Photography by Bill Dahl
By Dan Gilliam
"To live well myself is my first and essential contribution to the well-being of all mankind and to the fulfillment of man's collective destiny. If I do not live happily myself how can I help anyone else to be happy, or free, or wise? Yet to seek happiness is not to live happily. Perhaps it is more true to say that one finds happiness by not seeking it. The wisdom that teaches us deliberately to restrain our desire for happiness enables us to discover that we are already happy without realizing it."
- Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, p. 81.
Like many others I know, I grew up with an inherited ethos and a doctrinal prerogative hell-bent on "helping" people by convincing them to believe the "right" truth. I even went to college and earned a degree in truth-speaking. I have dedicated many years of my life to teaching a better way of living, even before I discovered how to live happily myself. Now just 2 days into my 50th year on the planet I am aware that I believe without a shadow of a doubt that my best impact on people with whom I would wish to share positive influence is in how I live. My spiritual footprint is only as large as the path that I tread. Words are okay if they are used to describe the life I am actually living or to affirm the value and beauty of life around me, but they have little value if I only use them to talk about theories of living that exceed or contradict my own experience.
Like Thomas Merton wrote, it is evident to me that there is a paradox at work with regards to discovering real happiness in this life. Happiness is not something to seek and find, in itself, but rather a gift to embrace that has already been given. My part lies in simply becoming aware that God has already given me everything I need for life and goodness, and this comes most quickly through a daily practice of prayer and mediation and regular acts of service to others. Together, these spiritual principles allow me to "get happy" and learn to be content in any and all circumstances. This is the real work of the Kingdom of God, the inside job stuff that truly allows us to change, grow, and be like Christ to those around us. This real happiness, in no way linked to the purchase, acquisition, or possession of any material good, is what we are all wired to seek and what we are all spinning our wheels to find.
Today, may we all find a quiet moment and place in which to take a deep breath, settle into an awareness of the goodness and happiness that is our spiritual birthright, and hear the affirming inner voice of our Creator say, "Rest in me. I have you right where I want you."
Dan Gilliam is an artist, a musician, a published author, and an avid eBay trader. Check out his web site at www.dangilliam.net to see what he's been up to.