Dear Still Water Friends,
Last night, I was enthralled by a musical performance in the trees of my very own back yard. The air was still, but the trees pulsed with life. The cicadas provided background music to an elaborate ballet of birds and bugs darting in and out of the branches. I felt at one with the world around me. Nearly every day of the summer, I find that nature brings me simple joys like these. To watch a bird scoot along the fence or some ants carrying off a dropped potato chip is a special kind of happiness.
As I considered why these things made me happy, I happened to hear a radio story about research concluding that short conversations with strangers could lift moods. It seemed that being in nature and inter-reacting with other people had some qualities in common. They both remind us not only that we are not alone, but also that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and that is a source of happiness and satisfaction.
Thich Nhat Hanh encourages us to consider that our own individual happiness is not separate from the wonder of life itself. In The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation, he says:
People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child — our own two eyes. All is a miracle.
Some moments, like last night, I feel happiness and gratitude at beholding the wonder of being part of the universe. Sometimes, however, it can be a struggle to get beyond myself and my noisy mind to notice the happiness available right now in front of me: in the sky, on the earth, and in the trees.
Thich Nhat Hanh has a lovely gatha that can help us remember that we have all the conditions to be happy in the present moment:
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
Our senior teacher, Mitchell Ratner, has even given us an even abbreviated reminder: “Now, wow!”
This Thursday evening, after our sitting and walking meditation, we will explore and share our experience of happiness.
What are your moments of everyday happiness?
What hinders you from finding happiness?
Are there ideas, places, or practices that help you cultivate the awareness of happiness?
You are invited to join us.
Excerpts on happiness by Thich Nhat Hanh and Sharon Salzberg are below.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in Being Peace, “Happiness is available. Please help yourself to it.”
Happiness Is an Arm of Resilience
by Sharon Salzberg in On Being
In my first years studying meditation with one of my teachers, Munindra, a fellow student once asked him why and how he came to practice meditation. I expected a studious response, perhaps a pious one, but Munindra’s answer totally surprised me. Without hesitation, he replied,
“I practice meditation so that I can notice the small purple flowers by the roadside that we otherwise miss.”
This is the essence of mindfulness: paying deliberate attention, and doing so with an open heart. His answer really got to the heart of taking in joy, and being nourished by it. Rejoicing in something beautiful doesn’t have to mean the same thing as attachment. Allowing ourselves to enjoy a delightful experience with an open heart enhances our capacity for generosity and gratitude. We feel capable of being loving and connecting, and we want others to be able to feel the same. In that recognition, we see, with strength, that we are not fundamentally isolated, that our lives really do have something to do with one another.