Solitude by chance

We are surrounded by people all the time. Even when alone, rings and pings of the phone keep us bound to the world outside. Moments of quietude are rare… and longed for longingly. I found my share of true solitude in southern Italy last winter. Unexpectedly.

Atul and I had set off to explore the Amalfi coast which is a series of cliffs that plunge steeply into the turquoise Tyrrhenian Sea. We drove along the mountain edge, the narrow road curving in and out, past small towns with their pastel-colored houses and piazzas, the blue sea on our right, deep down below us.

The coastline is dotted with numerous caves partially submerged in the sea. Small openings in the walls allow light to enter through the water and flood the cave with amazing shades of blue and green. The Grotto dello Smeraldo or the Emerald Cave, our first stop, is one such cave. A hundred odd steps took us down to the jetty from where a boat would take us into the cave. Winter being off-season, the jetty was totally deserted and the ticket man went off in search of the boatman.

I wandered down the last few steps and looked out at the sea. The sun was already high in the sky, shining down on the waves as they lapped gently against the rocks. I settled down on the last step, enjoying the pleasant warmth of the winter sun.

The water stretched endlessly before me, sunshine turning the blueness of the sea into molten silver. Time seemed to stand still. I sat there lost watching the play of the sun on the waves, barely aware of the faint sounds of cars on the road above. Immersed in the moment. Unmindful of time or thought. In sync with the sea and the sky and the sun… the elements coming together with my inner self, binding us forever.

I hugged the moment of complete solitude to me, wonderfully alive, filled with unexplained joy.

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Back home, many months later, the memory of those moments comes unbidden to me… I see again the sea stretching in front of me, the waves moving, the light dancing… and I am alone once again filled anew with remembered calm and peace. With renewed energy, I turn to engage with the world over again.

an unexpected moment of solitude

PS: Would you like to share your moment of solitude?

In search of Happiness…

nicole_Happiness_Workplace

Idle curiosity last summer made me post on FB: Happiness is…

Because aren’t we all looking for happiness? The reason why we get up every morning, work, love, have a family, buy stuff, socialize, study, exercise, entertain, travel, play… As the Dalai Lama puts it: The very motion of our life is towards happiness.

My friends’ insightful responses made me pause, ponder, and explore further…

Sure. Great films, amazing food, meeting friends, good books, all leave that pleasant warm glow within us we call ‘happiness.’ Which makes life worthwhile. For me, there is no greater joy than sharing golgappas with my daughter or watching an Avengers film with my son or simply sitting with a cup of tea. Yet, these moments are brief, short-lived. Isn’t happiness something greater? Something that pervades our soul on a more sustained basis through life?

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My friends definitely think so. They say happiness is a state of mind. A sense of well-being. An appreciation of life.  That it is in the mind and comes from within. And that nobody can come and give us happiness… we have to seek it… on our own. That happiness is a choice we make, a decision we take. AND. We can train our mind to learn happiness! We just need to be aware of where and how to find it.

Money did get mentioned as a prerequisite to happiness. Of course, money IS important; money buys us comfort, safety and freedom in life. However, falling into the more you have-the more you want trap can cause even more UNhappiness! So once we have enough to keep our heads above water, swimming towards happiness is entirely up to us. Otherwise, the not-so-fortunate could never be happy!

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Going over my friends’ responses, I realized that happiness means different things to different people. All agree that happy people are content, satisfied and see happiness all around them… put together, their answers paint a rather happy picture of happiness!

Happiness is… making others happy

When we help others, support them, be with them, we are happy. Happiness means loving others AND telling them so. Genuinely acknowledging the support of family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, helpers, fills us with inner peace and confidence. Having people whom we can turn to for affection and understanding gives us the strength to survive health challenges better.

Happiness is… total acceptance

We Are What We Are. Happiness means being yourself. Accepting yourself as you are.

They Are As They Are. Accepting others, without trying to change them, is essential too.

It is as it is. This phrase brings out the essence of optimism perfectly.  All we can do is accept life’s quirks and carry on.

Sounds like a tall order but accepting ourselves, others and circumstances is, my friends say, the path to contentment and happiness.

Happiness is… loving ourselves

We are always busy. 24 x 7 x 365. When do we take out time for ourselves? To do what we like? Taking out time for our own self is the primal need of every human being. Being alone gives us breathing space, a chance to think quietly, to put our life in perspective, to be at peace.

Happiness is… being fit

When one of my friends commented that “happiness means being able to fit into old clothes” I am sure she was not jesting. Happiness means being fit – in the body and in the mind. And exercising does both.

Happiness is… getting the job done

Happy people do the things they like to do. AND. Enjoy things they don’t like to do too. After all, isn’t our sense of fulfilment the greatest when we accomplish something we didn’t like, didn’t want, to do?

Each of us needs to devise our own mechanism to achieve the completion of daunting tasks. For me, the thought of having a cup of tea at the end of a gruelling task is the biggest motivation for carrying on!

Happiness is… ‘Is-ness”

Is-ness: An apt term coined by a friend for living in the moment. Because the present moment is the only moment we have. The only moment we have to be happy.

Living in the present keeps us focussed, helps us concentrate better on the job at hand. This is the ‘flow experience’ described by psychologist Csikszentmihalyl ~ the experience when one is totally involved and immersed in a task to the exclusion of all thought other than the work at hand. The resulting sense of achievement, ecstasy, serenity is surely happiness?

Happiness is… finding a meaningful purpose in life

Perhaps this is the most important aspect of happiness: recognizing the things which give meaning and purpose to our life, and then, doing them wholeheartedly.

For me, this means carrying out my role in this world to the best of my ability ~ my role as a daughter, wife, mother, sister, colleague, friend, neighbor, citizen… and above all, as a human being. And enjoying every moment of it. Without the fear of not succeeding in it.

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The most striking revelation for me was:

There is no way to happiness – happiness is the way.

We all set out to achieve a happy life ~ a good job, a great relationship, a bigger house ~ firm in the belief that happiness awaits us in the future…  As a friend points out, happiness is not something in the distance, to be achieved over time; it is HERE, RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW. So smile, laugh and live life to its fullest… THAT is happiness.

 

PS: A message I received on Whatsapp seems apt in these unprecedented corona times: Happiness is viral. Go infect someone.