1. Truth: What you focus on will be your life. What you look for and what you love, you will find and receive. If you focus on how bad everything is, your life will be bad. If you hang out with people who do not honor your worth, you will experience worthlessness. If you spend your time smashing yourself to bits, you will experience yourself as broken and ruined. Whatever you invite will come and whatever you reject will go. You generate your own suffering, but you can also generate love. It’s your choice.
According to Buddhist wisdom, we generate our own suffering, generate our own experience of reality. You don’t have to be a Buddhist to see how this can happen. Imagine someone giving you a dirty look or a disrespectful gesture or saying something nasty. How does that feel? Oftentimes, our response is to shoot anger and aggression back at the person. Even if we keep ourselves from acting out directly, we carry the irritation and bitterness with us, and that single bad moment or act can spin out into such a big deal, it ruins our whole day. We might find reasons to act out in negative ways ourselves, repeating that original person’s bad behavior, maybe even in situations where it isn’t warranted. Our boss is a jerk, we don’t say anything to him, but we go home and pick a fight with our spouse. Such negative energy generates suffering, even more so if we continue to feed it.
Now imagine someone smiling at you, giving you a compliment or a helping hand. How does that feel? When we feel seen, when we are given kindness, even or especially when we don’t deserve it, it can change your whole perspective. We feel connected and we begin to generate kindness, sharing it when we can. It’s like that poem from Hafiz:
How did the rose ever open its heart
and give to this world all of its beauty?
It felt the encouragement of light against its being,
otherwise we all remain too frightened.
“140 Ways to Change the World” is a good place to start, a list that will help you to generate “the encouragement of light” rather than more suffering. These are easy things you can do right now, no special equipment or training required.
2. Truth: Gratitude is a path to contentment, happiness, and joy. For a convincing argument in support of this truth, read Leo Babauta’s “Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make You Happy.” I am reminded of this truth every Monday morning when I do my “Something Good” post. It reminds me that when you focus on the good, there isn’t time or space for anything else, because there is so much to appreciate and love, so much good work to do. If you need a place to start, check out this list on Tiny Buddha, “60 Things to Be Grateful For In Life.”
3. Truth: If you want your life to change, change your attitude. This is, in truth, the one and only thing you can control, and therefore the only thing you can really change. It’s so simple, that it’s almost irritating: sometimes if you want to be happy, all you have to do is…well, be happy, (important note: I very clearly say “sometimes” here, because there are categories and levels of depression that require you to seek help–if you find yourself there, please ask for help). Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the Tibetan meditation master who founded Shambhala, used to say about working with strong emotions like aggression or depression, “You could always just cheer up.” He also says, in his book Sacred Path of the Warrior:
When you live your life in accordance with basic goodness, then you develop natural elegance. Your life can be spacious and relaxed, without having to be sloppy. You can actually let go of your depression and embarrassment about being a human being, and you can cheer up.
Some of my most favorite blog posts ever might be helpful to you in this case, a series that Jen Lemen wrote about “How to Be Happy,” the first one being “How to Be Happy Come Hell or Highwater.” Also read “How to Be Happy (Part Two),” “How to Be Happy (Part Three),” “How to Be Happy (Part Four),” and “How to Be Happy (Part Five).”
One Wish: I wish for all of us the change of heart, shift in perspective necessary to allow the love and light to flood in, to fill us so full that we spill over and light & love ripples and radiates out from us, sending that encouragement on to others, so they can fill and spill, and even more will be encouraged and lit up, and on and on and on.