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  • Dr. Whitney Mostafiz

To Minnie; to Joy, Unconditional Happiness, and Gratitude

I like to consider myself an optimist. While I certainly appreciate the little things in life, at times I still may catch myself thinking, “This is too good to be true”. Don’t we all… In that very moment we start doubting and lose appreciation. And then this wonderful thing drifts away; that one destructive thought becomes our new reality. The mind can be a powerful weapon in this sense. However, I propose that the mind can also be a magnetic force for greatness. I wonder why our minds are often conditioned to experience distrust, stress and suffering. These emotions are paralyzing. Possibility is stunted. What if we reframe EVERYTHING through an entirely different lens? What if we choose to experience joy, unconditional happiness and gratitude in all circumstances instead? Yes, ALL. Or at least try to (I admit it’s easier said than done!). I truly think that if we dig deep enough to find the silver lining and positive elements in all situations that we may generate and attract bliss in our lives. Yet I know it’s easy and sometimes self-serving in a bizarre way to have self-pity, to be angry, to fight to be right. But at the end of the day, it is not very rewarding! It is an energy sinkhole and mostly unproductive.

Of course it is easy to commit to happiness when things are going our way. And even then, I will STILL catch myself rejecting a compliment or resisting positive acknowledgement. I reason that I am trying to be humble. I think that this is okay unless my modesty is at the expense of being ungrateful. Again, it goes back to the conditioning; why?! This behavior is so silly.

I would like to present the fundamental challenge: to commit to gratitude and unconditional happiness during uneasy times and personal struggle. You missed your flight. You got laid off at work. Your partner broke up with you. The deal didn’t go through. We can let one little thing ruin an entire day. Moreover, we use up all of our energy dwelling on it and even feel our blood pressure spike. What if this transient awful-seeming situation actually was not even what we thought? I like to believe that everything happens for a reason. Perhaps this “dire” circumstance creates space for something greater in our life to unfold, something that we cannot possibly imagine. However, it only becomes possible if we choose not to resist the situation unfolding. For this reason, I believe we must accept what “is”, and accept it with open appreciation for what is to come. This acceptance is the ultimate surrender to let our lives breathe naturally.

I am actually writing this in memory and celebration of my sweet furry dog/sister, Minnie. She was not a pet; she was family. She lived a warm rich life that was full of giving and receiving unconditional love. Minnie owned the wealth of health; she lived almost 20 dog-years! That is a long time, so she must have been doing something right. Her life serves a wonderful lesson.

While it is not easy to accept the reality that I cannot relish in her physical presence, I will commit to seeking joy in her memory. I treasure my photographs and videos of her, I remember how it felt to cuddle her, and I appreciate all of the doors she opened for me. I am so grateful I got to be close with Minnie every weekend during her last six weeks of life. My life could not have been the same without her. As a child, I was deathly afraid of dogs since a dog had attacked me. The fear was very real for me until I met Minnie. I was amenable and I chose to accept Minnie. Accepting Minnie allowed me to transcend my comfort zone and to confront my fear. And this is key; it wasn’t easy and it was scary. But most importantly, what waited for me on the other side was the capacity to share and experience her affection and love that made it so worthwhile. Furthermore, this triumph supplied me with the tools I needed to face future challenges. Coincidentally, Michael Singer uses the same example in the book The Untethered Soul and writes, “This process of relaxing through resistance is beneficial to everything in our life. This is because it directly addresses how to keep your heart open when it is trying to close.”

I wish we could have the foresight to know what we may create out of all difficult situations! Losing Minnie also invited me to wonder more about how to live life. We can choose to be happy while we are alive and choose to die happy, as well. With this declaration, there is no room for any drama in our headspace. As Singer writes, “In the end, if you stay happy, you win. Make that your game, and just stay happy no matter what.” Committing to unconditional happiness must come from within, a state of inner peace and acceptance. Our happiness cannot depend on others. This definitely takes practice, and I constantly have to remind myself of this tenet. I will slip, and it is that much more empowering to get back up and recommit. Only then, with awareness, it may become a way of life.

Even more coincidentally, during the final days of Minnie's life I began to read the chapter entitled “Contemplating Death” in The Untethered Soul. Death offers an immediate shock factor and a reminder that life is fleeting. That life is essentially about enjoying the present. It would be magical if we could take in every given moment and embrace each experience as if it were our last. In this sense, death is a reminder that all we have is now. It creates a sense of urgency to be in action

to invent our reality. We truly cannot know when our last breath will be; so death guides us to live each day to the fullest. As Ferris Bueller says, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

Death won’t be scary if life is lived fully, because then we are whole and complete. I remember this concept used to torment me as a teen (I may have been the only 10-year-old nihilist!). But I realized I was wasting time in contemplation and not out enjoying life itself. I became energized and guided with passion; I had no time to be afraid of death. When I am saturated with gratitude, I become free to truly love and enjoy the privilege of life. I would like to thank Minnie for generating this possibility. May we count our blessings and create a community of collective happiness.

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