Yesterday, I tapped on the message What’s your hearing age? You may have received it too on your cellphone. You tap. A wailing sound comes on. You tap again when you stop hearing the sound. And up pops your hearing age. Mine said: 52. Since I’m 65, it brought a broad smile to my face. I may be a chump, but I’m sold.
Money cannot buy happiness, but apps can make you feel good. So can all the mushrooming workshops on abundance, mindfulness etc. People are so stressed, so lost, so miserable, they are willing to pay good money for a day of meditation, mind-changing affirmations, regressing to their past lives, opening their blocked chakras… Often, they return to the process to top up their happiness or alleviate the unhappiness that has crept back in.
I’m grateful that so many techniques have sprung up along with, of course, traditional psychology and medicines. I always thought my mentor Reverend Normal Vincent Peale was the sole teacher of positive thinking and now I’m delighted to hear about Dr Martin Seligman, a psychologist, who introduced the world to positive psychology 19 years ago. The good doctor believes happiness and studies on happiness are a field in themselves and should not be tagged to psychology. Happiness is about well-being, contentment, even a sense of flourishing. On a day-to-day basis, there should be an ease to living.
While psychology is about pills and re-setting cognition and so on, positive psychology has a broader vision. It encourages acceptance of the past, optimism about one’s future and being anchored in well-being in the present. Dr Seligman spells it out: “It’s about education, work, marriage —
it’s even about sports. I want to see psychologists working to help people build strengths in all these domains.”
Feel strong. More than being strong, feeling strong is what gets us through. Strength isn’t one big thing, it’s a million little things — the ability to make your ego porous or small, being uncomplaining when the going is not good and not being arrogant when the going is good, openness, patience, receptivity, letting go the need to defend your point of view, allowing your experiences to make you wiser… sometimes, the world mirrors your defects and weaknesses. These don’t get you down if you have a cheering team, for example, family and friends who encourage you and often point out your strengths and your positive qualities at appropriate times. And if you are in the habit of appreciating all the things that go right every day, you keep adding to your happiness
As you add to your HQ, you need to subtract the nonsense from your mind. A lovely little teaching tale goes: The Master gave a newbie two boxes, saying, “Put all your expectations in the black box. And all your joys in the gold box.” The newbie followed the instructions faithfully. Interestingly, he found the gold box becoming heavier while the black remained light. Curious to know why, he opened the black box and saw a hole in the bottom through which his expectations had slipped out. He asked the Master about it. The Master replied, “My child, the gold is to enable you to count your blessings, the black is to enable you to let go.”
There’s a wonderful teaching here: Our expectations lead us to helplessness and frustration. It’s like sticking our finger in a fire and wondering why it burns and hurts. Our thoughts and creativity get trapped in the mesh of expectations. Our happiness and satisfaction at doing something are robbed by our expectations. That’s why the wise Master didn’t tell the newbie to put his sorrows in the black box, he specified expectations. My wise father taught me, “When you keep one eye on your work and the other on the reward you hope to get, your work suffers. And when you keep both eyes on your work, you achieve excellence.” It’s a direction I’ve never looked away from.
This article is about keeping ourselves in the zone of happiness day after day. On a scale of 10, sometimes, it may be 7, sometimes 2… It’s okay. You don’t have to score 10 every time. At times, you may not be so happy, but at peace — that’s good too. When you learn, you raise your maturity. When you get the way the world works, there is a flash of understanding followed by a settled kind of happiness and serenity that are not easily shaken.
The way is to keep working and creating a life that feels good externally, but, at the same time, never neglect to create a life that feels good and comfortable internally. Do little things that ease day-to-day living. Talk in such a kind way that your breath will never want to leave you, walk with such an easy stride that all your body parts will revel in their strength and flexibility, live in such a simple and adaptable way that peace and positive vibrations dominate your temperament. In this spirit, I present some wise and wonderful ways to live life by:
- Bring closure to grief, grouses, grudges.
- Do away with unnecessary rituals and routines that don’t leave you singing. Clarity in the mind is a blessing.
- If you have doubts about something for three days, it is not for you. When you are on the right track meant for you, nothing can hold you back.
- Rather than blame somebody, decide to bloom on your own. Master that which you are interested in. Learning is a wonderfully absorbing state of living.
- When somebody sulks and keeps a radio silence, turn your attention to exalted ideas and radiate silent blessings all around. It’s the
- Don’t look on everything in life as a challenge, but as a time to be creative. Creativity is balm to the brain, an inner light in which the mind can stroll peacefully.
- Eat foods that suit your body. Don’t let food eat away your health. Foods that make your head throb or spin, have your skin break out in a rash, that make you heavy, acidic, uneasy are best avoided. Keep your insides nourished and light with healing foods eaten in moderate quantities.
- When there are too many demands on you, forget your own inner callings on such days to avoid the stress of resistance and ensuing emotions of anger and resentment. Look on all tasks whether chosen by you or by others for you as done for the Divine. They are.
- Decide to be patient endlessly. It ends anxious waiting.
- Judging others is like parking your vehicle in another’s slot. All judgments are misplaced. What is ultimately towed away is your own peace of mind and health.
- Don’t argue. An argument is a war. The battlefield is the mind. Somebody shoots you, don’t shoot back. Put a check on your vanity, arrogance and me-ness; allow your higher instincts to pour through the conduit of your being.
Positive psychology lifts us from wellness to well-being. And Dr Martin Seligman says, “I believe it is within our capacity that by the year 2051, 51 per cent of the human population will be flourishing.” I sincerely believe it will be sooner than that.
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.