The Happiness Game

“The essence of the philosophy of Gross National Happiness is the peace and happiness of our people and the security and sovereignity of our nation”

The Centre For Bhutan Studies,

There’s  not much good news for a climate activist these days, other than the awakening of indigenous people around the world as IdleNoMore goes global. Australia is showing the rest of us what we can expect from global climate change, as they live through a record-breaking heatwave. The heat wave Down Under is yet one more example of the climate destabilization that is staring all of us in the face, if only we could open our eyes and see. As Thomas Lovejoy, Professor of Science & Public Policy at George Mason University writes in today’s New York Times:

Environmental change is happening rapidly and exponentially. We are out of time. Only three generations back — in the same decade as the original scientific publication of the greenhouse effect — my great-grandfather chaired the commission that designed the New York subway system. How was he to anticipate the sea-level rise that contributed in part to the impact of Hurricane Sandy?

graphic: I Heart Climate Scientists
graphic: I Heart Climate Scientists

Here we are, on the brink of enormous, and painful change, yet most of us are sleepwalking as our train hurdles towards the cliff of ecosystem catastrophe. In an article in The Guardian today, Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh: Only Love Can Save Us From Climate Change, the 86 yr old monk reflects on the lack of action over climate change, the destruction of ecosystems and the rapid rate of biodiversity loss:

“When they see the truth it is too late to act … but they don’t want to wake up because it may make them suffer. They cannot confront the truth. It is not that they don’t know what is going to happen. They just don’t want to think about it.

They want to get busy in order to forget. We should not talk in terms of what they should do, what they should not do, for the sake of the future. We should talk to them in such a way that touches their hearts, that helps them to engage on the path that will bring them true happiness; the path of love and understanding, the courage to let go. When they have tasted a little bit of peace and love, they may wake up.”

One of my response to the darkness of the news is to work on increasing my own personal gross happiness index. Once one has turned and confronted the difficult truth, it can be difficult not to be pulled down into an abyss of fear and despair; making oneself busy enough to forget the insanity is tempting although not possible (remember the red pill in The Matrix?).

Our eldest daughter is spending some time at home earning money and waiting for some clarity on her next life challenge. This fall she spent six weeks walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in northern Spain, and recently shared how she and her companions helped each other through difficult times on the path by playing the “Happiness Game”. The game consists of taking turns remembering things, people, and situations that made each person happy.  So, on this minus 30 Celcius Monday (cold enough to warm a climate activist’s heart), here’s a few things that have made me feel happy and contented so far today. It turns out, as sages across the ages have told those who have ears to hear, that working on being truly present to the gifts we have every day, all around us, can be the key that unlocks the door out of our current unhappiness. And if Thich Nhat Hanh is right, once we step out of our fear and egoism:

…we can move beyond the idea that we are separate selves and expand our compassion and love in such a way that we take action to protect the Earth.

Today’s Happiness List:

  • I get such a feeling of satisfaction and of self-reliance by making my own yogurt. It makes me happy when a batch turns out, like this one did this morning:
Homemade Yogurt
Homemade Yogurt


  • Related but not quite the same, is making my own kefir that I use in baking and smoothies. The method is quite different (and simpler) than making yogurt so I make kefir more often.  In the photo below, the kefir grains have been strained out, and the liquid for drinking is in the measuring cup underneath. This morning I added kefir to the buckwheat apple pancakes that I made up for my family (and a shout out to my friend Suzanne for the awesome Christmas present of homemade pancake mix – it made me happy to be using this loving gift today).
kefir. jan.2013
Kefir – grains and liquid


What added to your happiness quotient today, as the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King Day? I’d love to know.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.