“Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” [ABRAHAM LINCOLN (ALAN COHEN)]

“Most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” [ABRAHAM LINCOLN (ALAN COHEN)]

Abraham Lincoln said that “most people are about as happy as they make up their mind to be.” Like gratefulness and positivity, contentment is not usually handed to us as a gift, although it is always ours for the asking. We need only to align our thoughts with appreciation, for contentment is not so much a state of affairs as it is a state of mind.


If money could make us happy, millionaires would rest complete after their first million. If sex could fulfill us, those who enter relationships or marriages based upon sex would roam no further. If power were the source of peace, heads of state would be the happiest people in the world. But we all know that persons with much money, sex, or power are not the happiest; in fact they are often among the most unhappy. Why? Because anyone in a state of seeking can never be happy. Only those who are constantly finding are fulfilled. And finding is not something that happens to us — it is something we do.


For the past few years, I have been practicing a very powerful mantra: ‘Perfect!” It is not the kind of mantra that is to be said sitting with eyes closed, although we certainly can do that. Instead, it is a mantra for daily life. It is a mantra that turns troubles into blessings. It is a mantra that gives encouragement and support. It is a word that heals. It is a statement of the truth.


Not long ago, I went to a concert by an elementary school band. As the director raised his baton, I sat back and for some reason expected to hear a beautiful symphony. To my surprise, I heard, instead, a horrid cacophony of squeaks, honks, upbeat notes on the downbeat, and a march that sounded like a 45 r.p.m. record played at 33. ‘This is terrible!” I thought, as I shriveled inside. And then I heard a gentle voice speak within me: “These are children; they are learning; they are doing very well” The voice, of course, spoke truth. I was judging them according to my expectations, not accepting that they were all expressing according to their ability. At that moment, the music became so lovely to me. I sat back and thoroughly enjoyed every remaining moment of the concert, and I think I cheered the loudest at its finale.


When we see life in clear focus, it is always giving us enough. We have to get our minds tuned into contentment, even work at it a little bit, to win at the game of living. One evening, for example, I had a pot luck dinner, and everyone brought a main dish. Desserts were conspicuously absent. ‘Perfect!” we decided. “Here is our chance to cut calories and lose some weight.” Several weeks later, everyone brought only dessert. Terfect!” we declared, ‘This is our opportunity to celebrate!” Celebrate what? I don’t exactly remember. We just celebrated.


It’s not so much what we do that counts, but what we think about what we do. We can take any seeming failure, and find some way to turn it into a success.


There was a man in South Africa who sold his farm for a pittance because the earth was too rocky and hard to till. Those who bought the property examined the land more deeply, and today it is the famous Kimberly diamond mine.


We must learn to distinguish between needs and desires, I often hear an I want” masquerading as “I need.” Our needs are so simple. St. Francis said, “I watch the sparrow enjoy just a little sip of water. How free are the birds who need so little and yet soar so high I”


A student went to his guru and asked to be enlightened. “Very well/’ said the teacher, “find yourself a nice cave, sit naked, and meditate. Then you will surely attain your goal.” ‘That sounds fine,” thought the student, and off he went. He decided, however, to take with him just one possession — a small loincloth.


The young yogi set out easily enough on his venture. He found a good cave and began to experience deep meditation. His loincloth, however, required occasional washing, after which he would hang it on a tree to dry. One day he noticed that mice had nibbled some holes in it, so he went into town to ask what to do. A kind lady advised him, “What you need is a cat to keep the mice away,” and (since she just happened to have a litter of kittens) she gave him one.


Things went along nicely, until the yogi realized that the cat required milk. So he returned to town and begged for milk until the townspeople got fed up and told him, “Why don’t you buy yourself a cow? That would provide for all your needs.” So he took a few weeks off from his meditation to earn some money to buy a cow.


As it turns out, cows need grassy land on which to graze. So he left his cave for a longer period, this time to buy a small patch of pasture. Now, of course, he had to feed the cow and tend to its needs, so he took a wife who could care for the animals while he practiced being enlightened. (This was in pre-liberation days.) With marriage came children, and within a few years he had a bona fide family to support. As you can imagine, he soon found himself the busy manager of a small farm, and he just couldn’t seem to find the time for even a moment’s meditation.


One day years later, the guru happened to be passing through town, and finding the yogi’s cave deserted, he ironically came to the man’s house to inquire if anyone knew what had become of the yogi.


‘That yogi was me!” the farmer told the teacher.


“What happened?” asked the guru.


“I took a loincloth with me,” was the explanation.


We have ideas, concepts, and opinions about how things would be better if we had this or that, or if we were there instead of here. Often, however, our ticket to satisfaction is in mastering the job at hand.





The dragon doesn’t live here anymore : loving fully, living freely

Alan Cohen



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