We like to think we are in control. Much of where we end up depends on the path we take. I moved to Putney because my brother lived here. Although he moved a few months later (I am assured it wasn't me), I still haven't - partly because I live a stones throw away from the Sivananda Yoga Centre. My preferred means of keeping fit when I arrived was swimming, but London is a little chillier than South Africa and so I was looking for something indoors and the Yoga Centre happened to be there. Fast forward five more years and Yoga is now very much a part of my life. I teach regularly and try practice daily. Part of why I enjoy the Yoga I do is the philosophical side of it. The founder simplifies how to approach life into a very practical five points:
1) Proper Exercise
2) Proper Breathing
3) Proper Relaxation
4) Proper Diet
5) Positive Thinking and Meditation
When not feeling right, it is a very useful checklist to pin-point where you are struggling. The two points I would add to the list are
6) Proper Flow
This is a concept articulated by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as 'a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter' For everyone, this is different. Discovering what gives you Flow and putting in the effort required to experience that state is I believe both an engine for personal satisfaction, and for the world moving forward. Like every part of the body has a function, the fact that what provides each of us with Flow is different, allows us to create magic together.
7) Proper Relationships
'No man is an island', and one of the issues I grapple with about definitions of happiness that suggest it being purely a choice is that that can imply inaction. While you may tick the first six boxes in a cave with a source of fresh water, a few fruit trees and a self-sustaining vegetable patch, something of what makes us human is our interaction with others. While you can choose to be happy and abstain from life, something in that choice seems wrong to me. I don't believe life has meaning, I think we give it meaning. We give it meaning primarily through our interaction with others.
So yes, I think happiness is a choice - but there is more.