Tag Archives: how to be happy

Doing “The Work”

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I was hanging-out with two great friends on Friday evening. Somehow the conversation turned into me asking very personal questions using Byron Katie‘s “The Work“. If you aren’t familiar with it, it’s a form of self-inquiry. It’s based on four questions, and a turn-around.

The Four Questions:

Is it true?
Can you absolutely know that it is true?
How do you react when you think that thought?
Who would you be without the thought?

The Turnaround:

Turn it around — is it as true or truer?
Can you find another turnaround?

To understand how it works, watch a few people do The Work first. I’ll embed videos for you below. You can also listen to a selection of audio MP3s via this super-resourceful & helpful website: www.everypathis.org

I’ve shared The Work on Sunday Is For Lovers before. Today’s post is the third time. But every year I am reminded of The Work, it feels completely new. This year I have a new appreciation for it, and feel so grateful that I can use it as an ongoing tool.

If you feel conflicted about anything, or have a complaint about someone, or are suffering over a particular issue, or think that something unwarrented keeps reoccurring in your life — The Work is a great way to get to the bottom of it. It can create greater awareness and powerful healing in any aspect of your life.

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What Everyone Wants

what everyone wants_tea bag quote

Everyone wants to indulge their senses, feel fulfilled, and be loved.

People have different ways and different preferences, yet everyone wants affection, loving relationships, intimate relationships, and their daily treats that tickle their senses. They also want to feel fulfilled — to be part of something, to be whole, and to believe that their life is being lived fully & completely. I think if we own up to this, it makes our lives so much easier. It also prevents our lives from dipping into extremes. By this I mean, too little or much much in any of the three areas I mentioned in the first sentence of this blog post.

Overindulging in your senses, constantly looking to be fulfilled, and desperately needing to be loved are examples of being insatiable. Which is all too common these days. What I feel, is that we need a healthy appetite in all three areas, which comes from fully acknowledging them equally, and maintaining a sense of ongoing awareness.

Someone might say,”Hey! Not everyone needs or wants to indulge their senses, and definitely not daily. And not everyone wants an intimate partnership. You can’t generalize in this way. Everyone is different.” Well, the whole point of this blog and this blog post is to share my experiences and my views, and in doing that, raise the level of awareness in myself and in the world. In my experience, EVERYONE likes to indulge their senses, feel fulfilled, and be loved.

Below are a few examples of many. I’m not going to share almost four decades of examples, but I’ll share a measly few, just three.

I know a Buddhist Monk who loves to drink tea and saves the paper tea-bag tags that have inspiring quotes printed on them. He feels bad about this quote collection habit, because he is a renunciant. He doesn’t mind the constant tea drinking, because he only has one meal a day at noon (and it has to be donated to him, he can’t buy it or prepare it for himself, this is part of his vow as a monk in his tradiation). It’s only the saving of tea bag tags that he feels he should curb. He feels bad about it, and plans to work on it. Another thing he loves in abundance is teaching Buddhist philosophy and meditation, and has very close relationships with his students and fellow monks. He lives in a close knit community, which is really great and he loves it, but at the same time, he also wishes he could meditate longer, and be in silence all the time.

My dog cant get enough belly rubs and she hates being alone. She also perks up at any sign of brown rice & beans, or the sight of an almond butter jar. She’ll follow anyone that seems to be walking toward the kitchen (with hopes that they might have her beans or butter). Besides her food favorites, another favorite thing is to snuggle up next to someone, get a few rubs, and then veg on their lap. Sleeping-in is definitely her style. Staying in bed all morning, is the way she likes to start her day. Regardless of this movie-star wannabe habit, she is pushed to go for walks at 7:30AM, despite her preference to stay in bed. After the walk she is usually much more peppy, and ready for breakfast. Another wish I think she has, is to have more dogs in her life. She seems more fulfilled, more empowered, and well-rounded when she is in the presence of other animals and part of a doggie community.

I met someone that doesn’t eat. He dislikes food and most forms of consumerism: shopping, TV, Movies, cars, books — even meals — he does not like consuming. He goes days without eating, and has no desire to indulge in most things. Not even if it’s normal or necessary to partake in them. He’s turned off by almost everything. But, he absolutely adores music, and intense exercise. He says it feeds his soul. The other thing he soaks up, is his relationship to his clients that he coaches. They shower him with love and praise, and he loves being in their company, sharing his knowledge and making a difference in their lives. Another relationship that is very dear to his heart, is his relationship with his girlfriend. He says he is better when he has a partner and feels a missing when he isn’t close to someone. Since he was a young child, he’s always dreamed of having a soulmate.

