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« Oh, India! | Main | Putting away summer »
Thursday
Apr192018

The secret to happiness

I’m convinced that one of the secrets to happiness is understanding that you can’t control things.

At the end of one of Melbourne’s heat waves this summer, we had four friends around for the evening. We are all Christians, and we do this every couple of months – sharing food, checking in with how everyone is, talking about God stuff and how we try to live out our faith, sharing a simple Eucharist, praying for each other.

This particular evening, I was to lead a meditation, which I had prepared and timed to the second, as is my way.

And then the rain came.

At first it was tentative – tantalizing spits of half-hearted precipitation, and we willed it to pour. Then it started in earnest, and we stood together on our tin-roofed back verandah, speechless, gazing out in delight as the parched and drooping garden revived before our eyes.

Later, as we sat around the table, when one of our group was asked how she had been since we last met, she asked if, instead of listening to her, we could simply sit in silence and listen to the rain for a while.

This we did, eventually slowing our breathing, closing our eyes, relaxing into the moment but all the while listening intently to the drumming on the corrugated iron, the gurgling of pipes and gutters, the occasional rich growl of thunder, a car hissing past on the road outside.

I have no idea how long we sat like that. At first I fretted a little. How long was this going to go on for, I wanted to know. And how was it going to jell with the more formal time of silent meditation I had planned for later in the evening? Should I relax into this spontaneous gift of unstructured time, or should I keep half an eye open, to see what others were up to? Were they getting right into it, in which case I could follow suit, or were they as anxious and distracted as I was, half hoping this unexpected detour would wind up quickly?

I wasted a good few minutes with this kind of internal carryon, and then told myself to get over it and just enjoy the moment, however long it lasted. And the moment was sublime.

When we eventually brought our attention back to the candlelit room and each other, I said, with a contented sigh, ‘I think we’ve had our meditation’.

I’m a slow learner, but life keeps serving me up these lessons. It’s fine to make plans, but it is best not to be so invested in them that you miss the unexpected gifts that life delivers to those who are open to grace.

Once again, I was reminded that one of the secrets to happiness is accepting that you can’t control everything. And in the moments I can’t control, I might just meet God.

This was published in The Melbourne Age on 15 April 2018

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Reader Comments (1)

Clare, That is the most beautiful article. You know that I admire your writing, but this is just so moving and elegant and - I cannot find quite the word I want to describe the feeling it gives me. I feel light, tension dissipates, and somehow I feel full of glowing colours. There, that's it. I knew there wasn't a word for it.

May 20, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterKerry Phillips

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