As a child, traveling extensively throughout Europe presented the opportunity to compare vastly different cultures that still managed to present stunning and touching similarities.
In the heart of a small village in Bavaria, a slow and deliberate lifestyle focused around the family. At four o’clock, all would gather around for coffee and cake. Neighbors and grandchildren would arrive for the ever-fresh selection of just-baked goods. As soon as the cake was done, our grandmas would heat straight back into the kitchen to prepare dinner.
Everyone always seemed to be working with his or her hands, always cultivating something, whether it was a hearty meal, a family board game or a vegetable garden. The love of simple, natural pleasures, of land and sky and grass and dirt, of family and whipped cream-covered raspberry cake and bike rides and smudged aprons seemed so extraordinarily simple compared to Paris’ bustling markets and sweeping cathedrals. Here was a wholly different type of pleasure. Paris abounded with the astounding, the man-made. Karlstein, by contrast, was a small maze of gardens, fields, forests and small, but fragrant bakeries.
Each culture prizes different things, but one fact remains the same: everyone finds great joy in the simple pleasures of life. The universals of human behavior remain, despite our differences. We may all be surrounded with different ways to enjoy life, but we all experience anxiety and depression, all care
about friends and family, all want to succeed
and enjoy ourselves in life.
Enjoying our surroundings is a small step toward a greater goal. What small appreciations did you grow up with that still make you feel most at peace, most happy? What simple pleasures are you surrounded by that you could turn your mind to when you begin to feel negative emotions? In each culture, American or foreign, city or country, we are surrounded by opportunity to cultivate pathways to positive emotions that help us build a life worth living.