Happiness in Odd Places

Yesterday I took my son for his one-year well-child visit. In the exam room, there was a calendar with this quote for August:

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.

Denis Waitley

I can totally buy the first sentence. Happiness isn’t something tangible, so one couldn’t do any of those things with it. I can even buy the first part of the second sentence, that happiness is a “spiritual experience.” There’s some debate in my mind about whether an emotion is spiritual, but in the sense that it’s intangible and internal (and perhaps ineffable), I think spiritual is as good a way of describing it as any.

I’m not sure about the “living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude” part, though. It’s not the love, grace, and gratitude that give me trouble (well, grace always gives me a little trouble); it’s the “living every minute” part. Is it really not happiness if I don’t live love, grace, and gratitude every minute? What is it if I water the garden with love, grace, and gratitude, but I don’t wait in line at the grocery store with them? Was I not actually happy in the garden?

I didn’t know who Denis Waitley was until I Wikipedia-ed him. Perhaps it’s not advisable to put too much energy into analyzing a motivational speaker’s definition of happiness, especially when I’ve got the wisdom of Buddhist monks at my disposal. But it’s been on my mind since I saw it, and I wanted to think it through in writing.

Now that I’ve thought it through, I don’t think this is a definition of happiness I’ll go with. The “every minute” part makes it too black-and-white for me. It doesn’t make sense to me that my feeling of contentment and serenity couldn’t be defined as happiness if I didn’t feel it all the time.

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