Directions to Happiness, Part II

 

I promised to finish up my Map to Happiness from yesterday, and I intend to…the only problem is, my internet is down, so I am going to do my part and hope that the internet Deities are kind and I am able to post this before I have to scurry off to my place of employment. So, yesterday, I believe I said – 1) Must make up your mind to be happy. 2) Must get rid of the things keeping you from being happy, 3.) Rest, but do not Languish. 4.) Take walks, & 5.) Think about what you are putting in your mouth, right? I think that was the way I had it all…(you’ll have to forgive me, I am writing this in Microsoft Word, can’t even get a little online)

The following five things are possibly a little more complex, depending on your level of readiness. The next one took me YEARS to finally get serious about, and I wish I had not been so stubborn and resistant because it may just be the catalyst that has helped me maintain this wonderful, formerly elusive, happiness that I am now so wonderfully afflicted with ( J ).

6.) Meditate. My mother must have said the words “I wish you would learn to meditate.” Forty seven thousand, two hundred and thirteen times to me over the past several years. Which probably has a lot to do with why I wouldn’t. I realize now how childish that is, but also, there was definitely a part of me that just wasn’t ready yet to let go of my misery. And remember, that is number one and number two of the formula that works for me- the decision to no longer be miserable, and the action of letting go. If you are anything at all like I was before I found a way to help myself learn how to do it, meditation seems like a cruel joke- a sort of magnifying glass for all your anxiety and neuroses. Who knew it could be so goddamned hard to just sit still for five minutes and NOT THINK?

Well, here’s the deal-you can stop worrying about not thinking, because you are always going to have thoughts- that’s just part of being a living human being. The minute I realized that I could stop tensely slapping my thoughts away (which is kind of contrary to the whole process, right?) and that I didn’t have to be a bouncer in my own head, I did relax, marginally. What helped me more than anything else, though? A really good guided meditation app that is now my favorite IPhone app. The one I use is called “Simply Being”, I’m pretty sure it was free, but it gives you options to do 5,10,15 or 20 minute meditations, and a woman with a wonderful, soothing voice, not to mention gorgeous background music, really helps you figure it out. All my previous attempts to do even a five minute meditation were nearly unbearable. Now, I can do fifteen easily…and I feel like I could even do it without the “guide” part. Well, almost. So, don’t be afraid to try meditation, even if you have not had a lot of success in the past. I understand now why they call it a “Practice”. Because that is what you have to do to get better at it.

7.) Deal with the things that are causing you fear and worry. This one is also huge! I have a lot of financial problems which I decided to ignore rather than deal with…which, of course, only lead me to worse financial problems and lots and lots of fear and anxiety. I wouldn’t open my mail. Every time my phone would ring, my stomach would clench, knowing it was probably yet another bill collector. Over the past month or so, I have started to communicate with people, set up payment plans, and take care of what I am able to. Now, when my phone rings, even if it is a weird 800 number, I am not afraid to answer and at least try to come up with a solution. Whatever your fears are, dealing with them will bring a deep measure of peace. The unknown is always going to be worse.

8.) Have gratitude. Your attitude is more important than any other thing I have mentioned so far. If you are negative and cannot find one good thing in your life, you have already lost before you have even started. You have got to figure out what is great about your life and build on it- even if you feel like you have NOTHING to be glad about or grateful for. If you need to get a notebook and write down five things every day that you can be grateful for, even if those things are- 1) I’m not dead yet, 2) I can still hold this pen in spite of the frostbite 3) At least the nice lady at Starbucks lets me take a sponge bath in the sink when its slow, 4) The new graveyard prison guard is not a total monster…Okay, I think you get my point. Your life CANNOT BE ALL BAD. You may have a bad habit of only seeing the down side, however. I am telling you now that until you can find a better perspective, nothing is going to improve. If you really can’t think of anything good on your own, ask someone else to help you. Another person will be able to tell you five good things about yourself- your job is to believe them.

9) Be kind. Kindness perpetuates all sorts of warm, fluffy, embarrassingly good feelings inside of you. It snowballs more quickly than anything else, it benefits both the giver and the receiver, and it is highly contagious. No one is really immune to kindness, and everyone always needs it. There is nothing better for my spirit than when I can give someone a little more kindness than they are expecting, wherever I am, whatever it may be. People are so touched when you take an extra minute to hold a door, or even notice their two items to your fifteen in line at the grocery store and ask them to please go ahead of you…Be kind whenever the opportunity presents itself. Be kind in action and be kind with your words- resist even saying an unkind thing about someone. Eventually, you will find yourself in the habit of being this way, and it will feel SO GOOD.

