Already Happy

February 26, 2014

True happiness has no cause. It is the natural state of our being, when unobstructed.  ~Ezra Bayda, from Saying Yes to Life (Even the Hard Parts)

“Let it be,” say the Beatles. How hard that is! We think that doing this or buying that or being with this person or achieving that will move us closer to happiness. But Bayda says happiness is the natural state of our being! It’s great good news that we already have it, if we can just clear the obstructions.

One of the obstructions for me is mindlessness, distraction, forgetting to stop and notice the world. Isn’t it easy to get caught in a web of striving? Today I am committing to write a haiku a day to help me remember to take a moment to just be in the world, to notice things outside my own head, and to “let it be.” Satya Robin would call this piece of mindful writing a “small stone.”

So, no matter how trite this may be, here’s the first:

Clouds blanket the sky
Trees are buffeted by wind
Yet daffodils bloom

What are your obstructions to happiness? What will you do to clear them?


Make It a Good Day

August 19, 2010

As soon as you honor the present moment, all unhappiness and struggle dissolve, and life begins to flow with joy and ease. When you act out of present-moment awareness, whatever you do becomes imbued with a sense of quality, care and love – even the most simple action.  ~Eckhart Tolle

Everyday, think as you wake up: Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive. I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself to expand my heart out to others for the benefit of all beings.  ~His Holiness the XIVth Dalai Lama

While we have almost no control over external events and conditions, our happiness is largely within our control. “Hah!” you say. And I have said the same. But I do believe that dropping our ego identification as much as possible, waking gratefully, and paying attention to the present moment can radically alter our days.  

On good days, I work, I play creatively, and I interact mindfully with others. Mostly, on those days, I can act to make it a good day. I’ve learned that if I pay attention to the nourishing things, instead of despairing over the time-wasters and bad habits, the good things increase.  While I don’t buy any of that Secret stuff about the laws of attraction, it’s just common sense that where we put our attention profoundly affects our lives. 

Tolle makes it sound simple, but the connection between intention and action can sometimes be tenuous for me. I try to remember what Annie Dillard said: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

May we begin each day in gratitude and aspire to act out of present-moment awareness, feeling the flow of life, making it a good day.


Gratefulness

November 28, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

I shared some favorite quotations on gratitude here. To those I add the following:

Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. ~William Arthur Ward

I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances. ~Martha Washington

When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed. ~Maya Angelou

I believe gratitude breeds generosity and is an important element of happiness. Do you have a favorite quote that reminds you to be grateful?


Happiness and Belonging

August 10, 2009

Yahoola Valley 2
Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything. ~Albert Einstein

Nature is not a place to visit. It is home. ~Gary Snyder

It is becoming clearer to me that happiness is a subtractive, rather than an additive, process. What I mean by that is that it is our natural state, but it is layered over with oh-so-much stuff that interferes. Letting go and discarding those things that don’t serve us is our task–not striving to find something we don’t already have. We are an integral part of the universe, of nature; we belong here (because we are here, after all), yet we persist in struggling to feel belonging. At least that’s my theology at the moment.

I am so fortunate to live in a gorgeous place. But when I am unhappy, focused on all that “stuff,” it goes unnoticed. May I recognize that I vibrate with all of nature, and feel that connection in my bones.

Sophia once said to me, “You should feel adored.” We should all feel adored as we bask in our natural homes. We are part of something much greater, but it would be different without us.

I am a thread in the fabric of existence.
No one would miss one tiny thread,
except that it holds the whole thing together.
Who knows the extent of unraveling
once it begins?


Happy Wise

March 8, 2009

Be happy. It’s one way of being wise. ~Sidonie Gabrielle Colette

Thanks to Pat Wagner for this quote and the lovely photo of her bathtub full of catnip that accompanies it on her post card. In times of depression, of course, the exhortation to be happy can be a mockery. But I like the implication that for most of us, most of the time, if we have a few tools and techniques at our disposal, happiness is a choice, and a wise one.

This must be true, if we take into account the many who are in suffering and need much greater than our own, but are still able to maintain this state. Consider this quote: “Don’t be concerned about being disloyal to your pain by being joyous.” ~Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan

Here are some of the ways I encourage myself to be happy:
practice yoga
go outdoors, especially in the sunshine
pet my cat
make love
learn something new
keep a gratitude journal
share with others in a variety of ways
visit with close friends
blog
keep track of the good things I do for myself each day
read
write poetry
make a donation to a cause I believe in
meditate
draw
organize and simplify
crochet or knit
smile

What are the ways you practice being happy?


Positivity

January 8, 2009

The main thing in one’s own private world is to try to laugh as much as you cry. ~Maya Angelou

We hear way too much gloom and doom from the media. Yes, it’s true bad things happen in the world. But every day, so many people are doing good work, helping others, showing courage, giving and sharing, speaking truth to power, loving and caring for the world.

