Happiness comes from paying attention.

I’ve been ruminating on the above image for awhile. It’s the May page from the Mutts calendar I gifted my mom for Christmas, and it’s brilliant. I’d expect nothing less from the Buddha (or Patrick McDonnell, for that matter).

I think a large degree of happiness stems from paying attention. There’s perfection everywhere you look — in every nook and cranny of creation; in every bird and bee and flower and tree and human being you encounter.  Yes, even in the antics of Karl Pilkington or the rumble of the weed whacker next door.

See also: Happiness Is an Inside Job

Miracles abound, from the way hair grows effortlessly on our heads to the light of stars long dead shining down on us to the vocal chords of Lorde. It’s all about SEEING them. Which is hard to do if your face is buried in an iPhone.

Take Buddha’s single flower as an example. Do you know what it takes for one lone bud to make its way into our wild world? A seed has to germinate via soil, sunlight and water. Then comes the root and the shoot, one bearing down, one reaching skyward to become a stem.  Leaves unfold and a flower emerges, complete with petals, sepals, and stamens, ready to bear seeds that will in turn create more flowers. All that work — no effort. Talk about a miracle.

When we’re trapped in the prison of own minds, its hard to acknowledge the amazing. When our thoughts go awry we can make a silk purse into a sow’s ear, a lottery win into a financial curse or an appearance on Ellen into a career killer. In the timeless words of John Milton: “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

Once you start noticing all the wonders of our world, its almost impossible to avoid a sense of awe. When my thoughts are wandering down a dark path, putting my attention on the infinite miracles around me ALWAYS turns my mood around. It’s why I’m so obsessed with the outdoors. How can I feel depressed when I’m immersed in the miracle of all creation? When I’m basking in the unbelievable abundance that’s all around me? When I’m a part of it? The world is a goddamn gift.

We train ourselves to notice the bad. The unpleasant and the ugly and the mean. But there are so many fantastic things blowing by us that we ignore altogether. I mean, have you thanked your lungs for taking in oxygen and spitting out carbon dioxide today? Dig into absolutely anything and you’ll find perfection lurking — marvels and wonders and seemingly impossible feats. If that doesn’t inspire some happiness, you’re doing it wrong.

When we start looking for the miracles around us, we’ll find them. I’m constantly amazed at what I see in the dirt, the trees, the sky, the grass.

In the words of Patricia, from the most spiritually underrated movie of our time, Joe Versus the Volcano, “My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”

Amen to that. Wake up. See the miraculous. Be happy.

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4 Responses

  1. Janay says:

    Hannah, I absolutely love this post. It’s so nice to know I’m not the only one in love with the world around us! I too am constantly awed and amazed by the beauty and intricacy and complexity of nature. I especially love to go outside at night and gaze at the sky and the stars – it’s always so breathtaking and inspiring to know there’s a whole universe out there, with countless worlds unimaginably far away! It’s crazy! It’s too bad more people don’t stop to look around them and appreciate the things around them, and how incredible the world truly is.

    • Shirking Conventions says:

      Awwww, thank you Janay! I love that you share my sentiments. <3 Nature is such a source of joy and wonder -- I long for everyone to see what we see!

  2. Brent says:

    Your blog absolutely rocks! I use that cart on a path metaphor all the time with my clients in recovery. Hannah my dear keep spreading the love.

    • Hannah says:

      Awwww, thanks dude! <3 I love that you've got such a positive, life-affirming approach to therapy. I'm sure you're doing amazing work! 😀

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