10.) Finally, have a sense of humor about all of it. Life is funny, even when it sucks, and you have to shrug it off, laugh at the ridiculousness, not take it personally. Don’t be one of those people who are so “spiritually evolved”, and get up on your high horse of happiness- that is the quickest way to find yourself on your butt, and fast. Live down among the earthlings, your flawed brothers and sisters, and love the shit out of them. Laugh at their jokes, hug them, love them, be part of their lives. And always, always, always see the humor in even the most awful things.

So, this is the recipe for Happiness that I use. I am always willing to try new things, however, and add new ingredients- if you have any suggestions, I sure would like to hear them!

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3 thoughts on “Directions to Happiness, Part II

  1. Brilliant! First, let me apologize for writing a comment that could almost be a blog! But, for me your last 3 posts are epics, and your 10 steps to Happiness are hugely important, because you found your own path and not one laid out for you by some happiness guru.

    First, my disclaimer, I’ve been on the same path as you for a long, long time but haven’t made it yet. I’m still stuck on your first and second steps. So, I’m not writing this from a condescending looking down stance, but from an admiration of your raw courage, naked openness, and strong commitment.

    The point of this comment is that I took a six week mindfulness course recently where I came into contact with the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn. The parallels between your path and his ‘practice’ are remarkable, so bear with me while I remark.

    JKZ teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR and it is being adopted in healthcare, education, and well-being all around the world. What I love most about it is that it is secular and not tangled up in religious beliefs, so it has universal appeal.

    It’s essential message is that Mindfulness aligns with your ‘Directions to Happiness’. It uses meditation and yoga as the means of developing and exercising the mindfulness muscle. So, I think this fit neatly with your steps 6 (meditation) and 4 (exercise).

    In his introduction to MBSR JKZ stresses the importance of intention, (commitment), to achieving any results. He stresses the importance of discipline in meditating for 40 mins / 6 days a week on the 8 week MBSR program. See your step 1 (Decision / Commitment).

    JKZ describes 5 essential attitudes to develop to achieve maximum benefit from the MBSR course and indeed from Mindfulness. These are; Non Judging, Patience, Beginner’s Mind, Trust, Non Striving, Acceptance, & Letting Go. I won’t bore you by describing each, suffice it to say that they resonate with your steps 2 (Letting Go) and Steps 5 (Acceptance). From someone who has yet to Let Go, I can not emphasize enough the importance of these two steps.

    JKZ lists another 8 qualities, 2 of which match your steps 8 (Acceptance) and 9 (Kindness)

    So, in all there are only 2 steps in your own guide that are not in the MBSR practice. Step 2 (Rest) and Step 10 (Humour). I’m sure that the emphasize that JKZ places on Being as opposed to Doing will tick of your Step 2. And having listened to some of JKZ audio tapes, he has a great manner and sense of humor, so I’m pretty sure as a person he embodies your step 10.

    What to make of all this.

    The MBSR program stresses the importance of Non Striving, and advocates not aiming to achieve your personal goals. By just allowing the MBSR program to do its work on change, it claims that it often achieves our goals by displacing or dissolving them through learning the practice of mindfulness.

    Personally, I believe the secret is, as you have discovered, that by cultivating qualities like compassion, gratitude, and kindness through meditation, we develop new ways of thinking and acting that are ultimately more rewarding than our human drive for pleasure.

    As Henry David Thoreau said, ““I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.”

    Thanks for showing the way. I do hope you don’t mind me making the parallels.

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    1. Are you kidding me? I am insanely flattered! My mother will just cry with joy when she reads this…I am so grateful to be reaching people with the things that bring me the most joy, number one of which is (and has always, always, been) writing. It had to get soul crushingly bad for me to get to where I am. I honestly just couldn’t withstand anymore misery. But I would gladly do it all again if I knew that this would be the outcome- more happiness, more inner calm, than I have ever known. I mean, I hope I won’t have to do it again, but you know what I am getting at.
      And please, feel free to leave comments of any length, whenever you want to. I enjoy it immensely. 🙂

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