We have to dig deep for this week’s challenge. Although happiness is not a simple process, it is ours to generate. Yes, we can allow other people and things to affect us. But, we need to realize that it is our reaction and what we do in response to others and the situations that we are presented with that ultimately determines our happiness.
There is a saying in Sanskrit, “Aham Brahmasmi” which, through my yoga teachings, I was taught meant “I am the creative principle.” Without denying a higher existence, this phrase is intended for us to see ourselves as creators of our own destinies. Through my own attitudes and actions, I believe that I am the one who develops my personality, healthiness, career, social life – all aspects of my self. No one else can determine these characteristics. In the end, all of my karmas (deeds) are going to reflect upon me.
Although we have control over many of our choices, there are some things that we are obligated to and some situations which we face as a society that cannot be detached from or eliminated. Family, jobs, some health issues, even options for food, water and shelter may not be ours to regulate. But our attitude towards these seemingly unfortunate conditions is ours to control. We can cultivate contentment or santosha within despite any unpleasant situations that face us.
I would like to share a story that my teacher, Goswami Kriyananda, told his students over the years. Kriyananda was drafted in the Vietnam War and chose to become a medic rather than fight in the field. As a medic he experienced horrific events – as you can imagine. One such occurrence involved a young soldier that he had to assist after an explosion. As he approached the man, he saw that there was a gaping hole where once the man had a right arm. As he ministered to the soldier, Kriyananda wept and told him how sorry he was that he had lost his limb. The soldier, smiling, replied “That’s not a problem, I’m left handed!”
Our state of health is a large slice of the happiness pie. As we strive to stay healthy, circumstances occur that are beyond our control. This is most difficult as pain and impairment can be devastating. But there are other segments within our lives: mental abilities, friendships, belief systems, dreams, environments and work or career goals that can influence our quality and pleasure levels in life.
Your challenge is to reflect on all the aspects of yourself. Determine which area(s) are lacking in contentment for you and strive to make those areas more fulfilling.
Each day choose one category to examine and write down a number between 1 and 10 to label your level of contentment. Then think about how you can cultivate happiness through change – including your attitude.