What is happiness and how do we find it?
Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, provided an answer to this question 2000 years ago and said the following: “Who is rich? The one who is appreciates what he has” (Talmud—Avot 4:1). In other words, happiness is about appreciating what we have, as opposed to focusing on what we don’t have. It’s about gratitude. So the challenge lies before us: How do we cultivate gratitude and appreciation in our own lives? What rituals or actions can we perform that will remind us of our blessings? Each of us is blessed in countless ways. In the age of social media, where interactions and correspondences move at a speedy pace, our challenge is to find the time to slow down, breathe and appreciate our blessings.
This past year, I enrolled in ten-week Mindfulness Meditation Course. As part of the course, the facilitator read several poems to the participants. One particular poem provides a unique perspective on gratitude.
The Other Seven Wonders of the World
A group of students was asked to list what they thought were the present “Seven Wonders of the World.” Though there were some disagreements, the following received the most votes:
- Egypt’s Great Pyramids
- Taj Mahal
- Grand Canyon
- Panama Canal
- Empire State Building
- St. Peter’s Basilica
- China’s Great Wall
While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student had not finished her paper yet. So she asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list. The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there are so many.”
The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.”
The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’ are:
- To see
- To hear
- To touch
- To taste
- To feel
- To laugh
- And to love.
The room was so quiet you could have heard a pin drop. The things we overlook as simple and ordinary and that we take for granted are truly wondrous! A gentle reminder — that the most precious things in life cannot be built by hand or bought by man.
The poem reminds us of the many wonders of our senses, and that the simple of act of stopping to appreciate them, can help us feel more gratitude and appreciation in our lives.
What are you grateful for in your life? What experiences/rituals help you remember to feel grateful?
For me, I put postcards and handwritten notes on my wall above my desk, to remind me of the diverse experiences I’ve had in my life, and the special connections that I’ve had with people. In the evenings, I try to write write down one thing everyday that happened that day, for which I am grateful. Those are some practices that work for me. What works for you?