Be it tea bag tags, staying in bed, soulmates, alcoholic drinks, belly rubs, making love, being creative, loud music, close friends, mid-day naps, strong hugs, evening walks, mugs of coffee, having purpose, interesting books, fresh juices, occasional smokes, online shopping, green gardening, inspiring quotes, feeling challenged, being clean, pin-drop silence, sweet kisses, cups of tea, nite-owl routines, being messy, exercise sessions, heart warming foods, silly shows, early mornings, moments of insight, etc. — we all have our preferences. We all have things tickle our senses, give us feelings of fulfillment, or reassure us that we are loved.

If you find yourself at an extreme in one area; be it overindulging your senses, constantly seeking to be fulfilled, or desperately needing to be loved — see if you can find balance across the board. Taking one of these areas to an extreme might be preventing you from realizing all areas in a balanced way. For example: seeking fulfillment through work to an extreme, can lead to a lack luster love-life with someone you feel deeply connected to. Or, not seeking fulfillment and feeling detached from your work, can lead to overindulging in your senses, to escape the fact that your are unfulfilled.

In my opinion, everything boils down to awareness. Nothing is ever a real problem when we are approaching it with awareness and compassion. Simply watch. Notice where there is lack or excess. Begin to have a bird’e eye view of all three areas that I mentioned: indulging senses, feeling fulfilled, being loved. Treat each area with care and allow all three to be seen. Think of them like your children. No child likes to be snubbed or trashed. Understand that as human beings we are beyond the body, we cosmic creatures. Our spirit is vast. But at the same time, we are rooted in the earth, rooted in humanity. And humans are sensitive. So relish your sensitivity, and feed your soul. Allow your heart to direct you. Listen to your inner being. Find out what tickles your senses, truly fulfills you, makes you feel loved — in a balanced way. Awareness is the first step. Always start there.

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The Meaning of Happiness

happiness meaning

Happiness, along with love, joy, bliss, peace — are feelings that you really can’t put into words. People get hung up on what they mean. Images that the media presents gets stuck in their minds: people madly in love, lucky men clicking their heals, girls acting silly, etc. But what if it just meant stillness of mind? What if it meant for a split second, you were content? Notice how when you get what you want, you are happy. Then that happiness wears off. In a relatively short amount of time you are in the same place of discontent and left wanting again. Don’t get confused. Happiness is not some hit and run emotion that happens wildly. It’s pretty basic. You are happy because you have embraced what is. You got the car you wanted, at an amazing price, and you aren’t resisting that at all! You embrace it with opens arms! Without a doubt or second thought, you are present to it, fully focused and in the moment. It’s just you fully present with your shiny new car. But then you get old and the car gets old, and you are left wanting again. Distracted by past and future. Feeling scattered and fragmented and no longer fully present. You aren’t embracing what is, you are now resisting it, feeling like another reality would be far better. So, is happiness fleeting? Or is it your thoughts and desires that are fleeting? Some people say being happy all the time isn’t realistic. I would say that thinking that your desires could ever make you happy isn’t realistic.

Quickly, let’s just look into the word Happy. For most of Europe in the 14 century it meant Lucky or Fortunate. In the 1500s the definition evolved to mean Pleased and Content. But from the very beginning, the Welsh had their own definition of the word, for them it meant Wise.

Without painting an extreme picture of happiness (like an ear to ear smile while jumping in the air with glee), let’s look at what it might feel like instead of look like. I’ll just tell you what it’s like for me. When I am in flow, open, fully embracing the moment without resistance, feeling whole and at peace with myself and what is happening — feeling good — feeling like this moment is enough — that is what I feel when I am happy. This can happen while giving a hug, working on artwork, dancing to music that moves me, reading a good book, spending time in nature, and even sitting quietly doing nothing or patiently waiting inline at the post office. It never happens while I’m arguing with someone, hating my environment, or feeling like I’m not enough. It never happens when I am resisting what is happening or wishing for things to be different. Can you see the difference? Can you see the resistance that is usually present when someone is not happy? They are internally at war. Fighting with themselves, fighting with life, fighting with others, fighting with what is. Usually, is not happening openly, more often than not, it’s happening privately, within their own mind.

I’m telling you this from experience. I was horribly depressed from ages 5 – 25. Approximately around the age of 27 there was a turning point, my life began to rapidly change (it’s a long story, I can’t go into here, it would make this blog post way too long). Since that time, I’ve been learning what it means to be happy. What it really feels like to be content (<–key word), and at peace with life. I've learned so much. As a result of it, I love my life, and I adore people. More importantly, I've learned to love myself. I'm so much kinder to myself now. There is no longer a brutal battle in my mind. I have the occasional brain hiccup or bout of discontent, but as the years pass, they because few and far-far between.

