The Happiness Tree: Grow Your Happiness by Cultivating a Healthy, Creative and Purposeful Life

The Happiness Tree: Grow Your Happiness by Cultivating a Healthy, Creative and Purposeful Life

by Shane Eric Mathias

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504343343
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 12/03/2015
Pages: 234
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.53(d)

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The Happiness Tree

Grow Your Happiness by Cultivating a Healthy, Creative and Purposeful Life


By Shane Eric Mathias

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2015 Shane Eric Mathias
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5043-4334-3



CHAPTER 1

LOVE

More has been written, spoken, painted and sung about love, than any other single human experience, yet, its origins and dynamics still remain largely mysterious. One thing is for sure, being "in love" can be a journey of elation or a path to the most abject emotional pain. As Kahlil Gibran wrote regarding Love in his famous masterpiece, The Prophet:

"For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning.

Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun,

So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth".


Many philosophers, psychologists and writers have tried to deconstruct romantic love to reveal its origins and the myriad ways it can be experienced. One recent such effort can be found in Gary Chapman's 5 Love Languages, wherein he delineates love as being embodied in the following expressions:

1. Words of Affirmation

2. Physical Touch

3. Acts of Service

4. Gifts

5. Quality Time


And certainly, each of us express our feelings of love through a different combination of these qualities and within each of these, there are innumerable nuances which give each love relation its own unique personality. In fact, I have found that each of us unknowingly develops an expectation of what love should look and feel like, based on our own particular combination and intensity of these qualities. And the relationships that are the most mutually satisfying are those in which each partner demonstrates a similar blend of these love expressions.

Romantic love develops most often from physical attraction, a hormonally driven state which was described by Sigmund Freud as "a kind of sickness and craziness, an illusion, a blindness to what the loved person is really like". But if and as that lust develops into a mature relationship, passion eventually morphs into compassion and a deep friendship. Sex may still be involved, but it does not sustain the union. The partners appreciation for their mates broadens to include respect, understanding, comfort, adaptability, familiarity and shared interests. And this deeper form of love brings us greater lasting joy than does pure lust, but it is also much more difficult to lose. Someone may suffer a bruised ego if they are sexually rejected, but when a deep romantic connection is broken, the level of suffering can be soul wrenching.

In the following section, we will explore romantic love, but also the other important areas of our lives where love can be found: Friendships, Family and Self Love. You'll discover that perhaps the greatest of these is Self Love, as it is a necessary springboard from which we express and experience every other form.


Love / Friendship

Of all the variables in your life, your relationships may be the most complex and hold the most power to make you happy or miserable. And that includes friendships. Friendships can get messy at times, because we often allow friends so much access to our deeply personal lives, sharing secrets, beliefs and feelings and once shared, that information can be misused to hurt you, if the friendship begins to sour. Again the old adage "all things in moderation" applies here. Not everything needs to, or should be shared. I know that may seem paranoid to some of you, especially those whom have grown up against the backdrop of Facebook and other social media platforms, but not everyone in your social circle is your friend, nor do they necessarily have your best interest at heart. In fact, a true friend, someone you can count on in an emergency, someone who cares deeply about you and considers the impact their words and actions may have upon you is indeed a rare person. Here are the building blocks of a true friendship and the model against which you can evaluate yourself, as well as those who may claim to be your friend:


Love / Friendship / Trust

Our human life is not for sissies, it can be confusing and complicated and there are times when we could certainly benefit from the perspective of a trusted friend, to confirm or refute the validity of our thoughts and or actions. But these human machinations are often intensely personal and might be embarrassing if shared with just anyone. Is your friend someone with whom you can share your deepest, darkest secrets, all the while, confident that those details will never be revealed to others? This is the question you will need to answer before you allow an acquaintance to pass into the pantheon of true friendship.


Love / Friendship / Empathy

This is the capacity of a person to not just listen and understand, but to actually feel what you are feeling. Generally, this would be someone who has a rich emotional life of their own, not necessarily dramatic or hypersensitive, but who can for an example understand and relate to the sentiments expressed in a deeply passionate song or movie. If this sounds like you, you'll want to seek friends that share this positive characteristic, but there are many persons who were raised in a stoic setting, where emotional expression was frowned upon and discouraged and who now are uncomfortable being in the presence of shared feelings. While these people may be trustworthy and dependable, you'll never be able to truly let your hair down with them, because they will clam up, turn cold and retreat into the safety of their pragmatic existence. That is not to say that you should leave them behind, but just be aware that they may lack a true capacity for empathy, and as such cannot be there for you when you need a shoulder to cry on.


