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I just finished reading a good book, "The Art of Happiness" written by Howard Cutler,a psychiatrist, who interviewed the Dalai Lama on his views for living.

In essence we are searching for the magic wand that can magically transform our lives. According to the text the the recipe for attaining a happy and joyful life is quite self evident.

Good physical and mental health along with a supportive family and friends sure helps us take on the rigors of our daily lives. Your positive state of mind is a critical key factor in self actualizing and finding peace. If you can maintain a calm peaceful state of mind you can be a happy person.

Many people strive as their ultimate goal to attain wealth and status. A young person may sacrifice his or her health for fame and fortune but they can not buy back the health that they have squandered.

Our Western culture seems to be based on material acquisitions: we’re bombarded with ads to: travel to far off exotic islands, buy a larger house, the latest car/television/lap top computer. Really, all we need to be happy are the essentials: food, clothing and a warm caring home where we can feel loved. It seems that those who have less seem to enjoy it a whole lot more.

The Western false philosophy can be summed up by the comedian, Henny Youngman : " What good is happiness? It can not buy you money."

In my counselling practice I have found that those who have million dollar stock portfolios do not seem to be very happy. Multiple marriages followed by very difficult divorces can play havoc with their children’s lives.

I still remember meeting a woodcarver when I was visiting Brienz, a very small hamlet in the Swiss Alps. When I told him that his village was very beautiful he replied: " that he guessed so?". "He never ever wanted to go anyplace else."

There is a tale told by the famous Russian writer Tolstoy, "How much land does a man need?" It seems that a farmer who had a wonderful life with his family heard that some villagers were offering up free land. All you had to do was put up a sizable deposit, stake the properties and be back at the starting line before the sun set or you lost it all. The farmer was amazed at the bargain land for the taking and went further and further afield. He arrived back just as the sun had set and he died. The villagers buried him in the six feet of earth that he needed.

So what is the secret formula that the Dali Lama has that we can emulate. Happiness is learned at a very young age but not necessary in an education setting. The school curriculum doesn’t focus on how to be happy and find contentment in life.

I love the story of an English professor crossing the Nile River who questioned the boatman on his knowledge of psychology, philosophy, anthropology and sociology. Each time the boatman replied to the question. "Saab, I am but a poor man who could not afford to go to school." The professor reply was that: "you will be poorer for your lack of knowledge". When they got to the middle of the river a thunder storm stirred up the waves nearly swamping the boat. The boatman asked the professor: "if he knew how to swim? "With all the time spent on his classical studies he explained that he never had the time to learn to swim." The boatman replied that the prof’s life would be shorter for not learning the necessities of life.

Happiness is learned at a young age when a baby is nursing with both the child and the mother giving sustenance and love. During the Second World War healthy orphan babies that had been placed in orphanages in England who were only given food and not cuddled or held often times died. The Health Services brought in grandmothers who happily rocked the children in their arms and voila the problem was solved.

A positive self concept follows when parents are supportive and show an appreciation for what a child is not what he or she accomplishes. A happy home is made up lots of laughter where kindness and giving are paramount.

Each parent enjoying giving 51% of themselves of compassion and understanding brings forth healthy well adapted children who are not afraid to try. Sometimes they will not be successful but if they but try they will have learned an important lesson.

Buying expensive toys for your children for Christmas can not bring forth long lasting happiness. We all can reflect on the tale of two sisters: one was a pessimist and the other was an optimist. For the pessimist the parents bought her a new gold watch and expensive clothes. The optimist was left with a shovel and a pile of horse manure in her room. The pessimist cried and was not happy with her gifts. The optimist was seen laughing and shoveling the manure looking forward to having a pony. Two children from the same home but with vastly different views on happiness. Each child is different with their own distinctly different priorities.

I strive to live a very simple life style where I can feel fulfilled with the knowledge that in my own way I am able to make a difference helping others. I enjoy greeting, conversing with family, friends and total strangers wishing them a good day or finding something positive to add to their lives.

When I drive at night on the highway I flash my car lights to aid transport truck drivers when they are passing me by. To see their flashing tail lights thanking me for my simple jester is a joy to behold.

I do not envy my neighbor’s life style. Not having walked in their shoes and knowing/appreciating how fortunate I am makes me content and happy.

I hope my words can add some knowledge and happiness to your life. If I have been of some help please pass along my column.

My uncle, Mickey Lester, used to advise his radio listeners to: "Take it easy my friend, you will last a whole lot longer and finish a whole lot stronger."

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com