Putting Happiness into Perspective

On Saturday afternoon, J. and I were cleaning the house in preparation of a dinner party we were throwing later that day. While scrubbing down the bathroom tiles, I listened to a couple of Peg Mulqueen’s podcasts on Ashtanga Dispatch, after hearing about them through T. and J., a couple of friends I’ve made through Cody.

I thought I’d share one of my favourite clips came from an interview with Kino McGregor and Tim Feldman. They were speaking about happiness and how we view happiness.

In India, Kino explained, people don’t ask about each other’s feelings. If you ask an Indian man how he feels, you are often met with a look of confusion. A more common greeting is to ask, “Have you eaten lunch?” Life in India is filled with a lot more hardship; getting a proper meal is a far more important question and so if the response is yes, then it’s a good day.

In comparison, many of us who live privileged lives have their material needs fulfilled. We have all the clothes we need and can drive our cars down to Starbucks to pick the drink that we want. And the “American dream” is to get married, have kids and a nice house with a fence. But even when we have those things, we might not necessarily feel happiness.

And so when we ask each other, “How are you?”, one might answer, “I’m feeling a little sad today. My favourite coffee shop closed down.” or “I’m disappointed that my husband didn’t cook dinner for me.”

Pretty big difference, huh?

This clip struck me as I’d been having a bit of a self-pity party lately (let’s be clear, it’s a solo party) and that I need to shake myself out of it. I’m not sure where it stems from – bad weather, isolation, inconsistent sleep patterns – but I know for one thing, it’s completely unnecessary.

I’ve traveled a lot and while I was happy to see India last December, it is still easy to forget how much I take for granted. But I am much more aware of my privilege as I grow older. I am a cis-gendered, well-educated child that grew up with a nurturing family. My parents were financially secure enough to give me access to post-secondary education and encouraged me and my sister to travel to learn about the world. I know I’m lucky I have all these things, because it’s such a shock to me when I meet kids and adults who have never left the country, let alone this province.

Helping people see their own privilege has been a big topic in media the past years, now that we can laugh at a teenager who’s blind to her own privilege and tries to protect the police from media bias or point out how cruel the truth is when we play Cards Against Humanity.

While it makes me sad* it’s unfortunate oppression continues to exist, it’s great that we are having these conversations in a public sphere. And reading these articles keep me grounded sometime. It allows me to remove focus from myself.

So following a meditation from Kerri Verni, which I found particularly helpful in getting me over anxiety / sadness / disappointment, I’ve decided to write a short list of gratitude for today:

  1. My family is healthy, fit and happy. My grandmother just celebrated her 97th birthday on the weekend.
  2. I am healthy and don’t have any injuries. My core is strong!
  3. I enjoy my job. I don’t feel anxiety thinking about the upcoming week. I’m excited to teach them about the history of the number zero.
  4. I feel financially stable. Sure, my car insurance has gone up another $20 a month, but I can afford to pay it. I love having access to a car, even if it costs me money.
  5. My fridge is full! I have zucchinis and cauliflower!!!

Off to watch 10 Questions for the Dalai Lama. Have a great day!

*Focusing on the bigger pictures, rather than my feelings. 

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