Friday, February 27, 2015

Happiness: Part One

A middle aged man walks through the door, exhausted from his day at work. "If I could only get a promotion, I would be so much happier," he thinks.
A frazzled mother of four lies down in bed after a long day of cleaning after and taking care of her rambunctious, lively children.  "If only my children would be better behaved, I would be so much happier," she thinks as she dozes off to sleep.
A college student stares uncomprehending at the confusing figures in her textbook.  "I will be so much happier when I graduate," she sighs. 
 You don't necessarily have to change your life,
just change your outlook. 

"If only I could...
be smarter,
more successful,
have more friends, 
make more money, 
have more time to myself...(you fill in the blank) my life would be so much better and I would be so much happier."
This is what we all tell ourselves, and although some of us are actually facing extreme barriers to our happiness, the average person has nothing standing in his way besides, well, himself. 
Some people deal with horrifying circumstances such as terminal illnesses, split up families, poverty, injustice and more. Yet, you wouldn't know it by observing their outlook on life.  Their suffering makes life that much more precious to them.
Lauren Booth, a journalist and convert to Islam, relates an encounter she had while visiting a Palestinian family living in the Gaza Strip during the month of Ramadan.  She explains how the family she stayed with lived in one small room, with a tiny adjacent kitchen and separate bathroom.  The room contained nothing but a threadbare rug and a few mattresses on the floor.  To break their fast, the family shared one plate of hummus, and one plate of sliced tomatoes. 
At the time, Lauren was not yet Muslim, and still new to the faith, she remembers being outraged that people who were already struggling with hunger and poverty were required to fast from dawn till dusk.  When Lauren asked the mother of the family why she fasts, she replied that she fasts in order to “Feel with the poor.”  Why is it that those who face the most testing circumstances never see themselves as victims?  They are always determined to make the best of what they have been given. 

It is not wealth, popularity, success, beauty or good fortune that make one happy, but rather a contented heart.  Although those things may contribute to our happiness, they are not the source of our happiness, that must be found within.  There is nothing more draining on energy and happiness than being discontented with everything.  A dissatisfied heart will make you dissatisfied in every aspect of life. 
Our happiness is not linked as we usually assume it is, to our state of living but it is linked to our state of mind.

Instead of thinking of the innumerable ways you would like your life to change, think about and set your mind towards how you could change.  We cannot always change the circumstances life places us in, but we can change ourselves.  I believe that God gives everyone certain struggles for a reason, and you can either let the challenges you face embitter you or you can allow yourself to thrive in the conditions that Allah سبحانه و تعالى has selected for you.

A story I heard recently resonated with me greatly.  In the story of The Bluebird, a fairy sends two children on a search for the "Bluebird of Happiness."  After searching high and low, the children come home empty-handed, only to find the bird had been in a cage in their house all along.
When venturing on your "search for happiness" don't let the quest elude you from seeing what is already in your grasp.  Happiness is not an elusive, unattainable, mystical goal.  But, as is the case with most things, the more we chase it the further it seems to run.  Stop chasing and make the choice!

"It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light." -GK Chesterton 
This quote is quickly becoming one of my favorites, because it reminds us that those happy, cheerful people who always seem to see life from a positive side work hard too!  It is not easy to take the high road and choose happiness when life gets you down, but you can either dwell in discontentment and disappointment, or choose happiness instead!
Most people think that true happiness should be easy to attain.  But happiness is not a sudden phenomena that occurs when the stars align and everything on your checklist has been crossed off.  Happiness is a skill, and like patience, respect, and humility it must be worked at until it comes naturally.  If you wait until everything is just right to allow yourself to be happy, you will be waiting for a very long time.  Don't be malleable like sand, shifting with every blow of the wind, learn to withstand a little bit of wind and remain firm.  If all you do is criticize and complain, this will be what you find easiest to do, it will always be your first resort.  

Do not erase the colors from today trying to paint them on the canvas of tomorrow.  

I may not be where I want to be, but I'm where God wants me to be,  and that knowledge gives me immense comfort and yes, happiness too.

The French novelist Sidonie Gabrielle Colette said, "What a wonderful life I've had!  I only wish I had realized it sooner."
Don't waste your life waiting to enjoy your life!  Life has granted you countless blessings, don't search for "The Bluebird" when it's right in front of you. 

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