Love / Friendship / Dependability

Dependability is a relative of trust, but rather than impacting your personal life, this desirable quality has more to do with logistics and practical matters. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine if an acquaintance can be depended upon:

1. Do they show up on time, or often leave you waiting, causing you to be late? 2. Do they keep their commitments or are they in the habit of canceling at the last minute? 3. Are they honest and fair in economic matters, or do they tend to always seek an advantage? 4. Do you feel they could be relied upon in an emergency or are they squeamish and reluctant to take a risk for others?

You may not know the answer to all of these questions, but this is where being a good judge of character is critical. And that is a skill that will just take time to develop. Until then, do a shrewd analysis of those who would be candidates for friendship, using these criteria. Most people will not possess all these qualities, but knowing what they are capable of and what they are not, will help you decide if you're willing to live with the compromise. Conversely, how do you rate yourself on the foregoing points? Remember, to have a good friend, you first have to know how to be one.


Love / Friendship / Respect

One of the qualities that are present in successful friendships is Respect. To be more clear "mutual respect". And more often than not, that will be someone who shares a view of the world similar to yours.


Examples:

Beliefs: Maybe you enjoy Nature and believe that working to reduce your impact on the environment is a worthy cause. Therefore, someone who believes Nature only exists to serve the needs of humanity, may not be someone who's opinion you could respect, which may or may not indicate that they are likely to also hold other views that are counter to yours.

Behavior: Observe them carefully: how do they treat others? Are they kind and considerate or sarcastic and insensitive? Do they boast about themselves, or appear to be genuinely more interested in what others have to say?

As you've probably deduced by now, all of the qualities of a good friendship are interrelated. A person's trustworthiness, capacity for empathy and dependability will also affect how likely you are to respect them and how capable they are of respecting what is important to you. As we shine the light of scrutiny on those around us, we must also use it to illuminate our own lives. Have you questioned your beliefs and refined your behavior to ensure that you will be worthy of trust, dependability and respect from those you encounter?

Remember, one of the axioms of interpersonal relations is: you can only attract others with qualities that you yourself already possess.


The Canopy of Friendship

If you can say honestly that you have a friend or friends that possess the qualities described above, treat them like gold, because they are of great value. But it may take months of association and shared experiences to determine if a friendship fits this gold standard. Until then, my advice is: Keep your personal life personal, share thoughtfully and in sound bites, not manuscripts. Be a good friend and hope rather than expect that your commitment will be reciprocated. If not, you won't be as disappointed if unexpected developments suddenly change the character of that relationship.

That is not to say that friendships are not important: indeed they are. But this is one of the many areas of life where quality trumps quantity. People will come in and out of your life and if we speak to them casually on the phone, or see them periodically at festive gatherings, it is common vernacular to refer to them as "friends". But that actually diminishes the unique and special place that true friends hold in the development of your Happiness Tree. We may have casual conversations and a few laughs with "acquaintances", but we know a true friend will comfort us in our darkest moments. While "unconditional love", is probably only a phenomenon found in blood relations, if we care for and nurture our friendships, many of our faults are forgiven or overlooked. We are accepted for who we are, supported in our dreams, encouraged in our efforts, celebrated for our successes and consoled after our failures. And if you have even one friend in your life that provides that kind of love, consider yourself very fortunate. Never take them for granted and be vigilant for opportunities to reciprocate their kindness. Unlike familial relations, friendships thrive on attention and maintenance. Most people's lives are busy and complicated and as time passes, friends can drift apart unless an effort is made on the part of both parties to preserve the connection. But once that bond is established, true friends may only speak several times a year and visit even less often, but when life's challenges leave one of them vulnerable and in need of compassion, time and distance are no obstacles.

Friendships can even be more long-lived than romantic or familial relationships. Romantic relationships are often fraught with drama and compatibility issues, resulting in the unfortunate fact that they are more likely to be temporary affairs, rather than lifetime partnerships. Families are dynamic as well, but for a different reason. Parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are likely to be well into the Summer of their lives by the time we appear on the scene. And one of the most difficult transitions into adulthood is losing these much loved pillars of our lives to old age or disease. But, because friends are often closer to our age, we can expect to enjoy them well into our senior years. And friendships are not encumbered by the complex issues that affect lovers, therefore, real and true friends are much more likely to be there for us, as others pass in and out of our lives. They are indeed one of the components of the rich soil into which we sink the roots of our Happiness Tree.


