“If we look at the world with a love of life, the world will reveal its beauty to us.” ~Daisaku Ikeda
If you asked an 8-year old version of me to list all the things I loved, it might have looked something like this:
- Ice cream
- Snow days
- Beach days
- More ice cream
- Saturday morning cartoons
In fact, I’m sure I could have created an inventory longer than my usual Christmas list, including a ton of things that either tasted, felt, or looked good.
It didn’t occur to me until later in life that some of the best things are intangible; and that I could experience them at any time if I just opened my heart and mind to let them in.
I think most of us know this intellectually—that pride in our work can be more valuable than what it buys, for example. But sometimes we get so caught up in securing the trappings of the good life—the house, the car, the furnishings, the clothes—we’re too distracted to notice and appreciate the intangibles.
That’s not to say there’s something wrong with enjoying material things. I’m still a huge fan of my TV (flatter and larger), ice cream (OK, frozen yogurt now) and days off (though I can’t seem to negotiate any snow days into my adult California lifestyle). It’s just that there’s so much more to love about life that doesn’t cost a dime.
With this in mind, I asked Tiny Buddha’s Facebook followers, “What do you love about life?” Some of my favorite responses include:
1. Love. (Hansoul Kim)
2. Family. (Jo Alunan Taguinod)
3. Just being able to wake up to the sun shining in the morning. (Norma Lewis)
4. The ability to overcome hardships and appreciate what I already have instead of wishing I had more. (Ivy Lokojarvi)
5. Our ability to empathize. It allows us to connect and support each. (Heather Fulton)
6. The ridiculous things my dog and cats do. They live in the moment and enjoy being alive, and it reminds me to do the same. (Rachel Campbell)
7. That I am someone who makes a real difference in the world. (Marlu A Soria)
8.Moments of realization that I’m not as alone as I too often think I am. (Caleb Davis)
9. My children being healthy and happy. (Angelica Ortega)
10. Every breath I take reminds me I'm still here and still have much to enjoy. (Lorna Goodman)
11. The ones who never give up on me. (Li Maddocks)
12. Positive and creative people. (Vicky Agnew)
13. I love the moments when more than one person ‘gets' the illusory joke and for a moment sees that we are one. (Darla Shanti Serafina)
14. The love and support of my life partner. (Diane Delude)
15. Being alive and happy at this moment because is the only thing that exists. (Indi Pa)
16. Affecting people without realizing it. (Mike Love)
17. The beauty of it. No matter how bad things get, there is always something beautiful to keep us going forward. (Noel Knights)
18. All the funny people. (Neelie Echelon Michele Oliver)
19. Hope. (Majo Bustamante)
20. The unexpected things. (María Victoria Arteaga Hung)
21. That every moment in life is a chance for a new beginning. (Vanessa Powell)
22. Creating abundant joy is what I love most about life. (Shyloh Robinson)
23. The diversity that everyone brings to the table. (Andy Clemenko)
24. Trying new things. (Karen Gallion-Biggers)
25. The amazing way the universe can materialize just what you need. (Allison Seals McGee)
26. The way life's traumas end up making the good times even sweeter. (Lisa McConnell)
27. Second chances. (Shari Ouillette)
28. I love when my daughter smiles at me, and says “Mommy, I love you.” (Haydee Lopez Cruz)
29. Freedom of choice! (Denise Robinson)
30. Everyday is another chance to get it right. (Jan Bu)
31. Seeing small plants start to bud and grow. (Erin Anderson)
32. It’s the little things that matter the most to me, like kisses on my forehead. (Manda Keifer)
33. I love the fact that I can see only love around me. (Kalpana Tewani)
34. People, nature, animals—everything. (Aisha Ar Radiyah)
35. Opportunities to start all over again. (Cristina Villacres)
36. Good food, good friends, good health, and a good night's sleep! (Mikel O'Brien)
37. Smiles and laughter. (Erin Leslie Cassinelli)
38. Being free to do what I want when I want how I want. (Kim Toney)
39. How there are many paths to happiness, not just one. (Melanie Hazim ॐ)
40. The fact that nothing is permanent. You can always change what you don't like. (Marcia Johnson)
41. All the free things like air, fresh water, kisses from my love, a hug from my daughter, learning from other people, observing nature and smelling flowers. ( Sarita A. Salas)
42. That we never really know what's going to happen next. (Slovydal O'Brien)
43. Music. (Lori O'Connor)
44. The spontaneous and unexpected, if it's positive. (Teresa O'Connor)
45. Knowing the difference between being alive and living. (Belinda Poree)
46. The incredible beauty that surrounds us if we look. (Jeanne E. Rohen)
47. Small moments of enlightenment that show you the path towards being a more fulfilled and compassionate human being. (Jacky Casumbal)
48. Quiet time. (Gerri Mills)
49. Being at peace. (Kylie Alyce Popejoy)
50. All of you. (Dan Schoenig)
I second that, Dan. Thanks to all of Tiny Buddha's friends for being there and being you!
