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happiness is a choice

Happiness is a choice

Contentment is a choice, happiness is a choice, it’s a way of living.

Be content with what you have,
Rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
The whole world belongs to you.
Lao Tzu

I just spent a few days travelling with Nathan, an American guy, volunteering everywhere, teaching Medical First Aid, working on boats and helping out in harsh conditions in Kenya. Though life, travelers life, always a smile on his face. Wherever he walks into, he makes friends; having a nice word for everyone, helping out, giving all the people around him a smile, a warm feeling and some attention. He reminded me of Hawkeye, the doctor of the television series MASH 4077; womaniser, but with a good heart.

I’m just an outsider, I can’t look inside his head, but in my eyes he has mastered Santosa: the attitude of contentment. It’s one of the Niyamas in yoga, the recommendations for yogis to live their life.

The contrast between Nathan and the boss I just worked for as a volunteer couldn’t be bigger. The project I worked on is an amazing project and I have the deepest respect for the way it is set up. The dream of one person, turning out in the hard needed help for so many people is an example for many.

Too bad there was a big but… This big but was the lack of Santosa.I worked for somebody who was never satisfied. All the interims I worked with, were working their ass off. Six days a week, starting before eight in the morning, mostly finishing around six and what was their reward? Being shouted at, being mistrust, being blamed for everything there was to blame for instead of being valuated for the work done. Of Course, we all make mistakes, we are only human and being critical is good, but there is a difference between critical and negative. 99 percent of the work done was damn good work. Being an entrepreneur myself, I would have hired all of them, without hesitation.

Yes, there was the odd compliment, but the feeling of being a part of a team, the feeling being appreciated for your work, the general interest in employees, a simple chat about how you are doing in a strange country, far from home, was nine out of ten days missing. It made me think a lot about this simple rule in yoga: Santosa. About my own life, my own past, the way I want to live my life.

I haven’t always been a happy, positive, content person. In fact if I look back at my youth I think I was pretty depressed, after my parents got divorced. I was having fun playing football, but didn’t had fun going to school and never felt totally in place hanging out with friends. But at some point – somewhere when I was 21 and started studying journalism and living in Tilburg – I thought I had enough of all this negativism in my mind, all this dark thinking. I recognised that nobody was going to make me happy, except me. If I wanted to make something of my life, it was time to start with it.

It wasn’t easy and it still isn’t. It’s so much easier to feel sorry for yourself, it is so much easier to complain about everything. But what does that bring you? By doing so, we only bring ourselves down, harm the people around us and make our own life into a misery.

So I tried to be happy, to be content and the more I tried, the more I became. I lifted the fog of negative thoughts in my mind and became happier and happier. Yoga did the rest. By returning to my mat every day I keep the dark thoughts away. By meditating and doing pranayama every day I throw old emotions out, break down old linguistic bridges / thinking patterns and live more happily, more content.

I made that choice and I am happy I made it. I feel energised when I’m around happy people, I feel drained when I’m around negative people. I love to help them with yoga and meditation exercises, but it’s up to them to make the step to contentment, to happiness. It’s their choice to be happy or not, as it is my choice and I choose to be happy.

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