Albert Einsteins handwritten advice, given as a tip to a bellboy back in 1922, recently sold at auction for $1.56 million dollars. The humble note, translated from German reads,
“A calm mind and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.”
Albert Einstein’s “theory of happiness,” is a prescription to find joy in the simplicity of our lives. It asks us to pursue practices that bring us peace and to be wary of those practices that cause us great distress and perpetual tension.
We’ve been sold on the idea that happiness is in direct proportion to how much money we make, that our worth is in our status. Our culture’s “busyness” and “constant restlessness” is driving us farther away from true happiness. Just look at the basic needs we need to live modestly- a roof over our heads, food in our belly, people to share it with.
What if we decided to put more emphasis on the small things that make more of impact on our well-being? What if we showed more appreciation towards what we already have? What would happen if we practiced gratitude in every little thing we did? Not only do I think we would have a calmer mind and gain more freedom, but we’d also be happier people living in more harmony with nature.
I think it’s a worthy step in the right direction, do you?
One can choose many paths to take in life. We have the unique ability to flex our power in making choices and decisions. As a young child, we grow and learn naturally. Our curiosity is a fantastic teacher. We may choose one toy over another or we may prefer to bang on the kitchen pots and pans over building mud houses in the sand box. Our power of choice is strong, and our parents allow us this freedom, until they don’t. Choice and freedom slowly start to erode somewhere in childhood, usually by the age of 5- when we enter compulsory education and the probationary life begins.
Our choices are now limited and narrow because now we are “expected” to participate in school. What we need now is to be taught. By an expert. Who knows more than we do. But didn’t we show our parents that we were and are capable of learning and growing on our own? What suddenly changed? Did we give any indication of short comings in our development? Why is school then the answer?
Life in school, is like being on probation. Probation is defined as “the process or period of testing the character or abilities of a person and subject to a period of good behavior under supervision.” We punish, guilt, shame and emotionally manipulate them when they don’t oblige us. We ask them to conform, follow directions, not ask questions, and perform to unreasonable standards and testing, year after year until they graduate. This way teaches children to doubt their own minds and their worth as a person when the grades don’t measure up and it creates adults who will then tolerate emotional manipulation and abusive relationships because that’s been their model. If we are to raise free thinkers and confident individuals, we must create an environment that provides a healthy model that benefits the child’s well being, personal integrity and autonomy.
We have seen first hand what happens when a child is given freedom to learn on their own, follow their curiosity and study their interests at their own pace. They build the bridge of their choosing to cross. By doing this they take responsibility for themselves at a much younger age. Being personally invested in the process makes a huge difference! Alfie Kohn, American author and lecturer in the areas of education, parenting, and human behavior said,
“The way a child learns how to make decisions is by making decisions, not by following directions.”
Let’s choose to get out of the child’s way and allow them the space and time to develop their talents and inclinations and encourage them to express who they are as individuals, in an environment that will not stunt their passions and curiosities and spirit.
After our Yosemite visit we made the journey to beautiful Truckee. I found us a house on Donner Lake from Air bnb where we would spend the next four days enjoying all the Truckee has to offer.
Arriving in the early afternoon we were excited to unpack the car and get back out into nature. Donner Lake is a gem. It was our first time staying in Truckee (We’ve always stayed at Lake Tahoe in the past) so exploring someplace new was exciting. We found a little market where we stocked up on groceries for the trip. We really just wanted to hunker down and not go out to eat a lot. We BBQ’d most evenings, packed sandwiches for our day trips and always had plenty of snacks.
We visited the Donner Memorial Monument and museum, watched a short movie about the Donner Party and the many challenges they had along the way. What a life they were seeking. Sadly, many of the group died trying to reach their destination.
We did a few hikes, rented bikes one day and biked 10 miles along the Truckee river. We had really wanted to do the rafting trip we did years ago but with all the snow and ice melt, the current was too strong and was not an option for us at the time so we’ll just have to go back and do it another time. Our time in Truckee was wonderful! I love our family vacations 🙂
We have home-educated our children for the last eight years. Early on, I felt an overwhelming need to measure, test and push to make sure the kids were on the right path. I was teaching them everything I thought they could possibly need to know to “make it” in their life. Was slogging through years of Latin really going to make a big impact on their life? Probably not.
