In the late 1980s I learned a very valuable lesson about creating happiness in life that I want to share with you. While visiting with my chiropractor Dr Brenay and a friend I was lucky to meet his brother, Dr. Alsop. During our visit he starting asking us what we wanted in life, but whatever we replied, he asked again, "And why do you want it?" And when we answered, he continued, "And why do you want that?"
Eventually, he drove the point home that we want things because we think they will make us happy. In other words, we don't really want the things we say we want. Instead, we desire the happiness we believe those things will give us.
As I started to learn that day, it doesn't matter what we think we want in life. Whatever we want, if we analyze the reason we want it, it is because we think that having these things will bring us happiness. The truth is, each time we get something we want it gives us a momentary illusion of happiness, but pretty soon we are searching for something else. The elusive happiness we are seeking never seems to arrive.
Michael Singer, in his book, The Untethered Soul, suggests we aren't happy because we put conditions on our happiness. We decide we won't be happy unless things are going the way we want them to. (And, since that seldom happens, we're seldom happy.) He suggests that we just need to decide we're going to be happy and that's that! I internalized the lesson, from listening to Dr. Alsop, by deciding that life is too short to waste it being unhappy. It's why I never stay upset for very long. My being upset isn't going to change the universe.
Dr. Alsop eventually asked us, "What if I can tell you how to be happy right now without waiting until you have the things you want?" When we expressed interest, Dr. Alsop replied that it's easy to be happy—thought plus action equals feeling. If you just try to think positively, that isn't enough. You also have to “assume the physical posture or position of happiness.” The physical manifestation of happiness is he told us is “apples up, stars in your eyes, chest out, hang onto your silver dollar and glide down the glory road of life with a gratitude attitude.”
Here's the breakdown of what he taught us.
Apples up means smile. Turn the corners of your mouth up and push out those rosy apple cheeks. It's such a simple thing to smile, but we get out of the habit. The average child smiles about 300 times per day, the average adult smiles only ten or twenty times. A smile catches people's attention, it warms their hearts and spreads sunshine instead of gloom. People tend to respond to a smile with a smile and to a frown with a frown.
Dr Alsop believed that 97% of all human beings are followers. That is, they let outside circumstances dictate how they feel and what they think. If the economy is bad, they are poor. If the weather is bad they are uncomfortable. If a friend tells us a joke or something good happens they feel good and they smile.
He also believed that the other three percent control the rest because they develop the capacity to control their own thoughts and emotions. Thus, instead of their internal world changing to reflect the outside world, they let their internal world influence the external world.
He also said that unfortunately, two-thirds of this self-activated group are actively changing the world for selfish and even evil purposes. This means that only about 1% of mankind has learned to generate goodness and happiness from inside themselves to change the world around them for good.
Put the Twinkle in Your Eyes
It isn't enough to just to smile with your mouth. The eyes reveal the true character and a smiling mouth with frowning eyes is insincere. That's why you have to put the stars in your eyes.
That twinkling eye is the sign of inner happiness. You can see it etched into the faces of some people. They have little laugh lines on the sides of their eyes, showing they have made a habit of happiness.
The older we get, the more our attitudes get etched into our bodies and faces. You see many elderly people with lines in their faces showing a lifetime of misery and unhappiness. Once in a while, however, you meet an elderly person with smile lines on his or her face, the whole countenance radiating happiness. To the casual observer and the uninformed, it would appear that this person has had a wonderful life, free of the trials and problems which weigh us all down.
But if you get to know one of these wise elders you will soon discover that their lives have been as difficult as your own. They have had their ample share of setbacks, trials, problems, heartbreaks and woe, it is just that they have learned to meet these things with light hearts and cheerful attitudes. Long ago, I set a goal to die with smile lines etched into my face, Dr. Alsop renewed my determination to achieve that goal.
Stand Up Straight
To stick one's chest out doesn't mean to stand at attention like some military person. It simply means to stand up straight. Having one's chest out is closely related to hanging onto your silver dollar. This one requires a little more explanation. You have to imagine you have a silver dollar tucked in between your thighs. To hang onto it, you have to stand up straight or it will drop.
A straight posture is one of confidence. It says, “I believe in myself.” It is important to trust yourself. It is important to recognize your self-worth. It doesn't mean we think we are better than others, it merely means we realize that we are just as good as anyone else. Everyone has successes and everyone has failures. If there is anything I have learned in doing emotional healing work, it is that we all struggle with the same feelings. I have yet to encounter a struggle in myself that is not common to the rest of humanity.
Since that is the case, my inner feelings are nothing of which to be ashamed. I can accept the fact that I have weaknesses because so does everyone else. So, instead of wasting my energies worrying about my faults and weaknesses, I can channel my energies into constructive activities.
It all boils down to this, we don't have to let other people and circumstances control our moods. We have the power to generate our attitudes and radiate that into the world. It is easy to feel loving in the presence of someone loving, to feel happy when someone is telling a funny joke, to be glad when we get what we want or joyous when we have a financial windfall. But if we rely on outside influences for our happiness, it is equally easy for outside influences to destroy our happiness, our loving feelings and our peace of mind.
Be a Leader, Not a Follower
We don't have to let circumstances outside ourselves dictate our feelings and attitudes. We can rise out of the mindless gray masses and take control of our own lives.
