That, of course, wasn't the answer he was hoping for but it did pave the way for our morning lesson. "Irwin, my boy, a frog's happiness is a way of travel...not a destination. We should not seek out happiness as if it were a goal to be achieved, or a prize for a contest won. Rather, happiness can, and should, be a way of living. It's what we were all meant to be. There isn't any need to wonder whether or not you'll be happy tomorrow, or the next day. You are happiness, Irwin. You can chose to feel that way all the time...even when times are tough."
I can? Hmmm. I'd love to feel like this all the time. I don't like it when i feel sad. I don't think anyone does...if they're honest with themselves. So my question to the wise teacher was, "OK, I like feeling happy. But do I make myself happy, even when I'm blue?" Dharma heaved a big sigh and explained that we can't make ourselves happy. If we try, we will experience happiness, but only briefly. It isn't the true kind of happiness that lasts and will sustain us through difficult times. "Happiness, Irwin, has to come from within. It's already inside you. You only need to let it shine through. Start by simply acknowledging that it is there." Then he gave me a few easy tips for becoming, and staying, happy even when there are storm clouds overhead and the forecast is for rain.
1. Appreciate more. There's a lot to be grateful for, even on those tough mornings. Start with appreciating your bed. You could be sleeping on a pile of straw, or on a sidewalk. And don't forget your friends and family who love and support you, no matter what. Not everyone has a good support system. There are so many things to appreciate and show gratitude for.
2. Have a morning routine that energizes you. Sip your favorite tea (or coffee), do some yoga, read an uplifting passage from a beloved book. Sure, these things take a few extra minutes but wouldn't getting up a little earlier be so worth it if you felt happier? Do you have a favorite scent, one that evokes good memories? See if they make that fragrance in a body wash and shower with it, or light a scented candle to make your bathroom smell super. Do the things that will make you want to get up and start your day.
3. Practice acceptance. We all know that things don't always go the way we'd planned. When we can learn to "go with the flow" and accept what is, we feel calmer and happier. After all, everything happen for a reason.
4. Develop a mindset of abundance instead of lack. When we see lack everywhere, guess what we get? More lack! Yep, it's true. And when we see life as abundant, we get more abundance. It works the same way as gratitude. Whatever we "put out there" is what we'll get more of in return.
5. Be around happy people. We all know someone who always seems happy and up for anything. When you're having a bad day call him or her and ask them to meet you for lunch or to take a walk in the park after work. I bet that in no time at all, you'll begin to feel happier, too. Happiness is contagious. And don't forget to be that ray of sunshine for someone else when they're having a tough time.
6. Take time to recharge; take time for play. We all remember the proverb, "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." It's true for Jills, as well. We all need time for R and R. Scheduling "me time" into your daily schedule isn't selfish. It's a loving and a necessary thing to do. We can't be good to others if we're not good to ourselves. And your "me time" should include a little playtime, too. Nothing will lighten your spirits quicker than swinging, or playing in the sand. And don't forget coloring. Adult coloring books are becoming very popular. They're fun and can have a very a calming effect. Just watch your kids when they color and you'll see what i mean.
7. Move slowly. This may make no sense to you, but when humans rush around, they often accomplish less, not more. Lao Tsu once said, "Nature doesn't hurry yet all is accomplished." Busier doesn't mean exceeding. Don't rush through your life; take time to stop and smell the roses, or lilacs, or lilies....
8. Soothe yourself. It doesn't so much matter what happens in our life as how we choose to deal with it. When things go wrong, practice self-love and kindness, We are, after all, our own best friend. And if we're not, then we should be. It's a good thing to give ourselves a hug now and again; to tell ourselves that we matter, and that we can get through what ever difficulties we may have to face. I'm OK. And so are you. Actually we're all more than just OK. We're all TOAD-ally awesome!
9. Attend to the real world. This means setting aside all of our electronic devices and being present. We can't do this all the time, of course, but taking a little time each day to "tune out" the distractions of daily life is important and getting to be more so with every passing day. Living in present moment awareness not only centers us, but has a way of making us feel better. All we have, for sure, is this one moment. Live in it; enjoy it, appreciate it. And last but not last:
10. Forgive often and let go. Learning to forgive can be very freeing. And part of forgiving is letting go. Holding on to all the past hurts is like carrying around excess baggage. After awhile, our shoulders begin to hurt and when we feel weighted down, we can't feel happy which means feeling light.
It's time, perhaps, to forgive, let go, and move into a new mode of travel; Happiness. The best part of happiness is that it never goes out of style, it doesn't need major repairs...just minor upkeep, there are no monthly payments, and it doesn't require a separate garage. It already has a place to hang out. It's deep inside us already, just waiting to be taken out for a spin. And as Dharma said, as he hopped away, "Once you take happiness for test drive, you'll want to own it; now and forever."