I have attempted to answer the same questions, over and over, year after year for my own children. Whose path is it? What do they want? What is their idea of a life well lived? Every revisit of these questions has brought me a little closer to having a better understanding of what is truly important; for me and for my kids.
Our oldest, just turned sixteen. She has explored her own definition of living a life of purpose and happiness (notice the removal of the word success). She continuously asks hard questions of herself, she’s spoken of and written down her wants, her wishes and her dreams- and these continually change, but she understands that her future is up to her. Her own influence and decisions are bringing her closer to the kind of life she imagines for herself.
For so many her age, they feel helpless about their future. We must allow kids to imagine and have experiences that help them to define their own meaning of purpose and happiness and engage in conversations around this idea. One of my favorite quotes, and one that I have up on a board at home is a quote by Hunter S. Thompson.
“Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living within that way of life.”
In our house we do thought experiments based around questions. We talk about these questions in an open way-Sometimes they chose to share their response, other times, its simply for them to explore. Better understanding of oneself leads to and influences motivations and beliefs and shows us that we are the creators of our life. Making it in the ever changing world means that we have to ask intelligent and more thoughtful questions. Now, my worries about the direction my kids take is nil. I don’t think there is such a thing as the “right path”, it’s the path that you make that is worthy.
If you’re curious to know, here are some of the questions we ask:
What does one think is living well?
How do we want to be in the world?
What do we want our world to look like?
Am I worthy of this or is it worthy of me?
What is the difference between living and existing?
Do you find yourself influencing your world, or it influencing you?
What is worse- failing or never trying?
Should one worry what others think of them?
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
What does happiness mean to you?
What would you do differently if you knew no one would judge you?
What are the top five things you cherish in your life?
How should one handle anxiety?
What is the purpose of money?
What would you say is the one thing you’d like to change in the world?
What makes you smile?
“Tomorrow is shaped by the type of conversations you have with yourself today.” Emily Maroutian
Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters…
After leaving Kyoto, we headed back to Tokyo as we had one last day in Japan and didn’t want a super heavy travel day on our last day traveling back home. We enjoyed the train ride, getting a glimpse of Mt. Fuji as we passed through Shizuoka! Hiking Mt. Fuji is something I would love to do someday.
We stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel and enjoyed our stay very much! Near the hotel was a shopping mall, restaurants, a fun arcade and Sanrio Puroland. Decorations and lights were everywhere to celebrate Christmas. The Japanese love Christmas! One of the things they do for the Christmas holiday is eat Japanese cheesecake and Kentucky Fried Chicken! Puroland was closed the day we were visiting, but it looked like it would be super fun to visit. Next time!
Japan is a place of deep inspiration for me. I love it for the raw beauty, fascinating culture and hospitable people. There is an ease about the Japanese people, their humble character, often confused with shyness. They are a people of order, they all know their place and where they fit it. They are extremely hardworking in everything they do. Maybe that for me is what I love most. The artists of Japan spend an entire lifetime refining and continually growing in their craft or trade. I have watched countless videos on anything from wood block printing to sumo to sushi chefs- they all take great pride in their work and that for me is something I continually strive for. I want to be the best version of myself and the Japanese inspire me to do that.
Kyoto was the place I had been dreaming about visiting for as long as I can remember. Pictures don’t do it justice- Kyoto needs to be felt. I arrived and completely fell in love with it. When a place you visit for the first time just completely blows your mind. Kyoto is that place for me.
We rented a wonderful house in Kyoto through Airbnb and the seven of us enjoyed our Kyoto neighborhood so much: a comfortable home, warmth from the kotatsu table (look it up!), the Family Mart a short 5 minute walk away, the takoyaki and yakisoba noodle place right next door, temples within any walking direction, friendly neighborhood, vending machines on every corner and the slow pace we were looking forward to after our last week in Japan.
Carre and I were so excited to go explore the temples. Visiting the Ryoan-ji Temple was a highlight for me on this trip. We visited here twice, it was a 5 minute walk from the house. Philosopher’s walk and Taizo-in Temple were another 5 minute walk. Like I mentioned, Kyoto is one of those places that must be felt. It has a certain feel to it, a sense of wonder, mystery. Then the beauty of the place just takes your breath away. Carre and I would say, just when you’d thought you’d seen the most beautiful thing, something new would be equally, if not more lovely. This happened so many times! It is one of my favorite places and I cannot wait to go back and see more, feel more and explore more.
Arashiyama in Kyoto is the next blog post. Stay tuned!