Be Well Be Happy

Having experiences is more fulfilling than having things.

It feels good to get a new pair of shoes or a new dress or a new set of golf clubs or a new watch. It feels good to get a new car or countless other things.

Those moments are really just moments and if we put everything we have in one big room we could stare at it and think – it is just a big pile of “stuff”. If we have a house and a car or two we could look at them from afar and think, nice, inanimate “stuff”.

That is all good and has a place in our lives. If we can, it is great to obtain beautiful things. But, the importance we sometimes place on things can get in the way of a happy life.

A few weeks ago, Helen my co-writer for this column, shared an app called “On Being” and particularly pointed me to an interview on “Gratitude” with Brother David Steindl-Rast, a 90-year old delightful Benedictine monk. What rang true to me was his description of feeling joy in moments of gratitude, i.e., when we have something that makes us feel joy.

He explains that when the heart fills up with joy because of something we have gotten, rather than overflowing and initiating “thanksgiving” in his words, “advertisement” comes in telling us there is a bigger or newer model or something we should get. So rather than feeling alive with this new something in our lives overflowing like water in a fountain that is too full, the vessel becomes bigger. It never overflows. And we are never satisfied.

Taking this notion to the experiential side of our lives, what does it take to feel joy in the heart? What do we need to experience to feel real joy?

A friend of mine, who has everything, needs nothing, can do whatever she wants pretty much, spent the winter in FL in a very small place – one room - , because that is what became available. She “planned” to have experiences she normally wouldn’t have and was so happy. She played tennis. She danced. She went to yoga classes. She had dinners with unexpected visitors. She was open. She said it was “freeing”. And that is inspiring. Granted, she knew she was coming back to her “stuff”, but being joyful in the simple experiences is the lesson. It is fulfilling to spend money that we have on having experiences, rather than having new, better (i.e., more expensive) “stuff”.

A local lunch with a couple of friends. A weekend in an historical town. A wine-tasting dinner with friends. An afternoon in a natural preserve. A day at a museum. A bike ride to a community fair. A chat at the local coffee shop. A yoga class. A trip with family. You name it.

Being present in and open to experiences fulfills us in a way that nears what Brother Steindl-Rast talks about. When the water is filling the fountain, i.e., the time we are experiencing something, allow it to overflow in its simplicity, and feel the joy of the experience.

May your experiences illuminate your heart, enlighten your mind and nourish your soul.

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