Perhaps the most important thing I have learned in this extraordinary life is that we are responsible for our own happiness. It is not determined by anything outside of ourselves even though it often appears to be.
The rich can be miserable (“Oh, I’m so unhappy. I wanted Johnson to drive me to Tiffany’s in the Lamborghini but now I have to go in the stupid Rolls. How awful.”) And the poor can be joyful (“Ah, there is enough food for the whole family this year. We are so blessed.”) With that reality we have tremendous power; we can stop blaming; we can stop grasping; we can enjoy inner peace.
My wife likes coffee (tea for me please) but she never wanted to add the task of brewing it fresh each morning to her already full schedule. She would claim that instant was good enough. Then, a few years ago, when we were staying in a friend’s house, I made her freshly brewed coffee each morning. She beamed every time she tasted it. I asked her to please let me make it for her at home but she argued that my schedule was also very busy. I was able to prevail and every morning since then, the first thing I do each morning (well, almost the first thing) is to make her fresh coffee. I call it “my job.”
I love my job because it starts her day with something she truly enjoys. Her enjoyment brings me such pleasure. Every day begins with a smile for both of us. So simple; so basic.
Our happiness and the happiness of those around us blossoms as our hearts and minds open and our actions emerge from genuine kindness, compassion, and generosity. These qualities live in our simplest acts, our gentlest words, and our moments of patience. The practice of virtuous qualities such as kindness and compassion must begin with one’s self. No one is more worthy of your love and kindness than you are yourself.
When we appreciate our self it is much easier to appreciate others. Likewise, when we learn to be compassionate and patient with our self, it is easier to be so with others. Conversely, it is difficult to offer what we don’t have and don’t understand.
Some say that the world is a harsh and difficult place. At times that may be true but who will make the world a better place if not you and me? The changes that we must make in the world we must make first in ourselves. If you want to live in a more peaceful world you must develop a more peaceful world within.
No matter what is happening around you, no matter the turmoil, injustice, abuse, the reality is that only you can destroy your inner peace. Resolve not to do so. Make your world a better place one smile at a time; one act of kindness at a time; one moment of patience at a time. Everything you need is already within you.