You are the happiness that you seek!
Yesterday at a grocery store in Chennai, I saw my former boss’ wife. My former boss is one of India’s wealthiest people. A takeover tycoon and deal maker par excellence. Although I knew the lady well, I did not walk up to strike a conversation with her. I had quit that job over 18 years ago and, ever since, we had never been in touch. But seeing her took me back to a time at London’s Heathrow airport in 1995. I had accompanied my boss and her to the airport from our hotel in Knightsbridge (where we were staying). We had engaged a Merc for ferrying us to the airport and back. My boss was flying out to Hong Kong and his wife was due to leave for India the next morning. There was some unfinished business that my boss and I had to review and we decided to do it on the car ride to Heathrow. Soon, my boss checked-in and bade us good bye. As we started to walk to the terminal’s exit to find the Merc, my boss’ wife asked me if we could take the Tube to Knightsbridge. I was surprised. I reminded her that we had a Merc waiting for us. But she insisted we pay off the Merc and instead take the Tube. She said, “I have all the money in the world. My husband provides for all luxuries and comforts. But I miss being a commoner. I have never been on the Tube in London. And I want to really have the experience.” I did not protest. We paid off the Merc and took the Tube. The lady elicited a promise from me that I would not tell her husband that she had taken the Tube to ride to Knightsbridge. At the end of the ride, when we reached our hotel, she told me, “I often feel like a bird in a golden cage. Today is the happiest day of my Life!”
As I recollected this incident yesterday, my thoughts went to a story I had read somewhere.
This story is about a beautiful, rich, lady who complained to her psychiatrist that she felt her whole Life was empty and worthless; it had no meaning, especially after her husband had passed away. She became all alone in her big house. All the German cars, the palatial house, expensive furniture, British cutlery, French perfume, Persian carpets, the imported piano, the Beethoven collection – they all just became useless objects to her. She said her Life was listless and meaningless. So she asked the psychiatrist how she could find happiness in Life.
The psychiatrist called out for the lady who cleaned his office daily. She came in, even as the rich lady was wondering what was going on. The psychiatrist then said to the rich lady, “I’m going to ask Mary here to tell you how she found happiness. All I want you to do, is listen to her.” So the old cleaning lady put down her broom and sat on a chair and told her story: “Well, my husband died of malaria and three months later my only son was killed in a car accident. I had nobody… I had nothing left. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I never smiled at anyone, I even thought of taking my own Life. Then one evening, a little kitten followed me home from work. Somehow I felt sorry for that kitten. It was cold outside, so I decided to let the kitten in. I got it some milk and the kitten licked the plate clean. Then it purred and rubbed against my leg and for the first time, in months, I smiled. Then I stopped to think, if helping a little kitten could make me smile, may be doing something for people could make me happier. So the next day I baked some biscuits and took them to a neighbor who was sick in bed. I felt happy to see him enjoy those biscuits. That’s how I really started to do something nice for someone every day. It made me so happy to see them happy. Today, I don’t know of anybody who sleeps and eats better than I do. I’ve found happiness, by giving it to others.”
I am not sure my ex-boss’ wife has found this simple secret to being happy. But I sure can relate to Mary’s experience and wisdom.
In fact, my learning and understanding from Life is that happiness is a state we are born with. We intrinsically are happy people with the ability to laugh at and enjoy Life. We don’t have to go seeking it. Happiness is who we are. All we must do is to remove all those factors in us, around us, that inhibit our being happy. If riding a Merc all the time is making you unhappy, sure, go take the Tube. At every step, in every moment, make that intelligent choice to be happy. Or simply, do away with all that makes you unhappy and you will be happy.