The chronically unhappy tend to perpetrate crimes of varying magnitude against themselves, their fellow human beings, members of other species and the planet at large. You therefore owe it to yourself, your family and friends, and your entire sphere of influence to discover what makes you happy and pursue it wholeheartedly.
The great news is that you don’t have to wait a single day–or even a single hour–to embrace true happiness. Your senses, memories, and imagination can all be portals to extraordinary realms of joy. Just the fact that I have eyes that still work properly, for instance, opens me to a virtually limitless vista of visual delights. The fact that I can see the sky, the clouds and sun, trees and flowers, children playing– when I’m mindful, I realize that I live in a veritable paradise of light, shadow and color.
My ears still work (fairly well!): music, laughter and birdsong delight my mind to no end. My sense of smell allows me to recapture long-lost childhood memories through familiar aromas. If you think about all the wonders that are available to you through these and your other senses, you’ll realize just how good you’ve got it! Not everyone is so fortunate.
Memory can be bittersweet, but it can also be wholly sweet. When I’m practicing well, I can recall with great specificity bonding experiences with loved ones who have died. I remember the first time I won a checkers match with my grandfather, a lovely man who thought it an insult to children to “let” them win at games. I remember listening to a torrential downpour at night inside a tent with my father– the genesis, I think, of my lifelong love of storms. A walk with my grandmother around the block to a soda fountain near her apartment in the heart of Queens is positively vivid; I was four years old at the time.
Imagination can also serve us well in conjuring happiness. Remember a time when you were particularly hungry as a kid, and someone announced that lunchtime was just a half hour away? Didn’t your heart surge with anticipatory delectation? If we practice mindfully, we can learn to summon that kind of joyous anticipation at any time and at a moment’s notice. There’s always something to look forward to, even if it’s just the relief of our current suffering. We don’t often think this way, but if you suffer frequently from a particular ailment, the times you do not have it can be times of mindful celebration. “Breathing in, I’m aware that I don’t have a headache. Breathing out, I smile to my pain-free head.”
Please be happy. Both you and all those around you will benefit greatly. Notice I didn’t say “act happy” or “try to be happy,” but “please be happy.” It takes dedication, devotion, and above all, practice. Ghandi famously said, “There is no way to peace; peace is the way.” The same can be said of happiness: happiness is indeed the way!