Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

February 23, 2016

In order to survive and thrive in prison camp, there are a few philosophies I try and follow. Among them: choose to be happy (or at least content) and try and find the positive in every situation. These philosophies are based on the reality that external events themselves are not inherently good or bad, affirming or insulting, exciting or boring. WE apply values to them based on our own experience and belief systems (which are often not based on reality to begin with)!

I recently read Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss. It was a quick read (2 hours, 142 pages) but I enjoyed it tremendously. A lot of philosophical/self help books babble on and/or are too esoteric to have a significant impact on every day life. Not so this book! The first sentence of this book is “There is only one way to achieve lasting happiness. That way is simply: Be happy.” Yep! I’m in.

And then the concept that really smacked me in the head on p. 6:

Answer truthfully the following question. Would I want this to be true: Every event that befalls me is absolutely the best possible event that could occur. The second, more difficult, part is to truthfully answer the question: Will I give that a chance to be true?

What a radical concept! It takes the philosophy that we are the ones who control our emotions in any given moment to the extreme. This is not “try to make the best of it” or “find the good in a bad situation.” This is not “I can only be happy if…” or “I’ll be happy when…” This is “The universe (or the Creator) does not make mistakes.” This is “the only obstacle to my happiness is me.”

The timing of reading this book was fortuitous as I had the opportunity to apply this concept to an external event a few weeks back that “caused” me significant stress. Without going into detail, the news had to do with my case and how that could impact me. My initial reaction was not positive and I was focused on how it could be a “bad” thing. After reflection and application of this radical concept, I realized that I had tied a chunk of my happiness to things being “over”; an external situation over which I have no control. In addition, I was worrying about something that may or may not happen and – again – over which I have no control. So not only am I fine with whatever happens, I am happy knowing that it will be the best possible thing that can happen to me!

 

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