Beyond Horizons

Cultivating Happiness – A Way of Life (Part-3)

Cultivating Happiness - A Way of Life (Part-3)

More often than not, today, many parents are often concerned by the “lack of spirituality” that their children or the youth reflect. If we are to look closer at the belief system that parents expect from their children or today’s youth, their expectations are ambiguous. My questions to the disappointed parents would be, “Is your child compassionate and kind regarding the suffering of others? What do they do about it in such cases?”. If the children show a sense of responsibility, concern, care and benevolence to the world around them, the existence of spirituality in them is undeniable.

Representing Spirituality through Words, Actions, and Behaviour.

 The term ‘spirituality can be considered in simple language as a humble awareness of being part of the divine in the universe that we are a part of. This awareness also results in a profound sense of gratitude towards existence and the desire to change people’s lives or the environment positively. At the same time, I admit an individual’s spirituality may purely be based on how they lead their lives, how they communicate and how they help others lead better lives. Sadly, for many, the interpretation of spirituality is closely related to their comprehension of religious beliefs. Herein lies the core reason for disappointment.

What is understood by this term and the religious beliefs followed can be perceived as contradictory in nature, leading to a distance in the parent-child relationship. As a term, ‘Spirituality’ provides a state of wellbeing by providing completeness and tranquillity in our existence through a sense of balance regarding our life from our physical, psychological and social wellness. The acquisition of this awareness stems from various experiences from person to person and, in many cases, excruciatingly challenging life-changing situations. What may appear as actions of goodwill that relate to spiritual beliefs need not be understood in the same way by another.

Dad was one of the most spiritual people I’ve come across, but very few know that. From the time I was little, he would tell me that God is most happy when he sees us doing what we ought to. He would say that it’s not by following religious rituals or visiting places of worship that would make God happy but through the righteousness of our actions, words and thoughts alone. A trifle unconventional, some may reproachfully note, while others may term his approach as refreshing.

In his case, it was all about the actions that he made after the words he spoke. Like in the case of a poverty-stricken mother and son, when he had the hut that they lived in painstakingly (he was personally involved with the renovation work for days) rebuilt into a comfortable house to live in. There are countless more cases of people that Dad and Mom helped, some of the examples I know of and some I don’t (because both of them seldom talked about all the lives they helped). The best part was that he never helped or supported others expecting anything – he merely did them because he could, in his quiet, unassuming way.

This philosophy of altruism was part of his spiritual lifestyle, like his belief in happiness related to positive thinking and a healthy lifestyle.

Teaching Happiness Through Optimism and Healthy Lifestyle.

As a child, I was encouraged to connect with others (whatever be it their age), cultivate optimism, positive self-talk, and follow healthy lifestyle habits. For, e.g., I was always discouraged from being bored. Dad would say that there are plenty of things to do if you wish to, and that has helped me never get bored, including on 18-hour flights. Since I don’t enjoy watching movies too much, I would spend my time catching up on my reading, writing or even listening to music.

And if I’m not keen on any of the above, I would sometimes take a break by speaking and getting to know people on flights – they may be the airline crew or a fellow passenger. I have been fortunate to enjoy and learn from some amazing people this way. As for eating junk food, I enjoyed having them whenever I got the chance (I still do to some extent), but fast food was discouraged at home, and we regularly had wholesome homemade food. Junk food was a decadent indulgence at home, much to my annoyance during my childhood years!

Teaching Self-Control.

I call it one of the most crucial life skills since it needs to be cultivated for achieving goals by denying immediate and temporary pleasures. The importance of this skill is also far-impactful in life. The possibility of overindulgence gratification in children can lead to a high tendency to anger, sadness, stress and violence-related issues in adulthood, too, when the gratification of a desire is impossible. The solace found in addictive substances during challenging times is another example of a lack of adequate self-control.

Yet, strangely it is a skill that is underrated since it is misunderstood as a traumatic disciplining tool of denial by many indulgent caregivers or guardians. I understand that the significance of saying “no” to children amidst a societal pressure of consumerism is undeniable and challenging. Yet, the key to learning about self-control is dependent on nature and the situation that calls for self-control. As parents, we are often swept away by the sentiment that we need to indulge our children with gifts or products that we did not have; however, is that a valid reason for purchase? When friends and classmates bought things, I liked during my childhood and teenage years, that sole reason was never considered a validation for my parents to buy them. Questions like – ‘Why do I need that? Is it important? Am I merely attempting to buy something because someone else has it?’ were all asked and discussed before the step to purchase or not was considered, even if they were able to purchase it. There were times, especially during my childhood years, when I felt frustrated and had resented the interrogation before I was bought something that I liked. Years later, I wholeheartedly admit that I learnt a lot about self-control and individuality through the restraint that my parents showed to indulge me.

At the same time, I admit that Dad was abundantly generous in spending money for many other reasons, e.g., when purchasing books, learning materials, and enrolling me for classes, I would like, taking us to see places and so on. He was very encouraging as far as experiential learning went and was keen to develop my interests relating to the purpose of enlightenment, improvement and acquisition of knowledge, skill or art forms. There were many times when the initial interest in the classes I joined waned after a few weeks, but he was most patient when that happened and only showed keen interest in knowing the reason for the lack of interest. Surprisingly, instead of anger or accusations when this happened, a patient discussion followed to know why I lost the initial interest in the classes. I understand today that this discussion was more for my benefit to be aware of the factors I need to note before enrolling for a class the next time.

Today my Mom is well and alive as she continues to impart the inspiring wisdom she taught me as a child to my children. As for Dad, he is no more; it’s almost three years since he left us, yet living on through the unforgettable lessons of happiness he taught me.

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