Connection and Gratitude are the Keys to Happiness
Complaints are made by others. They're always blaming others for their problems. To begin with, as a youngster, I was naive enough to trust what others were saying to me. I genuinely believed there were a lot of legitimate reasons to complain: the weather, the neighbors, the husband or wife, the children (myself), civilization (or the lack of it), terrible health, and so on and so on. I thought that the world had just turned out this way and that we had no control over it. I think it was referred to as "fate."
Praying was the only option. Inability to beg for a better life. No way! When I was a child, I was taught to pray to God for forgiveness of my sins. For the sake of our weekly confessions, I was a very pleasant and well-behaved young girl, which made it a challenge for me to come up with new examples of my crimes. But, they said, due to the inherent sinfulness of human nature, I was obligated to go to confession. As a last resort, the nuns at school devised a plan to "prepare" our sins for us. I recall feeling sad for the poor priest, locked in his small dark hut, spending the whole day listening to the confessions of 600 young girls, continually repeating the same crimes... Every Wednesday was confession day, and they handed us pink papers with our "confessions of the day."
Growing up, I always had the impression that something was wrong. Doing what someone else has already done to me in order to make myself look bad doesn't seem like the right way to live. That's why I wouldn't go any further in confessing wrongdoings I hadn't done. That I had to pray every day for nothing to change and that I was the source of my own sorrow was beyond belief!
At the age of 26, I traveled to Africa. I met my Belgian husband there, and we had a lovely time together, with lots of sunlight and enough money, which is something that most people don't complain about, right? People only moan, in my view, for the reasons I learned in elementary school: bad weather (too cold, too much rain), a lack of funds, etc. However, what I found out when I was there was quite eye-opening! The white friends were whining about the weather, service, and prices—despite the fact that they were making five times as much as before!
I realized right then and there that the whining had no basis in reality. The black people in their communities, who were surviving on almost nothing, didn't seem to be complaining either. They had nothing but a huge grin on their faces, whereas we had everything and were still grumbling, and this intrigued me. It's hard to believe.
When I realized that the concerns had nothing to do with the external environment, I was relieved. It was a way of life. As a follow-up, I tried to discover the origin of this tendency. As a result, I studied the locals' way of life and made comparisons with our own. My life was dramatically altered when I eventually came up with an explanation!
Between us and them, there are two major distinctions. The first distinction is that everyone in the community has access to a social network for support. They form a tight group. Nonconformists aren't evicted because they don't fit the mold. The "institution" is a location where people who can't keep up with society's rapid pace and so "fall out of the boat" are put when they show signs of being different in contemporary culture. In most facilities, we can't see these folks because of their enormous walls. Instead of protection, they give the impression of a jail.
To avoid having to deal with those who don't fit into our culture, we hide them behind walls. In addition to people who are unable to care for themselves (such as those who attend special schools) or who are deemed too dangerous to manage (such as those who are housed in institutions), there are also those who have become too elderly or exhausted to care for themselves (we put them in expensive homes).
Each individual is embraced and cared for in their own community in Africa (except the really dangerous ones; they go to prison). Everyone has a built-in network of friends and family who can provide a hand when needed. The fact that you can't walk or that you're intellectually sluggish doesn't mean that you're cut off from the rest of the world. They form a tight group. Another reason we moan so much is that we feel lonely and alone inside. This is what I've discovered.
Because these individuals are linked to something higher than themselves, there is a distinct distinction. They believe in a deity who cares for them and protects them. They devote a significant amount of time and energy to performing rituals in order to appease their god(s) and reap the benefits of good health and abundance.
So, after much consideration, I've determined that building social networks of people and connecting with something greater than ourselves are critical foundations of human pleasure.
"Connection" is at the heart of it all. A link to the infinite. Then I discovered that positive things can only happen when we remain connected to one another and the Cosmos. I began researching the Universal Laws and devoted a lot of my time and energy to assisting others in making connections with one another and with the rest of creation. Actually, it became the driving force in my life.
Many individuals believe they are stranded on their own and unable to get aid. In reality, this isn't the case. You are cherished and directed by a power greater than yourself. Make an effort to sense the link between the two. Every day, take a moment to commune with the Divine. As I learned from the African folks I met many years ago, you, too, may forge meaningful connections with the universe and others in your immediate vicinity without being unduly dependent on others. I promise that you'll never be alone again and you will be able to share more love.
When you live a "connected existence," you'll forget about your previous gripes. What's the harm in being happy? You'll be greeted with thanks instead of complaints! Gratitude is the best way to express your gratitude to the Universe for all the blessings you've already received, as well as those still to come. The affection you've gotten and will continue to get is something you should be grateful for. With a simple wave of your hand, show your gratitude for the free, potable water you take for granted. Many people struggle for hours each day just to receive a sip, and many more succumb to dehydration. The light you turn on with a flick of the wrist should be an object of gratitude. Electricity is scarce in many places around the globe. The variety of meals you have every day is something to be grateful for; many people can only afford one meal or are famished.
What a wonderful time of year it is! As a 26-year-old American living in Africa, I was embarrassed to hear my white friends lamenting the lack of basic necessities while my black friends, who had almost nothing, were content with the simple pleasures of life.
What matters is how you think about it. Happiness and gratitude are a state of mind and an attitude. Situational factors have no bearing. Gratitude permeates the atmosphere.