Life is an Opportunity to Cultivate Happiness
In the words of Kabir, the Indian poet and mystic: “Life is a field and you are born to cultivate it. And if you know how to cultivate this field you can produce anything you like…”
In his book, “The Alchemy of Happiness,” Hazrat Inayat Khan tells us though we can accumulate much fame, wealth, and property, we may still not be satisfied. Every moment, day, and year of life has its own blessings and opportunities. Life is an opportunity to cultivate happiness for ourselves and others. Once we each realize our purpose and the power that our thoughts carry, we can open our eyes to the beauty in the world.
I’ve been thinking lately that life is an opportunity that is too easy to squander away. Toiling away for hours beyond a reasonable work week has become the norm for many while uncertainty of purpose and mild dissatisfaction chips away at personal happiness.
It seems that we’re all so busy working our lives away – to earn more, get ahead, and save for retirement – that precious time for cultivating personal development, creativity, and happiness is simply used up.
Salaried employees agree to a tax exempt status in the U.S. which often means working as long as it takes to get the job done well into the night and weekends. On salary this translates to a painfully long workweek, burn out, and little time for family. In the corporate world this scenario is not uncommon. We do it for the good of the company and to show that we are team players. Does it have to be this way?
Are we buying into a free market trajectory that is contributing to the environmental, economic, and social decline of our species? Is this what it’s all about? Helping just a few to achieve wealth and property while millions go without food and a decent livelihood is just not working.
There are a lot of studies currently underway about the importance of worker happiness. That’s great and let’s also address substandard wages while advocating for individual and community well being. The average worker receives minimum wage, which is much less than a living wage. Not only is the minimum wage substandard, but wages have been stagnant for decades. It doesn’t take a college degree to know that at some point on this trajectory there will be a day of reckoning.
Could we simply turn the old model upside down and start over? Instead of toiling away at the expense of societal and environmental decline, is there a better way to live so that we are spending our time for the good of all – people, place, and planet? If life is an opportunity to cultivate happiness for ourselves and others, than let’s get started!
It seems to me there has got to be a better way to do business that is both socially and environmentally sustainable. The B Team formed a couple years ago looking at ways to redefine and improve the wellbeing of people in our communities and the companies in which they work. The goals are noble: restore natural resources, find solutions to climate change, create thriving communities, and support diversity, equality, and culture, among other things. I’ll be keeping an eye on their progress.
I’m on a mission to find new models. I know there are some better plans in the works. For example, Post Growth is an international network committed to finding solutions to social and environmental issues beyond our old patterns of economic growth.
Capital Institute is a think tank exploring the idea of regenerative economics. Moving beyond socialism and capitalism, the approach proposes a more holistic way of living on earth by drawing on universal principles and patterns found in living and nonliving systems throughout the cosmos.
There are a lot more examples of organizations, think tanks, and individuals looking for ways to integrate work and life in a way that will yield more meaning, fulfillment, and happiness for all while preserving the planet. I am looking forward to discovering new social and economic models and innovative approaches to discovering the simple truth: life is an opportunity to cultivate happiness for ourselves and others.
Author: Kathryn Thomsen
Founder of Hundredgivers, a nonprofit supporting and accelerating sustainability initiatives benefiting local and global communities. Kathryn is a social entrepreneur, consultant, researcher, writer and urban farmer. She collaborates with individuals, organizations, and businesses to develop climate change solutions, clean energy, and sustainability strategies and programs.
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