For most of life, nothing wonderful happens. If you don’t enjoy getting up and working and finishing your work and sitting down to a meal with family or friends, then the chances are that you’re not going to be very happy. If someone bases his happiness or unhappiness on major events like a great new job, huge amounts of money, a flawlessly happy marriage or a trip to Paris, that person isn’t going to be happy much of the time. If, on the other hand, happiness depends on a good breakfast, flowers in the yard, a drink or a nap, then we are more likely to live with quite a bit of happiness.
Upscale people are fixated with food simply because they are now able to eat so much of it without getting fat, and the reason they don't get fat is that they maintain a profligate level of calorie expenditure. The very same people whose evenings begin with melted goat cheese . . . get up at dawn to run, break for a midmorning aerobics class, and watch the evening news while racing on a stationary bicycle.
A few of his disciples had decided to do a "grape cure" and eat nothing but grapes and grape juice for a while. Paramahansa Yogananda smiled when he heard about this and remarked, "Devotion is the greatest purifier." His disciple Donald Walters asked, "Is it your wish then, Sir, that we break this fast?" "Well, I don't want you to break your wills," said Yogananda, "now that you have set them in this way. But your time would be better spent if you worked on developing devotion. A pure heart is the way to God, not a pure stomach.
Then the cook enters and approaches our table. He bows low before me. He is grateful to me, he explains, because since his years as a cook in a Buddhist monastery, he has had little opportunity to cook vegetarian food for anyone who appreciates it. The wild mushrooms, he tells me, were picked in a nearby forest. The greens are from gardens known for the quality of their vegetables. . . . He bows slowly, and thanks me once again. I stumble over my own words of gratitude as he quietly disappears into the kitchen. I never see him again. I didn't sleep that night. The cook's reverence and humility sliced through years of protective hardness and caught me without warning. His food was saturated with love, and its nurturance was almost too much to bear.
This is what the world honors: wealth, eminence, long life, a good name. This is what the world finds happiness in: a life of ease, rich food, fine clothes, beautiful sights, sweet sounds. People who can't get these things fret a great deal and are afraid, wear themselves out rushing around on business, spend night and day scheming and scrutinizing. Man lives his life in company with worry, and if he lives a long time, then he has spent that much time worrying. This is a callous way to treat the body.
The most solid advice . . . for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive, with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.