My Own Porch
In 2005 my wife Judy and I built our dream home. With a curved oriental roof that overhangs the house on three sides by ten feet, it creates a porch that rolls all the way around the house. I especially love the porch because it’s a place where you can sit outside in any weather and enjoy the ever-changing face of nature.
Believe it or not, it was a really fun project, even admitting that by the time we were finished building we were grateful to get away from the endless lists of things to be done and return to our normal, so called, lives.
Well, just like a successful building project, the other things in our lives need to have proper planning and a strong foundation, too. Things like our education, our health, and eventually retirement.
And looked at as a whole, a successful life is built out of the sum value of all the years and how well we accomplish all the necessary parts of a satisfying life. Here in the west we focus more on the comforts of our material lives. And in the east there is a stronger focus on developing the spiritual side of life. Obviously both have their place in our lives.
But let’s look at what brings us the most happiness and contentment and see if we feel satisfied with what we’ve created in our lives. To do this let’s put on a toga and travel back to around 400 BC and visit a fascinating character who lived, not under an oriental roof, like I do, but rather he lived in a marble tub. His name was Diogenes.
One sunny afternoon a disciple brought his teacher, Diogenes, the special gift of a carpet. The next day when the disciple returned to see how his teacher liked the carpet he got an unexpected response. Diogenes said: “Please take back your carpet.” “Why Master, don’t you like the beautiful carpet?” Replied the disciple. “My happiness was unconditioned by the carpet, and furthermore, I don’t care to sweep it every day!”
Well, was Diogenes just lazy, or is there something to learn from him 2,400 years later? The key idea, of course, is that his happiness was unconditioned by the carpet. So it neither added to nor detracted from his contentment. That being the case, why should he add the responsibility of its care to his life? That’s a good point, isn’t it?
So looking at this a little more deeply we realize that Diogenes had attained something that most people don’t even realize is possible. And that is that it is possible to attain unconditional happiness. Of course, that’s an extremely lofty goal, but there are those who have attained it. And their examples light the way for us. Even moving a little ways in that direction can give us a great increase in our happiness.
Let’s see if I can give you an example. As a teacher I gradually learned how to set aside my preconceived expectations of how I wanted my students to perform and behave, and instead I learned to focus on how I could identify what their needs were and help them to individually move forward from that point. Now don’t get me wrong I didn’t stop caring or stop setting appropriate boundaries and conditions for them to work with. Rather, by me not having personal agendas or desires, I was able to focus more unconditionally on just helping whoever I was with each day.
And though this shift took several years to perfect, its value was proved by the success of my students both academically and in their own sense of self, and I felt far greater satisfaction in my life, and my happiness increased exponentially, because I was serving others unconditionally. So I can tell you first hand, there is something magically rewarding and joy elevating when you give of yourself unconditionally.
So whether you’re helping a neighbor or volunteering at your school, church or organization, if you’re coming from a place unconditional love you will automatically feel greater and greater happiness. If you’re not, you need to examine your motives and then clean out whatever expectations and personal agendas are in the way. Then, like Diogenes, whether you have a carpet or not, your growing sense of love and contentment will ever be with you!
I’m John Johnston. See you next time, here On the Cosmic Porch!