What I learned about happiness in India
Whenever I return to Toronto from India, I go through the throes of reverse culture shock. I miss things. I miss the smells of India, the flowers, incense, cooking fires, animals. India doesn’t always smell nice, but it always smells like something. I miss the diversity of life, the warmth, the colour, the overt spirituality, and the way people in India demonstrate a remarkably tolerant pluralism, a liquid response to life and a comparatively higher level of equanimity and contentment. I miss the joy. In spite of the poverty, overcrowding, and serious lack of infrastructure, I find more joy in India than I do in Canada — though we are one of the richest nations on earth.
Stuff does not make you happy
So in India, I learned that stuff doesn’t make you happy. I also learned that thinking life is supposed to be a certain way, is a sure-fire recipe for unhappiness. It’s not only unrealistic, it ignores the fact that the only thing we have any control over is our own minds, and how we choose to respond to life.
I learned the spiritual idea that everything is as it should be. Even if something “bad” happens, it was meant to be — and the best thing you can do is see the event as a teacher and learn from it. Learn about yourself, your expectations, your judgments and biases, etc.
My Integral Yoga teacher in India, Swami Brahmdev (Swamiji), says, “We are here to discover ourselves.” Swamiji also says that suffering is a gift. And the truth is, we often learn more from the difficult and unfortunate events in life.
Happiness is a choice
I know that I won the lottery of life by being born in middle-class Canada. But I also know you don’t need to have two cars, a flat screen TV, a huge RSP, and a ‘perfect life’ to be happy.
Happiness is a choice. It is a path. In fact, happiness is probably the best path towards spiritual awareness.
A.R. Rahman, when he won the Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire said that all his life he had the choice between love and hate. He chose love, and that’s why he was there, on that stage.
It is the same for all of us. Each moment, we have the choice between being positive and being negative. And that is how we manifest our lives.
So, what would happen if we decided life is perfect? Even if only for a moment.
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