Excessive Happiness

Originally printed in the March - April 2003 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Bland, Betty. "Excessive Happiness." Quest  91.2 (MARCH - APRIL 2003):42.


By Betty Bland, National President

To be free is to be happy without seeking happiness, to act with a spontaneous motion which is the resultant of an inward grace.

—N. Sri Ram, Thoughts for Aspirants


In the movie Patch Adams, based on actual events, Patch, a medical student, is almost expelled from school because he is guilty of "excessive happiness." When one is dealing with life and death matters, one must be serious. And yet the patients with whom he cavorts respond better to treatment and are generally happier and more cooperative because they are treated as unique inpiduals and because they can laugh—even in the midst of suffering. Humor has broken the clouds of despair and let the sunshine of grace pour in. The patients did nothing but become open to that grace. And their laughter created the opening for it to enter their lives.

Grace is a great thing to have, but how does one work for it? Or even put oneself in the firing line of grace, when by its very definition it is unmerited pine assistance? How can one earn something that is not earnable?

The secret is that grace is not something to be received, but something inside each of us to be discovered. Every living person has a seed of grace planted within, a seed that will sprout and come into full flower with care and feeding.

What can we feed this mysterious little seed? We want to force-feed it, to check every few days to see if it has grown yet. But attention is one of the things that smother it. Grace can only grow when left alone. What a dilemma! We can't force it; we can't control it; but we can become open to that which is all around and within us. We can let it happen.

I have already given one hint about how this might be so by mentioning that humor supports grace. A good belly laugh a day can surely keep the doctor away. Yet there are several additional ways to cultivate that illusive lily of life—namely, silence, thankfulness, and service.

First consider silence. In the silence is a profound stillness that gives rise to deep connections with the source of all life and joy. As it says in the Bible, "Be still and know that I am God." Under the gentle blanket of silence, our seed of grace sends down strong roots and shoots upward toward the sun. Yet, keeping silent can be a difficult task.

A friend recently confessed that she had no luck in meditating. Thoughts were always popping into her head, and she couldn't keep from fidgeting. She supposed that it was just beyond her. "But," she said, "I breathe little prayers of thanksgiving all day long. Every day I see the many good things and joys in life that far outweigh the bad, and I say a little thank-you."

You can be sure that I told her that breathing "little prayers of thanksgiving" is one of the most powerful meditations one can do. With this kind of prayerful attitude, the opening to joy is a natural outgrowth. Frequent acknowledgment that life and everything that comes with it are a gift, brings to us the treasure of a richer life—through grace.

If one has had any success at all with humor, silence, and thankfulness, then the conditions will be right for grace to flower in all of its splendor. The petals will unfold naturally in an outward-turned attitude of service. Such service does not necessarily involve intense activity, as one might have expected, although it may. It may just occur in very quiet ways, depending on one's circumstances. Universally, however, it incorporates a gentle sharing of oneself in the calm assurance that all will be well:

When all life becomes a poem of service, in the true, pure, inward sense, then all life grows exceedingly beautiful; it unfolds like a flower.

—N. Sri Ram,(Thoughts for Aspirants)


May the grace of excessive happiness bloom in your heart.

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