I came across a wonderful quote today by a man named Denis Waitley that started me thinking about cultivating happiness: "Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude. " How true.
Many people use benchmarks outside of themselves to decide whether they can claim happiness. Is my partner meeting my needs, is my job validating my abilities, do I have what my peers have, or more? These markers for happiness are fleeting and don't fulfill us on a deep level.
That's not to say that we need to adopt a life of poverty and isolation to be happy. It seems that many believe that creating material things is shallow and meaningless, or in some way against our spiritual nature. Material things don't provide lasting happiness, but provide myriad ways for us to express ourselves as divine creators. Expressing my birthright as a creator in God's image does make me happy! I believe that God wishes for us all of the good things that will help us relish a complete and full life.
Although material things can't create lasting happiness, they are not contrary to expressing the highest in ourselves. The difference is our intention. Are we working to buy a bigger home because it's expected, or because it would be a healthy and peaceful place for our growing family? Are we working nights to get through school because someone expects us to do something more with our lives, or because we are drawn to a new career as a way of expressing more of our true talents in the world? Are we saving money for a special vacation because we're trying to keep up with someone else, or as a way to connect lovingly with our partner, experience joy and more of the wonderful places and people on this planet? We are meant to experience all that we want to do, be and have as expressions of the highest within us.
If material things can't provide lasting happiness, what does? Can we cultivate happiness, consciously, as a practice? I believe we can. The beautiful quote above provides good insight. Happiness is a spiritual experience wherein we are present in our moments with these three things: love, grace and gratitude. Having our moments in love is allowing others their path as we walk our own, and remembering that each of us is uniquely expressing the God within. Having our moments in grace is having an awareness of ourselves and others as being worthy of God's highest favor. Having our moments in gratitude means simply acknowledging the tremendous gift in all of it. As complicated as life gets, these three things we can do.
True and lasting happiness comes when we accept the truth of who we are, and are glad of it. When we know ourselves, God rejoices!