Martin Luther said, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” When Luther said this, he was expressing his awareness of the choice to live life in joy, regardless of circumstances. Most people wouldn’t plant an apple tree unless they knew they’d be around to harvest the fruit decades later. Yet, here is a man saying he would plant an apple tree today, even if it would be destroyed tomorrow.
For Luther, the act of planting the apple tree would have been a source of joy, in contrast with others waiting for the harvest to bring them joy.
Dreams manifest on the heels of joy
Deciding to be happy when you manifest the life of your dreams is a formula for disappointment. Some call this the “I’ll be happy when” syndrome. This approach may generate temporary happiness, but it’s unsustainable because it’s conditional.
The best way to manifest the life of your dreams is by choosing to be happy first. Choosing happiness doesn’t mean you won’t experience challenges or setbacks, but they won’t seem like a big deal. When you feel good inside, you’ll see opportunities more clearly, and pursuing your dreams will be effortless.
Something else wonderful happens when you choose to be happy. Life becomes enjoyable, problems seem smaller, and dreams start to manifest in unexpected ways. The internet is filled with manifestation success stories from people who practiced being happy, joyful, and full of gratitude prior to receiving their dreams.
Conditional happiness isn’t genuine happiness
If genuine happiness were the result of manifesting our dreams first, we’d all still be beaming like when we were five years old and received a special gift from Santa. That feeling has long since faded because it was conditional.
Basing your happiness on outer conditions and circumstances sets you up to feel defeated and depressed when those circumstances don’t meet your expectations. Conditional happiness acts like a backdoor to suffering. If you can’t be happy unless X, Y, and Z happen exactly as you want, you’ll always have an excuse to go back to feeling bad when circumstances change.
Meditation brings you to a present, thoughtless, timeless space
Meditation isn’t sitting in half-lotus on an expensive cushion and chanting “om.” It’s a state of deep relaxation you enter, where you become the observer of thoughts rather than the thinker and entertainer of thoughts. This absence of participation is what eventually leads to the experience of being fully present.
Being present is being in a space of no thought. You’re not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. You’re not thinking about what your spouse said to you last night. You’re not thinking about how hungry you are. You’re not wondering what you’re going to wear tomorrow.
If you’re new to meditation, you can’t expect to be fully present on the first day, or even within the first hour. Being present isn’t a skill you can develop with willpower; it happens as a result of allowing distractions to be burned away. When you do this, presence naturally emerges as a way of being.
One technique that will help presence unfold is a practice called Pranayama, or, yogic breathing. Students who practice this art of conscious breathing report feeling calm, centered, and they notice their intense emotions dissolving. All of these experiences support the ability to be present for longer periods of time.
Worrisome thoughts prevent joy
When you’re too caught up in your thoughts about the past or the future, you’re keeping your body in a constant state of worry and fear that prevents you from experiencing true joy.
Jim Larsen, from The Art of Living Retreat Center, explains how fear and worry are conditioned emotions that meditation can dissolve: “It’s the stimulation of going into the past and future and the emotions associated with that, which dominate the mind. So we don’t experience much of the inner joy and love that are our deepest essence. It is through meditation that we can change and get rid of that stress and those impressions.”
There is an art to being happy, and it’s not a complex formula. It’s something that happens gradually as you stop entertaining thoughts that make you suffer. If you haven’t tried meditation yet, give it a shot.
Commit to a simple 20-minute meditation every day for a month and see how much happier you feel!