These days, I find myself dripping in happiness. After months of working hard to train my mind to stop being afraid of living, there is now an abundance of joy in my life – more than enough to share without fear of running out. I think I found happiness because I intentionally set out not to find happiness but purpose. We ALL want to be happy, sure. For many, the definition can include many things/pursuits/achievements that bring happiness to one’s life, which, as we all know, can be fleeting.
I tend to oversimplify but that’s the way I get to the core of challenges so here is what I am trying to say: I found happiness accidentally by searching for purpose on purpose. And the sweetest discovery is this: happiness is the sum of the good thoughts, deeds and people you surround yourself with. It is HORIZONTAL, not vertical, as our culture portrays. Further, one is more likely to experience joy and happiness in moments of absolute stillness….absent struggle, thinking, working, climbing, scheming, toiling, or anything of the like. Brilliant!
What has amazed me in this magnificent experience is that my purpose is revealed to me when I am re-energizing my soul, daydreaming, napping, walking, baking, or doing any number of things that are not centrally focused on intensely pursuing happiness. It found ME, not the other way around!
Here are 9 general beliefs/practices I have adopted that I believe are positively contributing to my experiencing a life of maximum purpose, satisfaction and happiness:
- Ask God for an open heart To me, God/Inner Light/Higher Power is Central to anything growth-related. Several years ago, my husband and I were struggling in every possible way – trying to dig ourselves out of a hole we thought would lead us to happiness. I started intuitively praying many times a day, just asking God to give me an open heart so I would be willing and able to accept our fate. It worked and it stuck.
- Stop resisting what “is” The meditation/mindfulness gurus all say that being “present in the now” is the key to living a more satisfying life and they are right. But it takes lots of practice to train our non-stop thinking selves to just be calm and receive our surroundings without reacting or doing anything. At the root of all heartache is the desire to change/resist/fight something outside of our control. I think because, as human beings, (especially in the Western world), we have become so conditioned to “control” our external surroundings using our magnificent scientific abilities. Don’t do this anymore! You’ll be so much happier, I promise.
- Work to face fears/make things personal I love love love this the most and have been practicing this the most lately. Probably 25 years ago, I heard a very wise theologian speak about racism. His reasoning to counter the mind and heart’s tendency to divide “us” and “them” was simple: look into the eyes of the “other” and think of their Mother, who loves them so. Everyone has a Momma! It helps me to catch myself judging others when I personalize someone or something I might be inclined to disregard. Make friends with people who are different than you, encourage your children to do the same. It only brings joy, I assure you. After working hard to seek situations where you can personalize the “other”, the Universe just starts making it part of who you are. I started by volunteering at a food pantry. I was terrified by the “others” at first. Now they are my friends.
- Lolligag, daydream, rest If you have been reading any of the current buzz about personal and professional success these days, everyone is talking about a Sleep Revolution. It seems we are finally learning that trying to squeeze more productivity out of an already empty person is futile. We all need to re-charge. We all need to learn and understand our personal energy limitations and “indulge” in that which renews us. I am a daydreaming, napping, slow walking fool and much happier for it!
- Connect with an animal My husband amusedly looks at me fussing over our adopted cocker spaniel and tells me, “I don’t know THIS woman!”. I have gotten more joy from the simple experience of loving an animal in the past few years it is amazing. Eckhardt Tolle wrote an entire book about the spiritual connection between human and animal in “Guardians of Being.” The primary benefit of loving an animal, not surprisingly, is that the very act of petting and tending to one’s dog, for instance, causes one to simply be present.
- Embrace vulnerability Authors, bloggers and life coaches like Martha Beck, Glennon Doyle and Brene Brown are all talking about accepting our vulnerability and supporting one another’s courage in expressing that vulnerability. It does lead to joy because it takes such courage to be open and honest. And it lifts the weight of perfection from our shoulders – multi-tasking and perfection are mere facades of a happy life. Why not embrace our imperfection, learn to laugh about it and accept it, and be joyous and happy?
- Replace “dread” with curiosity I dread most things, especially social occasions. Let me tell you, what a miserable existence that is. Learning to control my anxieties with deep breathing, accepting the now and enjoying being present are helping me to dread things less. I may not necessarily look forward to a “command performance,” but at least I am practicing methods that help me get through social obligations without upsetting everyone around me.
- Learn from criticism Boy, could I resent a person who told me the truth in the past! I am practicing the art of really listening to people. If the messenger offers sincere, loving advice intended to show you how you appear in the world, listen. The lesson is far more important than your ego.
- Befriend your alter ego And speaking of egos, I hereby confess that I have happily enjoyed “alter egos” – my inner hero I want to express outwardly – for decades. It started in my twenties when I moved away from home for the first time. I wanted to be “JD” instead of “Joan,” because “JD” was a spunky, brave and light-hearted go-getter ready to take on the world. In my forties, I was “Piper,” the super fun-loving Momma who could still enjoy a night of dancing. Now, I am mellowing into “Pippa,” my 50’s alter-ego. “Pippa” is a mature-ish woman who knows who she is, loves to love and comfort, and looks forward to the future instead of mourning the past. In my 60’s, I will be “Poppy,” that still-cheeky woman with a secret or two and a sense of humor, but wise and gentle, as well.
So, my friends, I share the greatest discovery of my recent months with you today: Happiness is Horizontal
You are much more likely to experience it in a state of relaxed acceptance of the present moment! Enjoy and Namaste.