Most of the experts in happiness will tell you that it comes from within and this is something I’m beginning to understand and experience more and more. Many of my most challenging moments that would put others to tears of fear have been my happiest. I realize that it is my outlook and attitude that decides whether I feel happiness or sadness under any circumstance. Life is a matter of perspective.
I have learned that just as any sport or musical instrument takes practice so does the mastery of personal characteristics and emotions. Virtue, patience, understanding, determination, and happiness, all of these take practice. Books and documentaries will help to educate you but it comes down to practicing in your daily life. If you want to be happy then practice being happy.
Alright, I know happiness comes from within but I’m only human and I need a little help sometimes. So I have also learned what tools I can use to help me be happy. Food, water, nature and the outdoors, exercise, positive relationships, and new experiences are all tools that aid in my happiness. But when the tools aren’t there I can still be happy given because I’ve practiced and I understand that it truly comes from within.
If ever I found a place with all the tools for happiness it came last week on the Farm of Life in Costa Rica. Here I found my happiness beaming like the sun.
Can food make you high? After this week I can say yes. There were so many moments in the open air kitchen of food bliss causing a buzzing brain, a perfectly functioning stomach, and mouth full of joy. The raw food chefs, Amanda and Lorna, were masters of making combinations that were equally as healthy as delicious. Every day I gorged myself with local fresh fruits and incredible raw dishes prepared with medicinal herbs from the garden, and little snacks that blew my taste buds and my mind. In the mornings and evenings I warmed my body with teas from garden herbs and tree flowers topped with home pressed coconut milk. The local honey and cacao cake can’t go unmentioned either. If it is possible to eat your way into health and happiness this would be the place to do it.
Water is simple, so is often overlooked, but is so important as all of our bodies activities require an abundance of lt to function properly. Both inside and out water has the ability to make me a very happy kiddo. The cold pool, a stone tub built into the clear creek nestled in the jungle, gave me a healing spot to soak away any stress I felt and meditate amongst the basking lizards, singing birds, and buzzing insects. The water used everywhere on the farm, in the kitchen, and in the cabins came straight from the earth that it sat on without all the junk we add to it in the city. This was the kind of water that heals the body and mind.
I was able to find a beautiful balance of nature on the Farm of Life. The cleared grassy hills gave way to beautiful vistas of the nearby jungles and the distant ocean. They also allowed for a light way to experience the dark jungles. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in thick jungles and often I find my mood dampened even with the excitement of the exotic creatures, lush green plants, and abundance of new sights for the eye. When I leave the jungle for open land I feel my spirits instantly lightened and my body warmed by the sun and here I was able to enter the jungle and retreat when I wanted light or just observe all the creatures from my own sunny patch. The dining area was always fun for me at night playing with the hand sized grasshoppers, the conscious praying mantis’s, and the buzzing cicadas that were attracted to the ceiling lights. And with the balance of nature I also found a perfect balance between simplicity and luxuries that just about anyone could enjoy.
We all know that without people most experiences would just not be as sweet. I’m on my own quite often and I think that’s important for human growth but my most blissful moments in solitude are often fringed with loneliness and a desire to share the experience with someone special. The moment I was picked up by Jodi my eyes were shining brighter. She was a little ball of light. And when we arrived on the farm, well I could hardly contain my smile. Everyone there from the volunteers and the retreat staff to the guests seemed so happy and I was beaming as a result. Then there was Brian, a truly unique man who in a matter of just three days became a brother to me and taught me so much. He opened me up to some new experiences and impressed me with his ability to talk about far out there concepts in a way that would be relate-able and understandable to the every day American. In today’s age one of my greatest challenges is being present in the moment and this is fueled by the online and telephone connectivity that also exists. But here I felt the perfect balance of access to my important relationships via the internet and time spent away from the computer. Plus the time I spent connected online was spent breathing fresh air, sipping juice smoothies, and looking out over the jungle views.
Then there is exercise, one of the all important ingredients to health. From the endorphins it releases, to the confidence from a healthy body this certainly helps to boost your level of happiness. Here at the Farm of Life there is an open air yoga studio with a view beautiful enough to even make the scrooge crack a smile. And scattered throughout the property are platforms in the sun large enough for a couple to do yoga with their own private view of the world around them. Then in the jungle is another one of these platforms, surrounded by trees and vines is your own little workout gym with benches and pullup bars.
As documented in Into the Wild, Christopher McCandless said, “The core of mans’ spirit comes from new experiences.” With my constant travels and changing horizons I am no stranger to new experiences.” And for those at home this can be a challenge until you realize that new experiences are all around you. People, classes, hobbies, and local adventures are just a few things that can be providers. Here at the farm and in the jungle I got my fill of new experiences made possible by my open mind and willingness to try just about anything. I’ve heard a lot of craziness around the idea of sun gazing but Brian taught me all about it and showed me how. For 27 years I have believed that I can’t look directly at the sun and never questioned the idea too much. Well Iearned that near the rising and setting of the sun it is quite easy, enjoyable, and beneficial to meditate as I let the sun soak deep into my body through my eyes. And this experience reminded me to never doubt a concept based on my own lack of knowledge or understanding. Often I can be all to quick to judge something that I don’t know and my time on the farm just may have helped me to grow past that flaw.
If you ask me where you can go to pave a new life into health and happiness, the Farm of Life is what I’ll answer. But remember you can’t stay here forever so when you get home you’ll still have to practice being happy and you’ll still need determination and self-control to be healthy.