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Neighbors Growing Together | Dec 7, 2016

Happiness, the byproduct of living right

CURT SWARM

Empty Nest

The Ray Conniff Singers tells us, or sings to us, “happiness is different things to different people. On the desert, it’s a drink, drink, drink. To the show girl, it’s a mink, mink, mink. To the banker, lot’s of dough. To a racer, it’s a GTO.”

Now try to get that out of your head the rest of the day!

I was listening to NPR, my favorite station to drive to. And, yes, I contribute. The topic was “happiness,” specifically, what it takes to be happy. Of course, there was a guest panel of “experts” on the subject, these highly educated people, professors of social and behavioral sciences, who had written books on the subject.

This panel had all kinds of suggestions like, write down your goals, associate with positive people, get a good night’s sleep, exercise, eat a balanced diet, and don’t sweat the small stuff. There was a big discussion about the role that genetics played, versus environmental factors. Terms like “thirst for living,” “psychological well-being” and “baseline mood” were thrown around like candy at a parade. And, of course, money was a hot topic. Does money buy happiness, or does it just create more opportunities?

I had this vision of some poor slob somewhere, listening to this diatribe, writing down all these tips, and trying to figure out how to get out of the morass that he was in. I also had a vision of these expert advice givers playing the goodie-two shoes on the air, then leaving and doing something weird, like shop lifting, or stiffing a clerk.

Then it happened. It was inevitable, you could feel it coming. These “experts” couldn’t agree on the precise formula for what it takes to find happiness, and got into an argument, almost resorting to name-calling. The host began taking outside callers real fast.

I couldn’t contain myself, and dialed the number. Through the wonders of Bluetooth, although it sounded like I was in a tunnel, I was able to talk to these jokers, hands free. I gave my two-cents worth about the search for happiness. And that is: “Do not search for happiness. Happiness is the byproduct of right living.”

Well, I was just about laughed off the air. For the first time during the discussion, these “experts” agreed: although my belief was popular, it was overly simplistic, and of not much value. Click. I wasn’t even allowed to give my thesis number two, and that is, whenever I catch myself worrying about something, I just tell myself, “It’ll all work out.” It always has, it always will. About ten years ago, I started telling myself “It’ll all work out,” and experienced instant relief in times of worry. I can just sit back, let events work themselves out as they will, and hours of worthless (harmful) worry is eliminated. But I’m sure the panel would have ridiculed this thesis also.

My feelings were hurt. I thought about the snub for days, and will stick to my thesis. You don’t need all these high-powered formulas for finding happiness. Happiness is all around us. We’re swimming in it. But like trying to scale the ice mountain, you cannot search for it, happiness is a byproduct of right living. Live right, to the best of your abilities, and one day you wake up and realize, “Hey, I’m happy. And you know what? I’ve been happy for a long time.”

This is such an important concept that my daily meditation book repeats it four times during the course of a year. “We cannot find true happiness by looking for it. Seeking pleasure does not bring happiness...Happiness is a by product of living the right kind of a life...in all respects the way you believe God wants you to live.”

Speaking of God, there’s something called a “God Bag.” I heard about it years ago. I wrote down on slips of paper all of my desires, and put them into a brown paper sack, and wrote “God Bag” on the sack. I tucked the God Bag away and forgot about it. Years later, I came across the God Bag and opened it. My hands were trembling. I had forgotten what I had written. There it was in front of me. Everything I had written down had come true. And I hadn’t even realized it.

I’ll bet the panel of “experts” would have a heyday with this one!