Secret to sowing and reaping joy
I used to read self-help books to relax. There was a stage, in the mid-nineties, I think, when Exclusive Books possibly had more ‘positive thinking’ and ‘set yourself free’ and ‘lose weight and stress in 10 seconds or less’ top-sellers on its shelves than ever before.
At least, that’s how it seemed to me, when I blew my salary on weekend reading material and a side order of wine.
Whether or not it’s age, or time or just a general sense of being fed-up with everything – weight, money, shattered dreams and crooked politics – I now deliberately avoid anything, online, in conversation or in print, that makes lofty promises of absolute contentment and the key to the meaning of life.
Which is ironic, since I’m writing about the topic anyway – and secretly hoping that it touches you and makes your day better. The only difference is that I don’t have any supplements or magic crystals to sell along with my theory.
Jiggling along in my usual weekly schedule last week, I came across a quote published online by my father, who is infinitely wise. No, he really is – whatever he says, goes. And when one asks him for advice, he provides it, for free. No supplements or crystals, guaranteed.
“We constantly and habitually live our lives fixated on the past and future forgetting the reality and value of the present moment.”
Because I was jiggling along when I read it, I noted the quote but didn’t dwell on it much until after tea and toast late one night. My down-time is littered with philosophy, as it’s the only time I get to ponder.
Now here’s the thing: if you logically unpack this nugget of wisdom, it’s very simple, but in a blow-your-mind sort of way.
Imagine that what we do and think now – in this moment – has an impact on what happens (or on how we feel) in the future? Sort of like preparing a healthy lunch box the night before, rather than scrambling together a white-bread cheese sarmie in the morning, because you didn’t plan positively beforehand.
It’s a domino effect – what you did yesterday, or just now, will impact on you today, or tomorrow, for good or ill.
Granted, there are things we seem unable to control – other people, aggressive dogs, low blood sugar in irascible toddlers (unless they’re yours, in which case, you could have fed them protein to prevent it) and the price of eggs.
But experimenting with the idea – actually putting it into practice, for just one day – was remarkable.
Figuring that love is the most important thing in the world, I woke up and messaged my best friends, telling them that they were much loved and sending wishes for a beautiful, peaceful day. That felt good – it was free, sincere and easy to do.
What happens next is interesting. For most of that day, I received random hugs from people. I also was given free gifts, for no reason. My children, awesomely, were happy for very long lengths of time.
Could it be that by feeling connected, in a positive way, in that moment, and giving out a happy thought, had a knock-on effect?
And, if we did it constantly, like putting on socks or brushing our teeth, life would become a better place to live?
Since my father is usually right all along, I’ll give it a shot again. Expect a cheery Whatsapp soon...