I’m sure I can’t have been the only one who has been musing on the ‘big questions’ during the last 18 months, a strange and difficult time.
One I asked myself was: ‘What’s the secret of genuine happiness?’ Or perhaps not exactly happiness, but a sense of contentment, inner contentment.
Last year I realised that I wasn’t as in control of my life as I had assumed. A serious illness could take health away, life away, and loved ones away. Luckily it hadn’t (so far, touch wood) but the worry was there. It had occurred to me before but not to the same overwhelming extent as these last two years.
Governments now had the power to take freedoms away at little or no notice, including those things that were always taken for granted.
Nothing was permanent, it seemed, and it made me feel rather ill at ease. As if I wasn’t in control anymore, even of the little things.
It wasn’t just that though. My faith in politics, people in power, and many elements of the media was ebbing away. I found what was going on in the world increasingly draining. There seemed to be more and more hatred, intolerance, judgement, division and conflict.
One day, I was out for a stroll, musing on the question, ‘If life is so uncertain, what’s the best way to find inner contentment?’
What’s the secret? Is it power, money? Well, both those can disappear too. And it seems to me that sometimes the more power someone has, the more they want; the more money someone has, the more they want. It can become an addiction. And of course bad things can still happen to the very rich and the very powerful. Neither wealth or power is a guarantee for happiness or contentment.
Now, this is just my personal belief and maybe I could be wrong. But the conclusion I came to was this: maybe, just maybe, the answer to gaining contentment is wisdom. A different way of looking at the world. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a wise person “has or shows experience, knowledge, and good judgement”.
I’ve heard it said that once you start looking for signs, they will begin to appear. Maybe, maybe not.
But a few weeks later, I was curious to find a book, Wisdom of the Ages, at a car boot sale. It looked quite tatty and dirty but, along with two other books, cost a pound in total. Bargain. After a quick clean, it looked as good as new.
I haven’t read it all yet. It’s an ongoing project and, indeed, its author Wayne W Dyer recommends reading a chapter a day as a ‘two-month renovation project of your soul’. He suggests reading one section each day and to try to apply the guidance that comes at the end of the chapter. So, 60 subjects, 60 wise teachers from all eras, cultures and corners of the globe, spanning areas from religion to literature to philosophy and so on.
I have read the New Testament and knew Jesus would have wise words to say (and he does) and that the nature-loving and spiritual Native Americans such as Chief Seattle would be able to teach us ‘Reverence for Nature’, but then there are those who appear in this book who are more unexpected such as Shelley and Michaelangelo.
Martin Luther King, Buddha, Rumi, Confucius and St Francis of Assisi can also be found.
Subjects include Inspiration, Judgement, Humility, Balance, Communication and Patience. I’m still in the process of reading and learning but it’s proving to be an inspiring read. If only those in power could learn to be wise!
Below are some excerpts from the book:
Each time you hear news reports [about hostility and hatred], remember that for every act of inhumanity to man, there are a thousand acts of kindness.
Wayne W Dyer
Peace: Decide to always choose that which brings you and others a sense of inner and outer peace.
Wayne W Dyer
In our way of life, with every decision we make, we always keep in mind the Seventh Generation to come. It’s our job to see that the people coming ahead have a world no worse than ours – and hopefully better.
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
A Poison Tree by William Blake