My Psalm 63
Satisfaction, Life, Health
It is the state of being… well… well-being. The first known use of the root word, “hap”, dates back to the fourteenth century. That fact begs the question: What did people do before then? Were they all depressed, ill, out of luck, prone to misery? Actually, according to Hollywood, they evidently were. The prevailing use of “hap” was “hapless”, meaning a person who had bad luck or misfortune. In fact, even the words that rhyme with happiness have negative connotations – scrappiness, sappiness, snappiness.
In the late fourteenth century, they added a “y” and somewhere doubled the consonant (Thank the idiosyncrasies of spelling in the English language which takes lessons from all known dialects and throws them in together!) to make the adjective we know as “happy”. However, the ambiguity of its meaning still exists today. One was happy when favored by fortune and events were called happy when things turned out well. Of course, if one team is happy then the other is not, even though they may be in a state of well-being which, by definition means they are happy. Confused? So were the medieval linguists.
From the early “hap” in the fourteenth century to a meaning of “very glad” in the late fourteenth century, the word we know as happy also traces its lineage to the Old English “eadig” meaning wealth which explains the definition of prosperity or good fortune. However, the Old English “gesaelig” also meant “happy” and today that word is the grandfather/mother to our word “silly” which really meant greatly pleased”. In 1520, happy meant content and begun an circuitous course which included with Old English “blide”, our modern day word “blithe”. From the Greek to the English to the Irish, most words for “happy” meant lucky. The exception was the Welsh word which meant wise.
Does this mean, since everything traces only as far back as the fourteenth century, that happy was not a concept of the early religious writings such as those in the Torah, the Bible, or the Koran? The earliest known writings of Buddha are called the Dhammapada. In it, Buddha wrote: “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows one, as the wheel follows the foots of the ox that draws the wagon.” Buddha was concerned with healing and felt the path to everything was in the healing of our ways. “All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts. It is made up of our thoughts. If one speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows one, like a shadow that never leaves.”
Hindu teacher Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami explains that the Hindu philosophy teaches three ways to happiness: “become secure in your innate; inner joy through meditation; devotion and service to others”. These teachings incorporate the Welsh wise with the Buddhist belief in personal well-being.
Positive psychology is a rather new school of thought that studies those strengths and virtues that enable communities as well as individuals a chance and environment to not only survive but thrive. Psychologist Ed Diener references the state of being happy as simply one of more positive emotions than negative ones. Martin Seligman, a leading researcher in Positive Psychology and author of “Authentic Happiness” describes happiness as “three parts: pleasure, engagement, and meaning.”
The real core of being happy lies in the heart of the beholder. Psychologist Daniel Gilbert explains that happiness is a great deal like optometry, a science involving eye care: “Optometry is another one of those sciences that is built entirely on people’s reports of subjective experience. The one and only way for an optometrist to know what your visual experience is like is to ask you, ‘Does it look clearer like this or (click click) like this?’”
While wisdom is covered a great deal in ancient religious texts, happiness seems to have been a personal concept. When we think we are happy, we are. When we think have experienced good luck, we are happy. When we feel our life has been of service and has a purpose, we are happy. When we feel certain about something, we are happy.
Businessman Jerry Lopper has written extensively about the advantages of being happy. In his book “Authentic Happiness” he cites one study in which over two thousand Mexican-Americans age 65 and over were tested and tracked for two years. Researchers reported that those reporting more positive emotions were fifty percent more likely to live longer and also fifty percent less likely to become disabled. He maintains that “Happy people are more likely to have stronger immune systems and happy people endure pain better than unhappy people.”
Other studies support his findings. A Mayo Clinic program reported that optimists live longer than pessimists and a study of over one hundred and seventy five nuns found that ninety percent of those with inherent positive emotions in their writing lived to age 85 years. Fifty-four percent lived to age 94 years. The less cheerful nuns had much different findings with only theirty-four percent living to age 85 and only 11 percent to age 94.
Society sends out mixed messages regarding happiness and where we find it. Happy people are more productive at work although our greatest sense of happiness comes from home experiences. In an age when religious activities are often overshadowed by social and sporting events and considered archaic, those invested in their religious community tend to be more positive, more productive, and report a greater sense of self-satisfaction. Happy people suffer less depression, less paranoia, and suicide and exhibit greater coping skills and self control.
So what is the greatest stumbling block to achieving happiness? Ourselves. The core beliefs we keep in the back of our minds, those self-limiting beliefs we hold onto as if they were golden treasure, are the source of our greatest unhappiness, fear, and anxiety – all of which can become crippling in our attempt to accomplish goals or just go about our daily lives. What we own does not make us happy. What we believe our value to be does.
Rewiring our minds to think positive is not as easy as changing one’s shirt. The first step, though, just might be in thinking outside of one’s self. Follow the teachings of Buddha, the Hindu teachings, and even the ancient prophets. Be our service to someone else. Making another smile makes us smile. After all, we all smile in the same language!
My Psalm 63
The clamor of fools does not make me happy.
Their spoken lies, their feigned praise, their shallow preachings,
Fall on my deaf heart.
I wait for the love of the Lord,
The Creator, the Teacher, the Spirit of All.
Love is the key.
Love alone does nothing, just as a key sits idle.
Opening the heart takes effort;
We must serve others to serve ourselves.
Life is truly lived when one is happy.
The truth of Life is in giving.
The rewards of giving is happiness.
The reward of happiness of living –
Living in the moment;
Living the faith;
Living with the Spirit.
When we live happy, the heavens clap.