“What in your life is calling you, when all the noise is silenced, the meetings adjourned … the lists laid aside, and the wild iris blooms by itself in the dark forest ... what still pulls on your soul?” — Rumi

We recently viewed a movie called “Happy” in which Dr. Ed Diener, a researcher from the University of Illinois and senior scientist with Gallup, presented a video documentary on his psychological studies into happiness.

It had some surprising findings, including that increasing wealth was negatively correlated with happiness. Those with less reported higher measures of happiness once their basic needs were met. Above that, getting more stuff into our lives actually decreased measurable happiness. His studies included individuals and population groups, as well as animal studies.

Connection, relationship, family, friends, community turn out in Dr. Diener’s research to predict a higher level of happiness than other more common goals. Indeed, fostering happiness was found in his research to improve longevity: https://news.illinois.edu/view/6367/205399

Besides money, other things that people commonly believe to bring happiness are prestige, popularity and power. These create bubbles of happiness that are transient and often hollow, leaving those depending on them for their satisfaction in life always questing for more, for the next best thing. More money, the latest fashion, more adoration, more power over others, the next shiny possession: All these are truly counterfeits on the road to what we each truly seek.

Peace.

Inner peace is the kind of sincere joyous feeling that beats in our hearts moment to moment. It exceeds any of our usual happy moments by bringing true and lasting joy, a calmness and certainty that’s enduring.

Mindfulness, that moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, is a path to this space of inner peace.

Deep faith in God as you know him or her also opens our hearts to such inner peace.

Forgiveness, first of ourselves and our own perceived failings, then of others for their slights, insults and grievances to us may be our first step to peace.

Acceptance of others and of ourselves as they and we are removes a tremendous burden from our shoulders, allowing peace to enter.

Gratitude for what we are and already have creates space for more abundance and peace.

So, as you set goals for the year ahead, give peace a chance.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,

to be understood as to understand,

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Amen.

Prayer of St. Francis

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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