“If you want your surroundings to be of best use to you, be of best use to your surroundings. If you want your house to give you joy and comfort, be joyful in it, bring to it beautiful things. If you project love to the plants in your garden, they will reward you with beautiful flowers to give you joy. If you cultivate within yourself a natural state of kindness, compassion, love, and forgiveness, you will receive a thousandfold reward from your surroundings.”

– Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (creator of TM), from Yoga Gems, edited by Georg Feuerstein

My dear friend Jovinna came to visit this week. During the short time she was here, I was aware (as I often am) of how much I laugh when I’m with her. Jovinna smiles frequently, laughs easily, and she greets the world around her with playful curiosity. The effect on me is that I smile more, laugh more; I’m more curious and less heavy-hearted. Her playfulness generates playfulness in me, and then I in her. We find – as good friends often do – a natural, reciprocal joy in one another’s company.

That reciprocity is available everywhere because we are – like it or not – in relationship with everything and everyone around us.

I wish I had understood this concept decades ago. I wish someone had explained to me that success and happiness in life are largely determined by the quality of one’s relationships. Not “networking” (ick), but by relationship. I wish I had understood that if you’re in good relationship with your family, your peers, your colleagues, your boss, your fellow citizens, there’s a good chance you’ll have a better time in life. Period. It’s physics. Cause and Effect. You can sit back and hope that those around you generate goodwill, harmony, respect, affection toward you – or you can initiate it. Either way, you benefit, but the chances of success are surely better if you’re more pro-active.

This same reciprocity is available in relationship to our homes, gardens, even inanimate objects…and I can attest to this. I’ve been conducting an experiment for some months now with my new car, Zu Zu. I realized that my old car stopped bringing me joy because I stopped greeting her joyfully. With my new car, I call her by name, I greet her, thank her, compliment her, treat her with great care. The reward – she brings me great joy. As in any intimate relationship, it’s my responsibility to not take her for granted, to treat her with respect and kindness, to cherish her. If I continue to care for her, I do believe Zu Zu will continue to bring me delight.

Yoga invites us to be in this experiment with everything and everyone. The Maharishi asks, What if we decided to be the initiators? What if we chose to be the first to smile, to laugh, to project love? What if we acknowledged that we’re in relationship with everything and we understood that our success and happiness in this lifetime depended on the health of those relationships? With family? With strangers? With home? With community? With fellow citizens? With planet? …What a concept. What a challenge. What a possibility.