Opening to happiness

It was the perfect opportunity for a meltdown, had I wanted one. New to town, I had missed my exit three times, driving back and forth on that pot-holed strip of I-5 in Seattle between 520 and I-90, late at night, in the pouring rain, after a long day of work and an evening workshop, my glasses back at home by my bed where I longed to be.

Exasperated, the Big Girl Tantrum part of my brain started to whine, to bemoan the state of the highway, the constant rain, my ever having moved away from the sure place I had known for the past 22 years, the state of my life, the state, the country, the state of the world, and beyond.

But thankfully, Pollyanna, the resilient part of my brain who can turn lemons into lemonade, piped in cheerfully with “This problem and this new life are good exercise for my brain and will keep me young!” I soon found an exit with Magellan-like skill, explored a new part of Seattle I had not seen before, and was home with a smile on my face in good time.

Michael Singer, in his book “The Untethered Soul,” says there is one basic choice in life that we make every moment of our lives, no matter what is happening: to be happy or not to be happy. When one is happy, he says, one is open to others and whatever is happening. When one is unhappy, one is closed or resistant or judgmental about something (not to be confused with discernment.)

Taken to heart, whenever we find ourselves unhappy or mad at someone or a situation we find ourselves in, we can ask ourselves some simple questions: “What am I closed or resistant to? What am I judging? What would I need to open to in order to become o.k. with this? Where am I being asked to grow?”

Thich Nhat Hanh says “Anger is a lack of understanding.” When we are angry we can ask ourselves what it might be that we don’t understand about the other person, the situation, or even ourselves. Anger can become a potential catalyst for learning, for opening, for forgiving, perhaps even ourselves.

Life’s highway is seldom a straight shot from here to there. When we get upset with each traffic jam, detour and bump in the road we arrive grumpy, spreading our bad cheer to those we care about. When we meet each unexpected happening as an opportunity to open to life as it is, we become happier and more resilient in the process.

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