What’s the Deal with Happiness?

Well, this post is not confined to Turkey (although the picture was taken in Turkey)20150417_171542, far from being a delight but certainly reminiscent of a bazaar. Labyrinthine, with countless possible outcomes. Just like the future, or the present, and even the past, having as many versions as witnesses and even more. My inner voice was awakened after a long “holiday” fully loaded with deadlines, articles, conferences, lectures, research, shouting desperately: “Sit down and think. Deep. And understand.” It started with 2016 (honestly speaking around 11 p.m, before New Years’s Eve). I was preparing my “Wishlist” for 2016. Done it. Concrete and clear goals related to my professional life, including deadlines (yes, again). And more abstract wishes related to my personal life. Among other “things”, I wished for happiness.

The thing is, happiness is not a “thing”, although many people confuse it or replace it with things. Happiness is a very subjective feeling, which according to the “happiness theories” is triggered not by external conditions, but is a personal choice. I agree, it is a personal choice to see the glass half full instead of half empty, but what if your glass is empty or has only a few drops? Well, you can still choose to see emptiness as an opportunity to fill it with your favorite beverage…  If happiness is not a thing, nor other external condition which we cannot control, how comes that when asked about our happy moments we generally name things, persons or situations that made us happy in a certain time of our life? This sounds like a contradiction… Yet, the theory is supported by our failure to relive the feeling as we remember it by recreating those very specific moments, actions, buying stuff or experiences, being around the persons who made us feel happy and good about ourselves in the past.

If something made you feel good once, it should have the same effect over and over again, right? So, what are we doing wrong? We grow. And in the meantime, our needs and means to meet them develop. Consequently, our happiness is periodically upgraded, reaching higher and higher levels and goals,  sometimes impossible or too difficult to achieve. In other words, pursuing happiness can sap all of our energy, strength, resources and … happiness. When our “happiness goal” is to high and painful to achieve we must reset your “system” and get back to the basics. Back to simple things, back to unconditional joy, love, friendship. Back to compassion and gratitude. Back to saying thank you and I love you to those who we care about. Back to admiring the sunset, the snowflakes, the clouds, the play of sun rays and shadows, listening to the sound of rain. Back to playing with pets. Back to listening to our favorite songs, dancing while cleaning up. Back to hugging our family members, talking to our grandparents, calling our friends. Back to wandering and “losing” precious time only with ourselves. Back to dreaming with our eyes wide open.

As Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Can you define your happiness? What elevates your spirit? What makes you smile with all your heart? What makes you feel grateful? And last but not least, who you are? or better said, Who do you choose to be and what do you choose to make you happy? 

“Everything in the universe is within you. Ask all from yourself.”-Mevlana (Rumi). You have all the answers, all the tools needed to discover and understand yourself, even though you were not provided with an instruction manual. And no one will write one to fit you perfectly. You are the only person responsible for your feelings, even though it might seem harsh and unfair (Everything is easier when there’s a scapegoat). Don’t get me wrong, you are not responsible for others disappointing you, but you are responsible for giving them the opportunity to do it again and again. There is nothing wrong with happiness. It does not avoid you, nor is it reserved for some privileged persons, or limited. And there is nothing wrong with feeling blue sometimes. You need to let your feelings flow out, whether they are positive-in order to reach others and make them feel good, happy, grateful too- or negative in order to ease your mind and soul, to empty yourself from harmful emotions. Stop searching frenetically for happiness and no matter how awful you feel recall all those things you are grateful for, insist on them and don’t give up unless you succeed to change your mood. In your relation with others stop expecting without asking clearly what you wish for. Communicate and practice empathy. But never forget, you deserve the best. And you can have it.

P.S. It just started to snow. 🙂

7 advices of Rumi/ Mevlana’nın 7 öğüdü

253310015_d3b2db6f8b_oPhoto credits: Nick Leonard
  1. Cömertlik ve yardım etmede akarsu gibi ol.
  2. Şefkat ve merhamette güneş gibi ol.
  3. Başkalarının kusurunu örtmede gece gibi ol.
  4. Hiddet ve asabiyette ölü gibi ol.
  5. Tevazu ve alçak gönüllülükte toprak gibi ol.
  6. Hoşgörülükte deniz gibi ol.
  7. Ya olduğun gibi görün, ya göründüğün gibi ol.

English translation:

  1. In generosity and helping others be like a river
  2. In compassion and grace be like the sun
  3. In concealing others’ faults be like the night
  4. In anger and fury be like a dead
  5. In humility and modesty be like the earth
  6. In tolerance be like the sea
  7. Either look as you are or be as you look

Source: [1]

Experiences, words…Ramadan. About. Ramazan ayınız mübarek olsun!

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The holy month of Ramadan is a period of fasting and spiritual reflection for Muslims. Ramadan corresponds to the ninth month of the lunar year and requires Muslims to refrain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset, to pray and to help those in need.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to be in Turkey during Ramadan. Even though I’m not a Muslim, and consequently, I wasn’t fasting, it was a valuable and interesting experience. The “noisy” city became suddenly quiet, the rush calmed down and the ezan (call to prayer) became the dominant voice of Eastern Turkey. During the day, although most of the people continued to respect their daily routine, the city was sleepy. People seemed weak, powerless, but in the same time serene and grateful. Most of the shops and restaurants were closed, the streets were deserted and burnt by the sun’s aggressive rays, while citizens withdrew to the coolness of their homes or workplaces. After the sunset, people gathered for iftar, a special Ramadan meal, and the city came to life. I’ve participated in iftar together with the personnel from the office where I was undertaking my internship and their families. It was nice to see how work collegues were acting like a big, united family. All over the city people came together and enjoyed the meal after sunset. I will never forget the night our neighbours, some cheerful women of all ages, invited me and my collegue to join them. They were chating and eating on the benches in front of our apartment building. Although we didn’t speak Turkish at the moment we accepted their invitation. It turned out to be a wonderful evening. I discovered that even conservative, veiled women can be very funny and crazy. We talked (how we could) about Tarkan, found out that they like Brad Pitt, ate sarma (grape leaves filled with meat), baklava and pistachio, and made pictures. They were so nice and kind! That’s what I love about Ramadan, besides its spiritual meaning, it has the power to bring people together.

During the holy month of Ramadan you may hear/use the following words and expressions:

  • If you have Turkish friends you can greet them by saying: Hayırlı Ramazanlar!/ İyi Ramazanlar!/ Ramazan ayınız mübarek olsun! (hayırlı=good, fortunate; ay=month/ayınız=your month; mübarek=blessed)
  • Ramazan ayı=month of Ramadan
  • oruç=fasting
  • oruç tutmak= to fast
  • namaz kılmak=to pray
  • ibadet=prayer
  • ezan=call to prayer
  • ramazan pidesi= round and flat bread eaten during Ramadan
  • iftar=traditional meal, eaten after sunset to break the daily fast during Ramadan
  • sahur=meal before sunrise

In the end I would like to cite Mevlâna Celâleddin-i Rûmî, one of my favourite Turkish author and spiritual leader: “Oruç, can gözünün açılması için bedenleri kör eder. Senin gönül gözün kör de, o yüzden kıldığın namazlar, yaptığın ibadetler sana o aydınlığı vermiyor, hakikati göstermiyor.”(www.memleket.com.tr) According to my amateur translation the meaning of Mevlana’s words are “Fasting, blinds our body in order to open our soul’s eye. If your heart is blind, your prayers, worship won’t enlighten you, won’t show you the truth.”

Image source: http://turkiyemayyildiz.com/showthread.php?tid=1221