Over dinner one night, Dee and I got onto the subject of happiness. "Who do we know who is truly happy?" she asked me. "And what do they know or do that makes them happy?"
Hmmmm. I did a quick mental scan. Several faces popped into my mind.
The first was a Japanese friend, Shinn, whom we met during our first visit to Japan. Shinn’s energy, magnified by a wide genuine smile, is so radiant that he lights any room he enters.
He is a bonfire of love.
Shinn was a cellist who had been diagnosed with cancer. He tried to fight the disease, but only felt worse. Then he decided to love his cancer cells. Every day he sent them blessings and appreciation for the wake-up call they provided. That process was so rewarding that Shinn decided to love his whole life – everyone and everything – no exceptions. The cancer disappeared. Shinn became happy. Shinn became a healer. Now he is an urban legend in Japan.
Next, I thought of my friends Barry and Joyce Vissell, a couple married for more than 35 years. They have dedicated their lives to their relationship and family, and teach others how to create loving relationships.
"What do Joyce and Barry do that keeps them happy?" Dee asked me.
"They are surrendered to their partnership," I told her. They value joy more than resistance. They do not resist each other, their relationship, their children or their life. Their attitude is refreshingly childlike. They don’t complicate their hearts with heady issues. Daily, they find new ways to appreciate and celebrate their relationship, and it becomes an ever-greater blessing to them and everyone they touch.
"Who else?" Dee asked me.
"Barry Dennis," I answered. Barry is a gifted energetic musician tapped into an infinite flow of creativity. He is passionate about all he does, continually surfing on his intuitive edge. What about Barry makes him happy? He is one with his purpose. He is a musician true to his calling. He does not busy or bother himself with spreadsheets, self-marketing or waiting tables until he gets his big break. He gives himself a big break every day by letting himself be exactly what he is.
Then I recalled a television documentary I saw about centenarians, people who live to be 100. The interviewer tried to find some element or lifestyle common to people who live a very long time. He examined diet – nope, lots of them ate meat and junk food. Vices? Some of them drank and smoked. Profession? All kinds. The documentarian was stumped until he realized that all the centenarians were light-hearted. They didn’t take life too seriously and they flowed with changes. Nearly all of their friends and family had passed on before them, and they still found beauty and wonder in each new day. They were happy to be alive, and so life kept them alive.
I thought, too, of a conversation I had with a well-known author and speaker. When our conversation casually came around to money, he told me, "I have enough money. I don’t really need any more."
My first thought was, "Well, sure – you make $20,000 a lecture!" After I got over my knee-jerk reaction, I realized that this man has enough money because he decides that what he has is enough. I had never before heard anyone say, "I have enough money." Most people I have met believe they do not have enough money. I know people who have millions of dollars, and it is not enough. I know others who have just a few dollars, and they are quite satisfied. I learned from this man that "enough" is not a condition; it is a choice. People who see through the eyes of enoughness are constantly satisfied. Another clue.
As I scanned my memory bank for other happy folks, I looked across the table at this beautiful, present and open-hearted woman across from me. I was zooming out on thoughts about how to be happy, when one of the greatest reasons for my happiness was sitting right in front of me.
I took Dee’s hand and told her, "There’s one more element of happiness, maybe the biggest: gratitude. I am grateful to be here with you and to dance with you in the realm of expansive, joyful thoughts. I love it when you talk metaphysical to me." We laughed and enjoyed the rest of our dinner and evening – far richer for the conversation and insights.
Capsule summary of the elements of happiness, learned from my friends who live it: Love it all. Drop resistance. Be true to yourself and your purpose. Lighten up. Find and celebrate enoughness. Say thank you to your loved ones.
And talk metaphysical to me whenever possible.