In a Single Day



You’ve had a tough day. The commute to work was spoiled by a traffic jam. A colleague jostled you at the coffee machine and you spilled your coffee on your new shirt. The morning was filled with interruptions, so you never finished preparing for your afternoon meeting with the boss. Your lack of preparation was obvious. By five o’clock, you had accomplished nothing important. You feel frustrated and angry.

Driving home in a light rain, the car in front of you suddenly brakes. In an instant, your car is swerving and then spinning on the slick pavement. Your heart is racing. Horns are blaring. Miraculously, you come to a halt without being hit.

You pull to the side of the road and get out of the car to reclaim some equilibrium. You find that you are standing in front of a grassy hill over which the sun is descending. The sky is violet. The grass smells fresh. The air is clean.

Somehow, to your surprise, all your worries float away. They are replaced by awe and gratitude. You are glad to be alive. It is as if all that is good in life is washing over you.

What is this feeling? How can it be described?

It is light. It is buoyant. It is uplifting. There is a sense of peace and acceptance.

Is there a word for it?

Happiness is too vague. Joy isn’t right either. Serenity? Yes. But serenity is just a part of it. As is peacefulness and harmony and tranquility. These words are helpful but they don’t fully express it. They don’t include the sense of opening up to and/or relaxing into the universe that is somehow at its core.

How different this feeling is from the many other feelings you experienced throughout the day. The irritation of the commute. The flare-up of anger when a colleague made you spill your coffee. The aggravation of the constant interruptions during the day. The frustration from not having time to do the work you wanted to do. The doubt and then the embarrassment of the meeting with your boss. And the fear of nearly crashing your car.

Irritation. Anger. Aggravation. Frustration. Doubt. Embarrassment. Fear. It’s interesting that the English language seems to do a better job of naming these negative feelings.

What do they have in common? How are they different from this one very good, but difficult to name, feeling that you have standing in front of this grassy hill?