Below are 3 steps that you can take towards being more happy.

Step 1: Reexamine your idea of what happiness means. Don't see it as some extreme fleeting state, that only happens to the lucky or the stupidly-silly ones. See it as contentment and presence. And if you don’t have a clear idea of what contentment or presence is, work on that. Practice and study it. You can contact me directly for help (see my contact info in the blog header), or you can simply focus your attention on those words (contentment & presence), and the universe will show you what they mean. That’s usually how it works. “Where your attention goes, it grows.”

Step 2: Pay attention, develop more awareness. Notice yourself. Notice your desires, notice the thoughts in your head, notice how you view other people, notice how your treat yourself. This is really important, because without noticing what you are doing, how could you change it? You’ll always be working on the symptom of the problem instead of the root cause of it.

Step 3: Learn to love & embrace what is. Begin to soften up. This doesn’t mean become a ‘push-over’ or someone weak willed. It means to become more compassionate. Develop flexibility instead of rigidity. Become more spacious, more all encompassing. Practice revealing yourself, sharing yourself, and helping others. Begin to relax into life. Make it your friend. Feel good about it.

In closing, look at real people you know personally (or via the media), that seem happy with life and content. The 14th Dalai Lama seems to embody that. Notice what he is like, and what his life looks like. Unless you catch him laughing, his face looks pretty serious. He doesn’t have unusually happy face or demeanor. He lives a life of few desires (this is a state of mind, anyone can do this). He seems to really listen to people and care. He also helps and works to serve others. It’s a combination of living a self-less life with a strong sense of Self! As paradoxical and ironic as that sounds. It’s deeper than it reads though. I intentionally gave the word Self a capital S. This is to tell you that it is not a strong sense of personhood (strong sense of a physical body attached to a name and story), but a strong sense of being a spiritual being; a spirit infinitely connected to all beings (including the Universe and all that remains unknown) while living through a corporeal form (temporary physical body). If you can do that, be a fully compassionate being, loving & honoring yourself, fully in touch with your body & spirit, serving & sharing with others — how could you not be happy? If at moments you find that you aren’t — notice. Notice where your attention is, and what your thoughts are focused on. Notice if you have been honoring yourself. Notice how genuinely connected you feel to others. If you see some incompleteness there, you’ll see where you need to make some adjustments. Life is process. There is no final destination or stagnant state of being. Life is simply happening. That’s what it does. And it’s happening now, in you. Every moment is an opportunity to see that and to feel fully alive. Everyday is an opportunity to connect with yourself and with the world on a deeper level. Try it. See if it makes for a better more fulfilling life. See if it brings you happiness.

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Happiness as a Skill

happiness beingness

I was riding the subway the other day, when I noticed a new ad campaign from our local energy company (Con Edison). Although the ad was meant to be cheeky or clever, I found it disheartening. The ad read: “You don’t have an off switch. Why should we?” I embedded a photo of the ad below, so you can see it for yourself. It’s a photo of a man on his way home, in an elevator, glued to his smart phone. It appears to have been a very long day, coming home late at night, still working as he makes his way to his front door.

con ed subway ad 2013Why would Con Edison find this image and message a positive selling point for their company? Maybe because they find it is the truth. An adequate portrayal of the life people live today. This is what I find disheartening.

Where are we? As I walk down the street everyday, I encounter so many people that are on their phones. Many of them practically walking directly into me because they don’t look up. They are glued to their phones. Is that really where they want to be, glued to a phone all day? Is that how they want to be? Completely distracted, all the time?

I found this really great video on meditation this week. I loved it. It’s full of such great conversation on the topic of mindfulness. One of the speakers mentioned that happiness could be considered a skill. And that practicing mindfulness (awareness) can lead to an increase of overall well being.

We forget that we are human beings. Time spent enjoying the breeze, or a sunset, or the sound of birds, is part of our nature. Shutting down; getting adequate rest at various times during the day, and sound sleep at night, is crucial to good health. Having moments to quietly ponder things is part of maintaining your sanity. Taking time to see and experience what is around you, or to greet people with eye contact or a simple acknowledgement, or to simply be fully present — this is what brings peace to you, and to those around you.

