What is the secret to happiness? Many books have been written trying to solve this mystery to zen. While the truth is that it may be hard to achieve, the way to get there can be found in cultivating a practice and attitude that is expounded upon in both Jewish wisdom and modern psychology.
This week, Torah High teacher Raffi Sotto teaches grade 10 and 11 students in his leadership class (IDC3O) about the key to happiness.
what are the big rocks in your life?
The class began with a video called “The Jar of Life,” (see video below), which provoked the students into thinking about what the “big rocks in their life” were. Big rocks=big goals=important goals. The goals that make your life meaningful.
The video begins with the story of a teacher who places a large jar on her desk. The teacher then pulled out some big rocks and carefully placed them in the jar.
When no more rocks would fit, she asked, “Is this jar full?” All the students said, “Yes!” The teacher said, “Really?” The teacher then poured gravel into the jar, filling the space between the big rocks.”
She asked,” What about now? Is this jar full?” This time, they thought they’d figured the riddle out. “Yes!” they shouted in unison. “Not quite,” the teacher replied. She then poured sand into the jar until it filled all the space between the rocks and gravel.
The teacher then paused for a minute and let the class think. She then asked, “What life lesson did you learn from all this?” One student jumped up and said, “No matter how full your life seems, you can always fit more in!”
She emptied the jar, and asked one of the students to come forward. She gave him the rocks, gravel, and sand and asked him to fill the jar, but with one difference: He had to place the big rocks in last.
No matter how hard the student tried, he couldn’t do it. The teacher then explained, “If you don’t put in the big rocks first, you’ll never get them all in.”
The big rocks represent the truly important things in your life, such as family, friends, and personal growth.
If you fill your life with small things…you will never have enough time for the important things that make life worth living.
Do not say: “When I am free, I’ll pursue wisdom. Perhaps you will never be free. –The Talmud
The key to happiness is to appreciate
what you have.
If it's so simple, why are so many people unhappy?
The class then discussed the key to happiness and how happiness can sometimes be confused with material wealth.
People often think happiness is based on what you achieve and acquire. My whole life would improve if I had a new car…
I just need a better job and then I can relax and be happy…
If only I met the right girl…
You get the car and what happens? For a whole week you’re walking on air. Then you go right back to being unhappy.
Happiness is not a happening; it’s a state of mind. You can have everything in the world and still be miserable. Or you can have relatively little and feel unbounded joy.
As the Talmud says, “Who is rich? The one who appreciates what he has” (Ethics of the Fathers, 4:1).
That’s why the morning prayers begin with a series of blessings thanking God for the simple and obvious:
Thank you, God, for giving me life Thank God I can see, that I can use my hands and feet, that I can think.
Happiness comes from mastering the art of appreciating and consciously enjoying what you already have.
The students also perused a handout outlining the 5 levels of pleasure and counterfeit pleasure. See chart below.
The 5 levels of pleasure and counterfeit pleasure
The students considered which communities that they belong to (synagogues, camps, student bodies, NCSY/Torah High) and the benefits of belonging to one.
As the class wound down, the students assimilated the ideas put forward in the class when they reflected upon what brings them happiness on a personal level and what they are appreciative of in their own lives.