Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings.
Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Each of us has one hand that is dominant. For 10 to 12 percent of us, this is the left hand. For the others, it is the right.
All your life you’ve been eating with this, your dominant hand. You’ve been writing with it, loving with it, working with it, playing sports with it. You know it better than your other hand. You trust it more than your other hand. It is without doubt stronger than your non-dominant hand, yet if you are going to perform the subtlest task, calling for the gentlest touch, you are going to choose this, your dominant hand.
Now, imagine you lose the use of your dominant hand. You are not going to stop eating or drinking or washing dishes. You’re still going to write, you’re still going to set your watch and answer your phone and make your bed. But you’re going to have to relearn how to do every one of these things, now with your other hand. You’re going to have to bring your full awareness to each task as it arises, no longer able to go on automatic. You’re going to have to stay present with yourself, guide yourself as you learn how to run the vacuum cleaner with your other hand, put on your shoes with the other hand, button your coat, comb your hair, brush your teeth, and on and on and on.
After some time, things will once again begin to come naturally, and you will find yourself automatically reaching for your silverware with your new handedness, opening the door, picking an apple, putting on a hat without having to think about it; behaving as if it were perfectly normal for you to do things this other way. What at first might have felt like an impossible task will have become second nature, or nearly so. You will have wonder at how hopeless it once seemed to you, yet how smoothly it now goes. And when, occasionally, you reach for the ketchup with the formerly dominant hand and find yourself unable to pick it up, you may smile to yourself for your momentary lapse, then pick up the bottle, gratefully, with your new, hard-won skill.
Most of us have spent a lifetime being miserable, at least to some degree. A lifetime feeling at the effect of the world, helpless to change it or its effect on us, with happiness just a state we pass through occasionally, but not often and never for long. We have learned to be content to suffer, to be happy with our lot. We have embraced philosophies that explain to us the why of things and we have built lives that allow us to continue on, regardless of how hopeless we may feel ever to change.
Then we learn that happiness is a choice. We hear this from someone we trust, and it rings true. We begin to study. We learn from the masters of consciousness–from the Buddha, from the Vedic masters, the ancient rishis, from modern day saints–that joy is the truth of the universe, and that it is our task to cease ignoring this joy as our birthright. We hear this same truth from so many places, so many directions, that we begin to believe it not only as a true truth, but maybe, just maybe, as a truth that might apply to me. So we begin to practice it.
How hard do you think we might need to practice it? Imagine you’ve lost the use of your dominant hand…
Today I will bring myself present to each moment of my day, reminding myself, again and again and again, that I can be happy even with this. That I can find joy even given this. That I can love myself, and my world, and others, even knowing this. Whatever this may turn out to be. I will absolutely insist on enjoying life.