THE PATH TO HAPPINESS
We must regularly ask ourselves do we know what our full potential is and importantly, are we operating at this level? To live below it, especially on a long–term basis, amounts to a denial of our true capabilities. Time is finite and we do need to ensure that we spend it wisely and happily in the things we do best. To paraphrase Arne Naess we need to establish: under what circumstances do we experience maximum satisfaction of our entire being? This is a high ideal, one that I’m not certain I can often reach – ‘ maximum satisfaction of our entire being ‘ – but it does nevertheless represent a goal to work towards, a challenge that can preoccupy us – perhaps the most important one in our lives.
Avoid playing safe all the time otherwise you will miss out on life’s wonderful, growth-inspiring opportunities. Too often we stay in the margins of life with what we know; what we are familiar with rather than venturing forth to explore the unknown. Remember: if we do not to take a chance in life we are still, nevertheless taking a chance, one that will keep us bound up in our cocoon missing out on the opportunity to grow and flourish.
“ Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp
Or what’s a heaven for? “
Be creative. There are so many avenues to explore that can act as a catharsis in our lives; the art, crafts, dance, tai chi whatever you think could be of benefit to you. It not about achieving ‘ outstanding ‘ results, it’s not about arriving at a state of perfection -quite the opposite it’s about having fun in a creative form. There is no ‘ good ‘ work or ‘ bad ‘ work just a free flowing gift of personal expression that can take you on an healing journey.
If we shy away from creativity, any activity that requires our commitment we will need to look at this and find out what the resistance is. Sometimes we say to ourselves: if it’s not perfect I’m not doing it or if it’s not perfect it’s not good enough. This fundamentally undermines the real value of what we are trying to achieve. We are not embarking on perfectionism, a make or break scenario we are just utilizing our energy in practice, exploring and develop our skills for better days to come.
“ Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent.” Rumi
At regular moments throughout the day try to place your thinking into mindfulness mode. Slow everything down and just observe without preferences, without judgement what is happening around you. Stop all the activity and busy-ness, the ‘ I must do ‘ syndrome and just relax. Breathe deeply and focus on that slow breath. You will then start to feel more relaxed, spacious and calm. Stay with this feeling as long as you can but if you have to let it go that’s OK you can always return to it at another time.
Happiness is not just subject to external conditions – the things we want – it also reflects our attitudes, how we view the inevitable changes that sweep through our lives. If we are flexible, accepting and accommodating – especially when things do not go the way we want – then happiness will surely follow us wherever we go because we have the inner resources to cope with the ups and downs, the vicissitudes of a constantly changing world.
We have to work hard in life, drawing on our inner resources to shape and mould the things, events, outcomes, etc that we require and this demands a spirit of positivity knowing that we are doing our very best. And this is all we can ask of ourselves even when things go ‘ wrong ’ ( which is only another opportunity to try again ). Remember: Happiness is a choice we make.
Whatever you do don’t take things personally. Bad stuff happens to all of us at times and although it is painful and distressing we mustn’t think it’s only us suffering. It isn’t! Suffering is a universal phenomenon that affects everyone. Once we accept this we can start to shift our thinking more positively. At one level there are no ‘ mistakes ‘ or ‘ wrongs ’ just deeper understanding that can take us off to new adventure. Our ability to turn things around is largely attitudinal and we must believe in this innate power given to everyone. Where there is a problem there is also buried a corresponding solution. Make certain you find it……
Being fit is a key ingredient to feeling happy and nothing here can help us more than somatic exercises ( holistic, body-centered movement practices ). When we put weight on we can invariably start to feel uncomfortable, and often quite miserable about it. Many of us have been there and know the feelings that over-weight can engender: weariness, tiredness and lethargy. When I have felt like this in the past I have always tried to engage in somatic exercises. I remember attending my first Five Rhythms session ( a dance form using music and intuitive, undirected movements ) many years ago and the feeling of exhilaration and elation I felt afterwards was truly memorable. It provided me with an incentive to engage more with this practice which had the effect of improving my mental and physical wellbeing quite dramatically.
Don’t attach too much to a destination projection – a trip that rips you from the here and now to take you off to another place fantasising about a new partner, a new job, a new town. Happiness begins not in running away but in staying in the here and now, working with what we have – where else could it be? Cherie Carter- Scott put it so well in her Rules for Life: “……….. When your ‘ there ‘ has become ‘ here ‘ you will simply obtain another ‘ there ‘ that will look better to you than your present ‘ here.’ “ Avoid this deficiency feeling by mindfully appreciating what you have in this precious moment – here, now.
Take time out to reflect more, to discover greater insights. We cannot afford to spend our lives on the surface of things, just paying attention and engaging with the superficial we do need to penetrate further and ask of ourselves deeper questions. For this we need to start thinking critically. When you go to bed at night ask yourself what have I learnt today? How can I improve my life? How can I push it forward? How can I find peace of mind? Perhaps it’s worth while keeping a journal where you can record your thoughts and feelings. Obviously as we go deeper into this process of inquiry we will start to receive some feedback – act on it! This is the single most important thing we can do here – action is all!