Tag Archives: happiness
One of the greatest gifts I’ve learned, and continue to learn, from having a mindfulness practice is this:
My state of mind and quality of being are never created or alleviated by anyone other than myself. The more responsibility I take for my thoughts, feelings, speech, and actions, the happier and lighter I become.
A light breeze blows,
showering me with creme-colored, circular elm seeds,
littering my outdoor work-space with debris.
I huff at my freshly cleared-off tablecloth becoming strewn with seed pods…again.
But, what am I expecting to have happen here? I’m sitting outside under a freakin’ elm tree, after all.
There’s a certain kind of learned, common human insanity that plagues our patterns of thought in detrimental, destructive ways.
I think it’s worth asking ourselves this question: What percentage of my day is spent wishing something was other than as it is?
I wish I were more _____ and less _____. I wish so-and-so was less of a jerk, for that dude to drive better, and for that lady to pipe down. I wish I had a cup of coffee or a brownie or a stiff drink. I wish it was warmer out or cooler out or dryer out or wetter out. I wish I didn’t have to go to work or do the laundry or haul the kids all over town or make dinner….
Not to sound harsh or anything, but, if you really want to be happy, you’re gonna need to stop trying so hard.
There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way.
I’ve been thinking about the notions of praise and blame lately. Mainly about how common it is to fall prey to them and how empty they are of value and meaning. The other day, when I was on an airplane coming home, one of things I wrote down in my journal was:
As long as we’re looking for something outside of our own inner landscape to complete, validate, or otherwise be the maker of our sorrow and/or happiness, we will continue to suffer. And suffer we will – for the rest of our days.
What praise and blame have in common is that they help perpetuate the illusion that other people’s actions and words are what determine our quality of life. We are often dependent on others to both build up and maintain our self-worth and value and take the fall for any amount of discomfort or discontent we experience. We are continually putting our state of mental and emotional well-being in the hands of those around us.
Two nights ago, I was reminded about one of the fruits that has unfolded as a result of my practice of cultivating mindfulness and joy: the ability and capacity to remain mentally at ease, upright, and stable in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Despite feeling a bit overloaded with organizational and schedule related tasks of late, I agreed to volunteer for an evening school-related function at a local art gallery, as part of my stepson’s involvement in the literary magazine program at his high school. On Monday night his literary mag teacher sent out a long and heartfelt email, sharing about her recent health struggles that will soon send her to the Mayo clinic in Minnesota, along with her first and sole ask for parent support to help pull off their largest fundraiser of the year, which would be happening in 3 nights time. After learning about her health struggles, and other personal challenges she shared about in the email, and considering the late notice that would likely render many parents unable to help out, I decided to pitch in to help a little more than I usually would.
I volunteered to make and bring both an appetizer and dessert item, enough to feed 20 people (as requested), and I also offered to help set up at the event beforehand. This resulted in prepping and baking for 5-hours, until 9:30 at night, after working a full day at my nanny job on Wednesday, followed by going directly to the event for set up the next day, after another full day of work. Since we were rather short-handed, I stepped in to help manage and maintain the food tables throughout the event, as well, and stayed until the end to help with clean up. So, for a second day in a row, I immediately followed my 7-hour work day with another 5-hour set of active tasks. This would be a lot for many people, regardless of health status. However, with the added element of living with chronic pain, due to a nerve condition, 12-hour days for me are most often out of the question – my schedule of 7-hour work days twice a week are enough to put me in bed as soon as I get home at 4:00pm. I do have the capability, however, to pull it off when I need to, once in a while, knowing that my pain levels will be elevated for a few days afterwards in response and I’ll need to adjust my activities and schedule accordingly, in order to rest and recuperate my energy.
For the past few years I’ve been replacing the idea of New Year’s resolutions, which I’ve never cared for, with the development of new mindfulness exercises. I’m currently working with a number of new mindfulness practices to incorporate into my daily and weekly routine, which started at the beginning of the year. It’s worth mentioning, however, that typically I wouldn’t encourage the cultivation of so many new practices all at once, unless a practitioner has invested time in building a strong, diligent foundation in mindfulness, as trying to take on too much too fast is an easy undertaking, and an easy undoing of our stability.
My new practices include:
– Saying a short verse to myself upon waking up each morning
– Uni-tasking while brushing my teeth (verses multi-tasking)
– Saying a personalized closing verse to myself after breakfast each morning
– Jotting down observations I make in a small notebook when I’m in my car at red lights, or in other such instances where I’m stopped and waiting (at the bank, for instance)
– Mindful Morning Saturdays, where I devote the hours of 5:00-8:00am as a concentrated time to practice mindfulness (I read passages in our chanting book, do sitting meditation and three touchings of the earth, practice the 16 Qi Gong stick exercise routine, practice mindful eating of my breakfast, and watch a portion of a Dharma talk video online)
– Paying special attention to my preferences: what they are, how they show up in my life, looking deeply into whether they are helpful or harmful
In our local meditation center, we have a large calligraphy done by Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) that reminds us to: Go as a river, which is a common teaching in our tradition. These few simple words have a depth of wisdom instilled within them, and can be translated in a few different ways. To me, Go as a river speaks to two main key components of our practice tradition: impermanence and brotherhood/sisterhood.
In regards to impermanence, Go as a river speaks to the ever-changing flow of life. Suffering, in large part, develops when we’re fighting against what is unfolding in the present moment, as though we’re trying to walk upstream amid a fast-moving river. To Go as a river means to go with the flow of life, to learn how to accept its non-permanent state and not get stuck in our own preferences and thoughts about how things should be. Despite our best laid plans and ideas, life can oftentimes twist and turn in unexpected ways. To Go as a river means to cultivate resiliency, inclusiveness, solidity, and ease, with the deepening understanding that things/people/situations are of the nature to change.
In regards to brotherhood & sisterhood, Go as a river means to recognize the importance and cultivation of community and interconnection. On a more intimate level, it means: to root ourselves in a loving, supportive, healthy sangha. On a larger level, it means: to see all the ways in which we depend on one another as a global family. Brotherhood and sisterhood are about discovering ways to actively connect and engage with our friends, family, local community, and the world in such a way that compassion and understanding are generated. Read the rest of this entry »