“Serve with a full heart. By making others happy, you make yourself happy. The key to your heart lies hidden in the heart of another.” —Swami Kripalu
Is happiness possible for all of us? How do we take the first step?
Cheryl Kain, Guest Blogger
Because the Constitution declares our right to pursue happiness, contentment can seem, for many Americans, like a birthright. At the same time, the quest for happiness can feel like herding cats—elusive and frustrating. We’re failures if we aren’t “happy” all the time—that’s why scores of books are written promising the secrets to happiness. But the search for happiness as an aggressive imperative can have the opposite effect, especially since happiness is relative for many people, including those facing poverty, health problems, or deep despair. The questions become: Can we ever truly achieve happiness? And could there be a set of universal prescriptions for getting there?
Teacher and author Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD, a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology and author of Being Happy: You Don’t Have to be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life, says the number-one predictor of well-being is the time we spend with people we care about and who care about us. “Latin Americans are happier than North Americans, because of the emphasis on relationships,” he says. “Friends and family play a much more central role in their lives.” This certainly rings true for me: In my own life, I have been far happier in my thirties and forties than when I was a singing-career-obsessed twentysomething. According to Gail Sheehy’s New York Times bestseller, Passages, I am a “deferred nurturer” and, admittedly, I did not value relationships as much as I did getting ahead in those earlier years. Smack dab in early midlife, relationships trump all for me now. My daily relational experiences, whether with my bestie or the grocery clerk, far outshine the pleasure of those long-ago pipe dreams.
An excerpt from Being Happy: You Don’t Have to Be Perfect to Lead a Richer, Happier Life by Tal Ben-Shahar
Some version of the Golden Rule, reminding us to not do unto others as we would not have done unto ourselves, finds its way into most moral codes, be they secular or religious. It is with our neighbor that the Golden Rule is concerned. But what about ourselves? The Golden Rule takes the love of self for granted—the self is used as the standard for the love of others, how we treat the “I” as the standard for how we treat our fellow men and women. The sages, however, generally ignored the fact that we don’t all love ourselves, or, rather, that many of us fall out of love with ourselves once we are old enough to turn our critical impulse, the faultfinder, inward.
We rarely condemn others for their fallibility but routinely refuse to accept our own humanity. As Diane Ackerman points out, “No one can live up to perfection, and most of us do not often expect it of others; but we are more demanding with ourselves.” Why the double standard, the generosity toward our neighbor and the miserliness where we ourselves are concerned? And so I propose that we add a new rule, which we can call the Platinum Rule, to our moral code: “Do not do unto yourself what you would not do unto others.”
Taking as a standard our behavior toward others can help us recognize irrational, destructive attitudes toward ourselves. Would you criticize your partner if she gave a less-than-perfect speech? Would you think any less of your best friend if he did not do well on an exam? If your daughter or father did not earn first place in a competition, would their imperfect record diminish your love for them? Probably not. And yet when we ourselves fall short, we often regard ourselves as wholly inadequate, utter failures.
In this video series, Kripalu Healthy Living faculty member Maria Sirois, PsyD, shares her wisdom on the topic of resiliency and suggests ways to cultivate it in your daily life. Are you resilient? What does it mean to you to be flexible?
In this excerpt from her book The Prosperity Plan: Ten Steps to Beating the Odds and Creating Extraordinary Wealth (and Happiness), life coach and sought-after speaker Laura Berman Fortgang offers her interpretation of right livelihood, along with suggestions for discovering what it is you’re meant to do.
I don’t believe there is only one form that your right livelihood, passion, or purpose must take. There are many ways that it can be expressed. What has become clear to me after years of working with people so that they may recognize their purpose and right work is that it is not a matter of one project, passion, or job; rather, it is a way of being, a talent, a unique attribute you have that cannot be repeated by anyone, because no one else can be you. And that quality or strength expressed through you can fit into a myriad of job descriptions.
Ultimately, it is not what you do that will make you happy but how you feel when you are doing it. Who it allows you to be is the secret to the joy.
Chances are, there is a theme that has followed you throughout your life and through different jobs. Until it is discovered, named, and brought into your awareness, it will never register with you as being important. When you identify it, name it, and see how it has always been a part of you, you will have confirmation that you are supposed to amplify that part of yourself and allow it to be the criterion for your choice of work.
Taking charge of your stress means taking a holistic view of your health.
Jane, a 45-year-old holistic health worker from Rhode Island, was having trouble dealing with stress—stress about deadlines, stress about her workload, stress about being newly single after the end of a long-term relationship. She also carried a weightier worry about the innumerable things she felt she couldn’t control. “My sense of not knowing—of not having answers to some of my questions about my future—was especially stressful, because I wasn’t sure how to address something that intangible,” Jane says.
She’s hardly alone. Susan B. Lord, MD, who teaches Kripalu’s popular Healthy Living immersion program called Transforming Stress, sees dozens of men and women who come to her program with concerns about their levels of stress. Some people, like Jane, are looking for ways to free themselves from anxieties, while others are seeking solutions to stress that causes emotional anguish as well as serious physical health concerns.