Love / Family

Family is a term whose definition has broadened immensely since I was a kid. In the 1960's and 70's, families were still thought of exclusively as blood relations, or heterosexual partners, brought together by marriage. But, now-a-days, we have same sex parents of both genders; an increasing number of mixed families; families with adopted children; foster kids; unmarried parents; single parents; unwed mothers, living with their parents and on and on. And I'm not passing judgment as to whether this is a good thing or not. Certainly there is no family unit that's perfect and there are many people that grew up in a more traditional family structure, who are still in therapy, trying to repair the damage inflicted by their childhood experiences. So you might find it refreshing that "family" is now a much more flexible term and if you don't fit one of the more "old-school" definitions of family, don't worry, you can now build or join a surrogate family of your choosing.

We could define a surrogate family as any group of people that come together to share a common belief, heritage, lifestyle, ritual or need. Outside the boundaries of blood relations, we could view these types of "familial connections" as deep friendships, but they actually are more complex than that. Because the individuals in these groups share one or more common and often deeply personal characteristics, there is a camaraderie between them. They can be authentically themselves, because there is a mutual trust, which protects the individual as well as the group from the scrutiny of the outside world. While those in the group may not choose all of their cohorts as friends, they nonetheless make a greater than average effort to empathize with one another and maintain good relations, because the cohesiveness of the entire "family" depends upon it. Examples of these "surrogate families" or interdependent groups are: churches, therapy groups, professional, volunteer and social organizations.

Whatever your family structure or origin, the following three factors usually apply, making membership in a family one important way to receive love and affection from others:


Love / Family / Connection

The members derive a feeling of belonging from one another. They know that as a result of shared values and needs, they feel protected and relatively safe to be authentic.


Love / Family / Heritage

While a traditional family inherits genetic traits and a shared history from one another, novel or surrogate families share beliefs, lifestyles, and perhaps a historical framework which dictates many of their actions and beliefs, giving these groups a cohesiveness and mutual bond that embodies many of the advantages of a genetically related family, often with less of the drama.


Love / Family / Acceptance

Individuals, whether in a related family or a surrogate one, are like everyone else, in that they have flaws, faults and idiosyncrasies. And whereas these "blemishes" might make it difficult for an individual to form meaningful connections with others in the broader society, within a family, they are largely overlooked and accepted. Of course, that doesn't mean that addiction, violence, manipulation, or abuse should ever be tolerated by or from anyone. But harmless personality quirks and less than desirable habits might get a pass, because to be honest, we probably all have them.


The Canopy of Family

You may be part of a large or small family or perhaps currently a lone wolf, but whatever your situation, just know that while being part of a family is not essential for happiness, under the right conditions, it can offer you an opportunity to share a great deal with others, a sense of being accepted and even appreciated for your qualities as well as your quirks. It can also serve as a good reason to get out of the house, to gather and celebrate on a regular basis, such as during holiday festivities, which can be especially important for those who might otherwise feel left out and isolated.

Whether blood relation or surrogate, is your family situation healthy and does it work for you? How would you change it if you could? These are important questions to ask yourself to determine what role, if any, family plays in your happiness and how it might be improved upon.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Happiness Tree by Shane Eric Mathias. Copyright © 2015 Shane Eric Mathias. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction, xi,
What Is Happiness And How Can You Attain It?, xi,
What is the Happiness Tree?, xii,
How Your Happiness Tree is Organized, xiii,
The Seven Key Roots, xvi,
Like an Ancient Oak, xxiii,
LOVE, 1,
Friendship, 3,
Family, 9,
Relationship, 13,
HEALTH, 38,
The Mind, 39,
Body, 65,
FREEDOM, 100,
Truth, 102,
Resources Control & Personal Discipline, 110,
Connection to Nature, 136,
PURPOSE, 150,
Creativity, 151,
Generosity, 160,
Self Mastery, 171,
The Elements of Self Mastery, 184,
Bringing it all Together, 188,
How to Live Well and Find Happiness at Any Age, 189,
A little about my journey, 206,
The Happiness Tree Canopy, 207,

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