Most of the people that know me will find this blog surprising. I know how to joke, I know how to laugh, I know how to sing together with my friends, even to join a circle dance. The truth however is that I am very often unhappy. When I am left alone, after giving a lecture and after all the applause or after an award ceremony, going to my room, I feel a deep sense of sadness.
I am happy with my grandchildren. I was happy when my children were born. When I dance a Balkan dance or sign some popular songs. But life is more than sing and dance and children are not born every day. So, yes, I have been struggling with how to be happy. What is to life without being happy?
I've been thinking why I'm not happy. Maybe by addressing the reasons I can change how I feel. The literature says that survivors of the Holocaust, by and large, are unhappy. Some of them are still missing the dear ones they lost, and some feel guilty that they survived and their most loved ones perished. Or maybe the Holocaust, or any other war trauma, destroyed their trust in humanity; how can atrocities happen, and still trust humanity? And without trust how can you be happy?
In my case, I found out how my most loved grandparents, my uncles, my cousins age of five and six were murdered by the Nazis... They were put, right off the train, into a closed storage room where they were gassed with car exhausts to lose their senses. Then they were put as logs on top of each other, gasoline poured over them, it was lit, and they were burning for days until they all died.
I went to Treblinka 60 years after the Holocaust. The ground is still black with ashes. In my will, I requested that I be cremated, and part of my ashes be spread there to join my loved ones.
Is that why I'm sad? But the past cannot be changed. It is what it is. We need to move forward. So the question is how do we move forward?
My meditation prayer became very helpful to me. It says: “Master, you are the true goal of human life, but we are all slaves to expectations that block our way to you.”
When I started to meditate, I was upset with the word "Master" because I don't believe in personality cult. So, I talked to the Master of the Mission. Who is the Master? He says, it's God. Well, do I want to be God? Is he the goal? Does not make sense either. But, wait, what is God? Absolute love. Aha! So love is the goal; to love and to be loved, right? And what is love? Happiness. So, we can substitute now the word "Master" and say: Happiness you are the goal of human life. Ultimate goal. We all want to be happy. Many philosophers and poets have said that before, so what's new. The help came in the rest of the prayer. It says: “it is expectations that blog our way to you”, it is expectations that block the road to happiness. Why?
When people we expect from something do not fulfill our expectations or the conditions are not to our satisfaction that makes us unhappy. We need someone else to do something for us to be happy. We depend on others to feel happy. That is conditional happiness. When we don't expect, it means we have all the love we need, we are happy as we are. We don't need somebody else to make us happy. There is nothing for us to do to be loved. We are loved, because we are. Whatever we are. And if somebody gives us something out of their own volition, not because we are expecting it, have gratitude.
Less expectations, less wishes, more gratitude, is the answer.