Today I taught yoga classes for kids at a school carnival. These little people were so eager to listen and sing, and bring their hands together at their hearts. They also love barking in Downward Facing Dog, howling at the moon in Upward Facing Dog and hopping like bunny rabbits. They are pure joy. Pure love. They reminded me tonight, after a mundane day (the grey, damp weather reflecting the blah-ness of the day), of the joy in simple moments.
Last night, I was reading an article on Happiness in The Sun Magazine. The author, Mihaly Csiksgentmihalyi, writes: “Happiness is not something that happens. It is not the result of good fortune or random chance. It is not something that money can buy or power command. It does not depend on outside events, but, rather, on how we interpret them. Happiness, in fact, is a condition that must be prepared for, cultivated, and defended privately by each person. People who learn to control inner experience will be able to determine the quality of their lives, which is as close as any of us come to being happy.”
I feel, on some days, when the stars are aligned, hugely grateful for what I have in my life and, yet, on other days the things I do not have seem to be obstacles to my happiness. When I look around (especially in Facebook land) everyone my age seems to have basic external markers that I do not yet have and I wonder what the heck happened to me and sink into a state of lack and despair. It does not feel good there. It seems in these moments that those missing pieces will provide me with the happiness I seek, If I can just meet the right guy etc. And yet I know, on a deeper level, that external circumstances will never change the way I feel about myself, and will never make me truly happy if I am not already – at least not for long.
Csiksgentmihalyi (not even going to even try pronouncing that) reflects that happiness does not occur only when “external conditions are favorable” and, actually, seems to occur more when they are not (or at least when we have moved outside of comfort). He writes that those “who have lived through near-fatal physical dangers often recall that in the midst of their ordeal they experienced extraordinarily rich epiphanies in response to such simple events as hearing the song of a bird in the forest, completing a hard task, or sharing a crust of bread with a friend.”
I had once partially filled out a questionnaire for a website; the question I’d left off on was “Are you happy?” This question kept popping up in my inbox, a reminder that I had yet to complete the questionnaire. “Are you happy?” it chided me.
I finally filled the damn thing out. I checked “Yes”, knowing that I have the power to be happy right now, in each moment that I choose to be present. Maybe all I have to do is howl at the moon in Upward Facing Dog. Awwoooo!
Now that makes me happy.