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Happiness and peace: Is a bigger boat really better?

There are all kinds of different motivations and goals at work in this world, as many as there are people, I suppose. But if you were to boil them all down, this is what you'd find. People want to be at peace within themselves. And they want to be happy.

Why else do people strive to be successful, or to attain an important position? Why else do they go on trips to faraway places, or turn hopefully to a new relationship?

Why else do they oppress their own kind?

The thinking gets pretty twisted sometimes, obviously -- but in one way or another, the idea is, "This will bring happiness. This will bring peace."

I was a boy of 8 living with my Aunt Eva in a remote corner of North Devon in England when I first began thinking about these things.

Bombs were raining down on London and other cities in England, and like many children, I had been evacuated to a safer environment.

Is a bigger boat better?

My Aunt's house was near a river, where I loved to roam and dream. I looked for birds nests, I paddled in the warm pools that were left behind when the tide went out.

It was a rather solitary existence. I was an only child, and my mother was working in a bookshop in London, while my father was in the Army, working as a war correspondent in India and the Far East.

One day I decided to build a raft, or perhaps a canoe, and it was as I was thinking about this wonderful idea that I had my first conscious realization concerning happiness.

"Would someone with a bigger boat, or a ton of money, be any happier than me paddling my canoe or floating on my raft?" I asked myself. No, they wouldn't, I decided.

It was a simple realization -- as I say, I was only 8 -- but I still remember how good it made me feel

Happiness and peace are friends

A lot of water has passed under the bridge since that long-ago time in my life.

I know now that true happiness and inner peace are friends. You can't really separate them.

And I know something else too. You don't have to search for happiness ever again once you come face to face with the stillness at the core of your being and open yourself to the peace of that eternal presence.

I walked into the kitchen this morning to stir the porridge that JoAnn had put on the stove for me, and as I put the spoon into the saucepan I suddenly became aware of the most gorgeous sound.

It was still quite dark outside -- JoAnn and I get up early -- but a robin had begun to sing in the linden tree in our backyard.

I opened the window a little and listened in absolute delight to that bird as it reveled in the joy of life -- as it played its part with generous excess in welcoming a new day.

Giving up the search

We don't have to search for happiness any longer when we come home to our own true character, and what a relief that is.

Is all that is happening at the moment the sight of an old man going for his daily walk in the street? That works. It's more than enough.

Is all that is happening a flower or a blue Colorado sky? Perhaps a child playing or a trip to the supermarket? My, life is bountiful today.

Happiness and peace are characteristics of the divine nature – our own divine nature -- and shame on me if I ever forget it.

Mind you, there will be difficult circumstances, of course. Fear will arise. Sadness will arise. Anger will bestir itself. But that’s just this phenomenal world on the move. Or it’s my own human conditioning clicking in.

The stillness at the core of your being and mine is unmoved by any of it.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jerry Olga March 28, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Chris; It was the winter of 1967 ,Being 16 years old and on the start of a long journey across “Canada” . I had taken up a small collection from relatives in “Rhode Island”.Fifty dollars ,3000 miles ahead of me . Barely getting through customs in “Quebec”,I knew the journey would not be easy. With my worldly possessions in my back pack I was told just follow the “Kings Highway” all the way to “BC” gonorth at “Cache Creek” . Nine days later in the we hours of the morning at the “Red Coach Inn” in 100 Mile House B.C. I had the most memorable hug from my late brother “Greg”Archambault

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Christopher Foster March 29, 2010 at 9:12 am

Thanks so much for sharing this touching story Jerry. You make it so real. I remember Greg well. It was a pleasure to know him. It’s a pleasure now to get to know you a bit too. Every good wish. C

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