When we smile, people tend to return the smile. We put happiness into our environment and others tend to respond in kind. When we frown or get angry we tend to get those things back as well.
Dr. Michael Brenay stressed this point to me as much as his brother. He taught me about the universal law of return. It is known as the law of the harvest in the Bible, the law of karma in the Eastern religions, and sometimes known as the law of cause and effect. The principle is, whatever energy we put out must ultimately be drawn back to ourselves.
Dr. Brenay taught that this happens on a daily basis. He says that during the day we are putting out energy into our environment. At night, we recharge our batteries by drawing that energy back to ourselves. Whatever energy we have put out that day is the kind of energy we will receive back. He taught that that was one of the reasons so many of us are sick and in pain. We are simply reaping the harvest we sowed during the day.
If we put our apples up, our stars in our eyes, and stand up straight we put out an energy of confidence and happiness, that must be returned to us. Hence, if our lives are miserable and unhappy, we need to change the energy we are putting out. When we change the seeds we are sowing, we automatically change the harvest we reap. Dr. Alsop told me he had to practice smiling for months when he first started because he had such a bad habit of frowning. He said he smiled until his mouth hurt from exercising those smile muscles but he had the habit today and it was uplifting just to be in his presence.
Maintain a Gratitude Attitude
However, I've skipped what I believe is the most important part of this teaching, gliding down the glory road of life with a gratitude attitude. Dr. Brenay had also stressed this point to me many times. Life is a glory road but we can only see that when we carry with us this important gratitude attitude.
“When you are discouraged with a load of care, when the cross you carry seems so hard to bear...” begins a song I learned in my youth, which ends with the advice, “Count your many blessings...” As a teenager, I faced many difficulties and problems. I was weak and sickly. Being physically awkward and very poor at sports I wasn't very popular at school or church. However, I learned early on in life that when I was having problems all I needed to do was to seek out other people with problems and try to help them. Listening to the heartaches of others has always made my own problems seem easier to bear because it causes me to count my blessings.
The hard part of this teaching, however, is that we are to learn to be grateful for all things, not just the blessings, but the trials and problems and heartaches, too. Dr. Alsop explained it this way. He said, "Suppose you are driving down the road and get a flat tire, why should you be grateful for a flat tire?" The reason, he explained was this, "How do you know that the flat tire was not a blessing in disguise? Maybe it prevented you from getting into a traffic accident down the road which would have killed or maimed you. Maybe it delayed you so you could meet some person who is going to play an important role in your life." His advice was to be grateful for everything and assume it is going to ultimately be for your good.
Many years later, in one of my emotional healing classes, a lady shared how a flat tire had been a blessing to her. She had experienced many sad trials in her life. She had been put into an orphanage by her mom at a very young age, about 5 or 6. She was so lonely and unhappy there that she married as soon as she was 18 just to get away from that life. Her husband turned out to be an abusive alcoholic.
Her healing started one day when she had a flat tire, right in front of the orphanage where she grew up. Her spare turned out to be flat, too, so she went up to the orphanage to use the phone to call for help. On the front steps was a young girl, about the same age as she was when her mom abandoned her. The girl begged her to adopt her and take her home and she sat down to comfort her.
In doing so, she found that in comforting that girl she was also comforting the wounded child inside of herself, which is what started her healing journey. So, it turned out that flat tire was one of the greatest blessings of her life.
Gliding Down the Glory Road of Life
It's not easy to be grateful in hard times like these. But it is possible.
Like many of you, I've had my share of heartaches and tragedies and I'm usually not grateful at first. It isn't easy to be grateful for heartaches and headaches. However, I have learned to take these experiences to God and say, "thank you for whatever you're trying to teach me. Thank you for your refiner's fire. Help me learn what I need to know and grow the way you want me to."
Many times I feel my difficulties have been given to me to drive me to find answers to these problems so that I can help others. Whenever I find someone who I am able to comfort or assist because of the “bad” experiences I've had, I am grateful that God allowed me to have those experiences so I would be better able to serve others. This life is a challenge, but it is in meeting and overcoming challenges that glory comes. The soft and easy way is not the path to glory. One doesn't become a hero by following the path of least resistance. No, the glory road of life is to be grateful for and embrace all of life's painful lessons and experiences.
Right now we all have an opportunity to take the glory road of life. We can learn to take the troubles we are facing and turn them for our good. They can humble us, make us more prayerful, help us repent and improve our lives for the better, especially if we turn to God in our times of trouble. As Christine Mercie said in her small, but powerful book, Sons of God:
Every burden, every fear, each heartache, each quivering agony of distress and anguish can thus be offered whenever they appear, or accumulate, on life’s road. As they are “let go” of, released, without strings or restrictions, to the Lord, they become sanctified and transmuted into unutterable glory and everlasting power. If man could only begin to comprehend the inestimable worth and value of that which he so intensely and violently resents and rejects, he would know that within the difficulties lie the leverage to lift the world. He would kneel in such deep, humble gratitude [and] thank God with such sincere worship and devotion for every heartache, every tear, every sorrow, for he would realize fully the dynamic magnitude of the power these things contain.
I've learned that what Dr. Alsop told us that day is true. All trials are blessings in disguise if we just learn how to use them to our advantage. Just take Dr. Alsop's advice: Keep your apples up, keep the stars in your eyes, put your chest out, hang onto your silver dollar and glide down the glory road of life while always maintaining that gratitude attitude.