Photos here, here and here.
‘The best things in life are free.’ Write about some of the occasions when you have found this to be true.
Let us start with the proposition that it is often not easy to do the right thing. Yet, almost by definition, it is a good thing to do the right thing. It often costs us no money to do what is morally and ethically right, but these difficult things that litter the paths of our lives often prove to be the very best things in life.
I once found a fifty dollar note fluttering about in a car park, back in primary school when my daily allowance amounted to a grand thirty cents. This find obviously was an unbelievable fortune to my young eyes, a fortune I was loath to part with. My father turned to me and asked, “What shall we do with that now?” In school, we are trained not to take something that is not ours, and so, painful as it was, I replied, “I think we should give it to the police in case someone lost his money and wants to find it again.”
This decision may not have cost me any money in a technical sense, but in the moment it certainly felt like it did. Nevertheless, my father and I headed to the police station, where I am certain the adults traded many “I’m trying very hard not to laugh” smiles while trying to act with the necessary gravitas (dignity) to properly reward the child with good intentions. The police listened to my story, and — shockingly, to my present sensibilities — told us that they would keep the money for three days, just in case someone came forward to claim the money. They told us that if the money went unclaimed, I could rightfully claim it as mine, because of my honesty.
Psychologists (see Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind) have found that getting the approval of socially significant others — such as parents and the police — has a very significant effect on self-esteem. Our brains process this as a kind of pleasure, and indeed, on this occasion I enjoyed the collective approbation (approval/praise) of adults I both feared and respected. This experience proved to me that the best things in life are free. Incidentally, we managed to retrieve the money after the three days passed; the difficult and rewarding thing that I did indeed proved to be free.
On another occasion, I decided to help a stranger, a decision that cost me nothing and brightened the day of a complete stranger. I had been having an extremely stressful day studying in the library, when I decided to head to a snack vending machine to give myself some kind of snack boost. I was thoroughly preoccupied with panicky thoughts about the upcoming examinations while waiting for my turn. The girl in front of me stood aside with a strangely distressed look on her face while rummaging about for more coins. It was then that I noticed her choice of snack hanging off the edge of the vending machine’s shelf without being dispensed — a vending machine failure! She quickly realised that she had no coins left, and was about to leave without the snack she paid for when I told her to wait. There was an easy solution to the problem at hand. All I had to do was to buy the same snack that was hanging off the shelf — sugared peanuts — instead of the more expensive cookies I originally wanted. So, in a way, this decision not only cost me no money, it helped me save money. Her resulting smile was the ray of light I sorely needed that dark and anxious day, and I had no need for a psychologist to tell me that my brain processed this experience as pleasurable.
In our age of mass over-consumption, many of us need the reminder that the very best things in life — whether they are decisions, experiences, or objects — are often free, costing us no money. It may not always be easy, but it is a good thing, as comedian Russell Peters has famously said, to do the right thing.