It still surprises me to say but I’m a bit of a cock-eyed optimist these days. I think that life is meant for building dreams and chasing happily ever after off into the sunset. I believe in vision boards and dancing and mantras and anything else that brings us those feel good juices. Oh and juicing, don’t even get me started on juicing. It’s thrilling.
But just a few years back, it wasn’t. Life was exhausting and happiness its most unattainable goal.
Anxiety-fueled nights, awakening around noon, fighting myself to do anything productive, feeling the guilt of not doing anything again, paralyzed by both a crippling fear of the unknown and a detesting of the day-to-day. Everything was a chore. Ever been there?
I still have the occasional days like this, in times of acute stress, when I get so caught up in the details. I forget what I know to be true of happiness.
I turn to my sacred alter and its dozens of colorful, smiling buddhas and I’m reminded of one simple, exquisite truth: Happiness takes effort.
It’s going to bed early, getting in daily exercise, doing meaningful work, spending times with friends and family, service work, reading, writing, therapy, prayer and meditation, cooking, spending time outdoors, gratitude lists and affirmations, doing the dishes and the laundry. And this is just on a normal week. If I’m stressing or truly going through something, I’d better be doing a lot more. My point is, I usually have to do something to affect a positive state of mind.
It’s taken a long time for me to feel comfortable fostering my own happiness and participating in any kind of self care. With divine intervention and small steps, one day at a time, I progressed.
“Happiness is not an accident. Nor is it something you wish for. Happiness is something you design.”
~ Jim Rohn
I think back to Buddhism’s most basic tenant: Life is suffering. And nothing causes suffering more than evading the now. We are far too quick to morbidly reminesce our past and play dangerously with our future instead of settling into this moment, what is.
They have figured something out so basic and so extraordinary at once that it still gives me goosebumps: All of life is transitory and fading. Its beauty lies in its brevity.
Forget grieving the past—it’s dead. Forget wishful thinking about the future—who knows if it’ll arrive?
All we can ever know and all we can ever be–past, present, and future—is wrapped up in this one sublime second. It’s precious.
“This is the real secret of life—to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
~ Alan Watts
It sounds so simple, but how do we do it? How do we die to the past and surrender to the future in order to find a peaceful and playful present?
On the whole, my spiritual experiences have been of the intellectual variety—experience proceeded by understanding. I’ve found a lot of benefit in self-help, working with a mentor, therapist or spiritual guide, and writing a lot.
But nothing has helped me so much as paying attention to own emotions and thoughts in the moment. All truth lies here; there is no where else for it to go. We can spend our lives running from ourselves or we can stop and get in touch with who we are at our core.
The self is always here, pulsing along and paying attention. The self is here to teach me. And it is only to be found in the present.
Here’s what I’ve learned:
If we don’t regularly clean the attic, it gets caked with cobwebs. Our minds are much the same—they need a regular clearing out. So write, meditate, pray—whatever you can do to empty out that wonderful, wandering mind of yours—and come to know the bliss of silence.
You are worth getting to know. Get in touch with your wonder and your grace and your breathtakingly beautiful humanity. Meditation is the best vehicle here but our relationships teach us a lot about ourselves too. Be receptive for messages wrapped up in irksome people. They’re all reflections of you.
Happiness also requires cutting off attachment to the future,or a known outcome of any variety. It’s about relinquishing desire so that we can live wholeheartedly with what we have. We can be that water in the river, flowing just where we are needed. We will neither want nor reject. Instead, we can simply be.
I’m not suggest sitting at home and serenely waiting for your future to arrive. But I am saying to quit living in maybes and what ifs and worst-case scenarios. Quit fearing if your future will look the way you want it to if you’re doing nothing today to prepare for it.
And quit imaging a life of doom and gloom; help someone instead. Happiness is about getting out of your head and into action. It often requires doing that one thing you really, really don’t want to do, saying ‘yes’ and stepping into uncomfortable territory.
At first it’s scary and you’ll question everything, most of all yourself. But in time, it will feel right. It won’t seem like work anymore.
You’ll begin to find joy in the process. You realize how wonderful the burning rituals and the prayer and the dirty dishes are because they’re giving you the levity and peace of mind that is your birthright. You want to keep doing it because you know it’s making you better and it feels good just being here.
“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
Tell me how you are finding your happy today. What methods are working for you and what are you learning? Let me know in the comments below.
Wishing you all peace, love, and radiant wellness! xo