Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.

All the conditions for my happiness are right here in a plastic cup

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The camper slowly turns into our driveway, needing all the space we created by moving our cars. I can’t wait to see my brother, sister-in-law, and eight-year old niece. It’s their first visit since I moved from the Netherlands to Austin in 2009. I feel very, very excited to see them.

I baked a carrot cake for them, hung streamers, and spent more than a week tidying and cleaning to make them a warm welcome. I am ready to relax and hang out together. So are they, after more than 17 hours of travel.

While the cake is disappointing, the weather compensates with 80℉, sunshine, and a light breeze.

My niece gets excited when she sees our lawn sprinkler, and imagines jumping through the water spray. Together, we come up with an even better plan: one bucket with water and three plastic cups. My brother, niece, and I spend the next hour throwing water at each other. We team up in various ways: the Netherlands against Texas, the older generation against the younger, girls against boys. We play everyone for themselves, or throw water at whoever is nearest. The most evident theme is that we’re all having a blast, getting soaking wet, laughing, relaxing, and mellowing out.

It reminds me of a teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh:

“I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions, and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy.”

I savor this moment, which ultimately becomes a highlight of their visit. I take a mindful breath, enrich the experience by bringing my attention to my physical and emotional sensations, and see how relevant this experience is to my values of community, love, and play.

When my husband arrives at 4 pm, he sees three elated and joyful family members, resting on the chairs, soaking wet, and a more composed, though just as joyful, sister-in-law.

Let me know: what are your conditions for your happiness? I would love to hear from you.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping mission-driven professionals bring their lives into balance. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I'm currently in an ICF-coaching certification program. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

4 thoughts on “All the conditions for my happiness are right here in a plastic cup

  1. Love the post Elly. Im reminded what a good friend of mine told me years ago when I moved to a new post while in the Army. He said, No matter where youre stationed you will never find happiness, if happiness doesnt already exists within you. Happiness is something we create within, and when we express our happiness, we in turn help other people find their happiness. Thanks for the post Elly. Most excellent!

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    • Dear Richard, I feel so delighted reading your response, needs met for appreciation, community, shared values. I am currently connecting to a deeper sense of purpose around bringing more love into the world, helping people experience they are loved and lovable. Very much like what you’re writing about creating happiness within, which in turn helps others find their happiness. Love!

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  2. Happiness is so relative. Someone in Syria might be happy to not hear bombs overhead, feel safety, have a permanent home if they are refuges. Whereas a some else in USA might be happy if they had a new car. I mostly see hope as delayed happiness. Happiness is in the moment.

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