It’s no wonder we are at war, and families are falling apart, and people are starving or hopelessly unemployed, and there are so many car crashes, and alcoholism and drug abuse is so rampant, and there are people with extreme greed, and people are killing innocent people out of rage. We are losing the BASIC threads that hold society together. Our physical health and our mental sanity is at risk when we have no idea how to be peaceful, or happy, or to simply be — because we are consumed with work and technological gadgets. Consumed with getting ahead, instead of being in the moment!

happiness-as-a-skillTry to catch yourself in these moments of being hypnotized by the media, by gadgets, by work, and by consumerism. Unplug. Shut down by shutting it off. Get outside and enjoy the elements. Rest indoors and find some quiet. Exercise and move your body in new ways. Give hugs and physically reach out to people in person. Look people in the eye, even people you don’t know. See what is around you. Work on creative projects that you never have time to get to. Find out what it is to BE YOU. To do what you like to do, versus what society tells you you should be doing. Have fun experiencing what it is like to simply breathe. To feel what is like to be alive, without all the busyness and excessive doing.

A meditation practice helps with this, but is not necessary. If you are a person that has a hard time shutting down, I highly recommend a structured meditation practice for you. This means, scheduling time to meditate daily, making time to shut down or shut off, if only for a few minutes a day. See it as a priority, just as you would for anything important on your to-do list. For the people that are relatively ‘at peace’ most of the time, or find resting or ‘simply being’ rather easy, just keep at it. Continue to explore it, and continue to cultivate and share this sense of peace. Either way, continue to have a practice of mindfulness. Continue to see it as a skill, as a key ingredient to health, happiness and overall well being. If you have any questions at all about it, please feel free to contact me. You can post a message in the comment section, or you can find me here: click link.

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My strength is trust & out of this trust …I live.

I had some doubts when I wrote last week’s blog post. The interesting thing is that doubt was about adding the word trust. (*laughing to myself*)

I wanted to add this line to the blog post last week: “This is what it means to trust.”

This is it in context: “The point is, you are not forcing anything happen. You are not making anything happen. It’s just happening. — You are active, but you are not doing. You are allowing. You are letting go in order to be moved. This is what it means to trust.”

I was essentially saying that being & trusting are synonymous.

The idea of editing that sentence out came about because I felt that the sentence was just hanging there, sort of out on a limb at the end of the paragraph, without a previous mention that ties it in, or some sort of explanation to make sure people knew why I thought the word trust was so significant.

In the end I decided to trust that it should be there, I did not edit it & I left the sentence in the blog post.

Today (written Monday, October 24th) I found a lengthy quote from Hermann Hesse while surfing on the internet. The quote hit home to say the least & felt very appropriate with where my mind has been this week.

I would like to share it with you. Its title is: Trees.

It’s from the book: Wandering — by Herman Hesse.

“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves. And even more I revere them when they stand alone. They are like lonely persons. Not like hermits who have stolen away out of some weakness, but like great, solitary men, like Beethoven and Nietzsche. In their highest boughs the world rustles, their roots rest in infinity; but they do not lose themselves there, they struggle with all the force of their lives for one thing only: to fulfil themselves according to their own laws, to build up their own form, to represent themselves. Nothing is holier, nothing is more exemplary than a beautiful, strong tree. When a tree is cut down and reveals its naked death-wound to the sun, one can read its whole history in the luminous, inscribed disk of its trunk: in the rings of its years, its scars, all the struggle, all the suffering, all the sickness, all the happiness and prosperity stand truly written, the narrow years and the luxurious years, the attacks withstood, the storms endured. And every young farmboy knows that the hardest and noblest wood has the narrowest rings, that high on the mountains and in continuing danger the most indestructible, the strongest, the ideal trees grow.

Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life.

A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail.

A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live.

When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. Let God speak within you, and your thoughts will grow silent. You are anxious because your path leads away from mother and home. But every step and every day lead you back again to the mother. Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.

A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing reveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.

So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.”

[The photos I decided to included in this blog post are of three people I greatly admire: portrait of author Hermann Hesse, as well as naturalist John Muir (aka Father of the National Parks) & Galen Clark protector of the Yosemite Valley & the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.]

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Additional information about trees, specifically Redwood trees:

My most beloved place to be is Muir Woods National Monument in California, ask anyone one in my family & they will tell you that my heart lives there. The sacred Redwoods I experienced in Muir Woods have never left me, because I have never left them. I felt something with them that was truly unforgettable.  Just the thought of them alone brings me to a greater awareness & knowing. This connection I have with trees is the other reason why I was so moved by what Hermann Hesse wrote & decided to share it as a blog post.

To get just a glimpse into the majesty of Redwoods, this TED video embedded below goes into great detail about them. It echos in a scientific way, what Hermann Hesse expressed so eloquently through a feeling.

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