To Choose Happiness

 

            The inmates I work with at the state penitentiary have very few choices.  The young guys complain about being told what to do or being treated inconsiderately or losing privileges while the old timers just smile.  They know those things carry no weight.  They’ve taught me that one basic choice no one can take is their ability to choose happiness.

             They know that happiness isn’t a result of doing what you want or receiving what you request or being in control.  Happiness is a response to life.  It doesn’t matter what the day’s events may be, you can always choose happiness. 

            In that sense happiness isn’t a feeling but a life stance.  Happiness doesn’t result from an occurrence over which we have no influence or even after a self-defined “victory.”  Happiness is a way of being.  Happiness is saying “Yes” to life and “Thank you” and “I accept everything.”  Happiness is releasing resistance and overlooking our petty willfulness and choosing to be open-hearted.  Happiness is living as large as we can and saying, “I’m so lucky to participate in this experience!”  Happiness doesn’t depend on feeling good or on things going right.  We choose happiness because it’s the wisest and most life affirming choice we can make for ourselves, not because it’s logical.   

            Have you ever said, “If only I had more money or a great career or a super lover or (fill in the blank), then I’d be happy”?  It actually works the other way around.  When you are happy, then you receive gifts from the world.  You bless life and life blesses you.  But by then you will also realize that experiencing the magic and mystery of each moment is a greater gift than anything our minds concoct.  Choosing happiness is choosing aliveness this moment, no matter how it feels.  Funny, isn’t it, that we work so hard to be happy when the opposite – surrender -- is what’s required? 

            The act of choosing happiness is a lesson in surrender and trust. A deep peace ensues and we know that by aligning with Life, we become more ourselves.  It is proclaiming YES to life, not trying to manipulate or control.  Happiness this way isn’t fleeting.  Since it doesn’t depend on anything happening or not happening, just on our affirmation that we choose happiness, we’re not in danger of losing it.  We’re completely “in control.”

            Trying to control our surroundings in order to feel happy is a doomed effort.  Maybe that’s why the inmates learn this lesson faster than the rest of us.  Since they have no control and no hope of control, their choice is clear.  The rest of us can learn from them.


 

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