness of Baby Steps

Baby StepsIn psychology it’s called “successive approximation” or “shaping.”   In business seminars across the world, it’s the popular Japanese technique of continuous improvement known as “kaizen.”   Except for the universe itself, which seems to have boomed into existence with one big bang, it’s the way most things grow.  Personally, I like to call the process “taking baby steps.”

I like “baby steps” for two reasons.  Well, okay, three.  First, it reminds me of playing the game “Mother May I?” when I was a kid.  Players had to ask the leader if they could take a ten baby steps toward the finish line.  If we remembered to use the phrase “Mother May I?” our request was granted.  If we took the steps without asking, we had to start over again.  Baby steps were carefully taken, little tiny steps, where one foot barely moved past the other.  Otherwise, you were cheating.  It was a fun game, and I associate the fun of it with taking really small steps.

Secondly, “baby steps” reminds me of the way real babies learn to walk.  Man!  Are they determined little critters!  Nothing discourages them.  One little bit at a time, they practice standing, balancing, moving one foot, getting up from the floor, balancing again, moving one foot, holding on, moving the other foot, letting go.  They just keep practicing and practicing and practicing until the whole complex process comes together and they’re out in the yard chasing the dog across the grass.

(And three, I like it just because babies are so doggone adorable that the mere mention of the word ‘baby’ makes me smile inside.)

“Inch by inch,” said Dr. Robert Schuller, “anything’s a cinch.”  “The journey of a thousand miles,” said Buddha “begins with a single step.”

I have a friend who has a list of a couple dozen things she wants to accomplish or master and every day she makes a check mark by the ones where she has made even the slightest move forward.  She calls it her kaizen list.  And over time, she accomplishes more than anyone I know.

Want to clean your bedroom?  Pick up a sock.  Want to demolish that heap of papers on your desk?  File one piece, or three, or throw one or two away.  Want to create an exercise routine?  Practice moving some part of you for two extra minutes every day.  Want to read more books?  Get one out and read a paragraph or page a day or during each TV commercial.

Nature paints whole landscapes by opening its buds one tiny millimeter at a time.  One straw at a time, a bird builds a nest.  One brick at a time, a man builds a cathedral.  One more smile each day, one more act of kindness, one more whisper of gratitude, and pretty soon, your positivity ratio has permanently tipped to the plus side.

It’s a great way to build your happiness practices.  Give it a try.

The Happiness of Magic Wishes: A Happiness Tale

Three Magical WishesSo there I was, sitting at the lake watching the swan when a flash of color caught my eye.  Looking down, I thought I had wakened inside a dream.  A tiny little guy who looked something like a cross between one of Snow White’s dwarfs and a leprechaun was walking along the shore dragging this Aladdin-like lamp behind him.  It was half his size and looked really heavy.  But he was grinning ear to ear.

I rubbed my eyes.  He was quite a mish-mash of metaphors, come to life.  He looked at me and laughed and it startled me.  “Hello!” he said.

“Hello,” I answered.  “Who are you?  And what are you doing here?”

“I’m John,” he said, “and I just got my lamp.”

“Um, that would be Johnny the Genie?” I said, trying not to roll my eyes.

“Right!  Cool lamp, hey?  Want to make three wishes?”

“And if I do, will you make them come true?” I asked, thinking I must have gone over the edge.

“Well, I’m just an apprentice, of course,” he said.  “And to tell you the truth, we don’t really make the wishes come true.”

“What’s with the lamp then?  And what do you do?” I asked.  This was getting more incredulous all the time.

“Well, see,” Johnny said, setting down his lamp and plunking down cross-legged beside me, “the lamp is just a prop.  It’s like a placebo.  You believe it has power and so it does.”

“What do you do, then?” I asked.

“I whisper,” the unlikely genie said.  “As soon as you make your wishes, I turn invisible.  But I follow you everywhere and keep whispering your wishes to you.  That keeps you looking for them.  And you know—what you believe in and look for has a way of showing up.”  He giggled.

“Of course, you’re the one who really makes them happen,” he said in a low voice as if he were sharing a confidential secret.  “You listen to your hunches and prompts and whims.  Then, expecting magic, you follow them to see where they lead.  You spot the opportunities for action.  You decide to grab them.  Everybody makes their own magic, you know.  I just help them believe.

“Neat job, hey?  Like my suit?” he said.

I told him I thought the job was a fantastic gig.  “But that suit . . . Well, to be honest, you don’t look powerful to me.  I always thought genies were supposed to be big and powerful.”

“Hey!  I’m just an apprentice, I told you.  This is my first lamp.  I start with the little wishes.  You know, things like ‘I wish I could get myself to exercise today,’ or ‘I wish the kitchen were cleaned up,’ or ‘I wish I could be more cheerful.’  Stuff like that.  I help people practice doing the little magic, and both of us learn—the person who makes the wishes and me.  And we both get better at it as we go along.  We graduate to bigger things.”

“I think I’m beginning to get it,” I told him, after thinking for a few minutes about what he had said.  “I could get up tomorrow morning, make three smallish wishes for my day, and then watch myself choose to make them come true.  Right?”

“Well, sure!  That’s how it works.  I just make it more fun.  People forget their magic is supposed to be fun.  Remember that, and you don’t even need me at all.  Give it a try.  See how it works for you for a couple weeks or so.  Make three wishes in the morning and believe you can get them to come true.  See what happens.  I’ll find you later down the road, see how you’re doing.”

“Okay,”  I said, “Why not?”

“Great!  Good luck to you!” he said, giggling.  “I gotta go now.  Lots of wishes are waiting to come true out there.  And I can’t wait to help it happen.”

“Good luck to you, too, Johnny.  I think you’re going to be a fabulous genie.”

And hardly had I finished my sentence than—Poof!—he was gone.

From across the lake, I thought I heard the swan laughing.