While it seems right to be concerned and cry (about the horrors in the Gaza Strip, the shooting in the San Francisco subway, and the other tragedies of the day), we also have to sustain our belief in goodness, laughter, community and sharing. Being human is being all those things, despite the fact that it sometimes feels a bit schizophrenic. Think how healing it can be for people to commune, laugh and remember after a memorial service, to enjoy being together, to remember the loved one who is gone, but also go on living.

I have never cared for the ideas of “positive thinking” or “affirmations” because to me they have always seemed false, a pretense. But if we are genuinely in touch with both the sadness and the joy in life, it is good to remember the things that make us laugh. May we all laugh as much as we cry.


Kindness

October 19, 2008

Is there a greater miracle than to see through another’s eyes, even for an instant? ~Thoreau

Read the wonderful poem, “Kindness,” by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Compassion and kindness, I believe, spring from a greater understanding of others. I am struggling this week to feel compassionate and kind toward those whose values, so different from my own, are leading them into actions that seem to me to be producing bad karma. I want to suspend that judgment and open to understanding. I want to create spaciousness in my heart, to breathe in their suffering and breathe out peace and light.

I am blessed beyond measure. I cannot help but smile and give thanks. May I remember that all beings want to be happy and free from suffering. May I learn and practice the “tender gravity of kindness.”


We’re All In It Together

October 12, 2008

Yes, ‘n’ how many times can a man turn his head, pretending he just doesn’t see? ~Bob Dylan

Tara Brach, in her powerful and important book, Radical Acceptance, says, “Our capacity to look away from the realness and suffering of others has horrendous consequences.” She contends that we look away because we are focused on the differences, holding tightly to our views of right and wrong, of self and other, of “good” and “bad” guys. “Once someone is an unreal other,” she continues, “we lose sight of how they hurt…All the enormous suffering of violence and war [and I would add poverty and hunger] comes from our basic failure to see that others are real.”

And it is not just for the “other” that we should care about economic injustice, but also for ourselves. The division of the world into haves and have-nots creates suffering and fear, not just in the poor, but in the rich. When it is possible for all to have enough, our having too much not only does not make us happy, it corrupts us at the core, creating in us fear of loss, suspicion of others, and greed for more.

How do we stop perpetuating this inequality? What can one person do? Here are some of my ideas:

1. Volunteer at or donate to a social service agency.
2. Get to know someone better who seems different from you in some way (socioeconomic status, disability, age, race, educational level). Learn to see them as real.
3. Live small. Conserve, recycle, and donate what you don’t really need. Expand your definition of what you don’t really need.
4. Educate yourself about economic disparity and its consequences. A good place to start is the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), and their Agenda for Shared Prosperity.
5. Practice opening your heart and widening your circle of compassion for others, and developing an abundance (rather than a scarcity) mentality.

We’re all in it together.


No Regrets

July 20, 2008

Make it a rule of life never to regret and never look back. Regret is an appalling waste of energy; you can’t build on it; it is good only for wallowing in. ~Katherine Mansfield

Amen, Ms. Mansfield! I wish I had a nickel for every time I have wallowed in regret. It is tempting to think one’s sins or shortcomings are somehow more numerous or egregious than others’, that we are special in some way. Some of mine are sins of omission, some commission, but in the end, we all have them. While confession may be good for the soul, there are some I still can’t confess to even my closest friends, and I think the better route is to forgive myself and let go of the past, to stop wasting energy on embarrassment and regret.

After all, it was I who in the spring of 2004 wrote the lines, “I unfold my failures like old clothes/hug them to me, then let go,/watch them sail away on the wind.” I find that writing is so often prophetic, that it gets at truths long before I can understand them fully. Which is one reason this blog is so important to me: Even if I am not living my professions here, they are pointing in the direction I want to go, helping establish and explore my intentions. For example, way back in a January post I wrote, “More and more of being here now, and less and less of dwelling on past mistakes or future possibilities, is liberating and exhilirating.” Life is a spiral.

Have you found freedom from regret? What helps you to forgive yourself for your transgressions?


Finding Flow

July 19, 2008

The real challenge, however, is to reduce entropy in one’s surroundings without increasing it in one’s consciousness. The Buddhists have a good piece of advice as to how this can be done: “Act always as if the future of the Universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.” ~from Finding Flow, by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

I finished reading Finding Flow* last night. It was very different from what I expected, but interesting! The subtitle is “The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life,” and the book reads more like a science-meets-religion treatise than a self-help book. In the end, I found myself thinking optimistically of the “new earth” that Eckhart Tolle talks about.

In Finding Flow, the author encourages us to engage mindfully, to take ownership of our actions, rather than spending our leisure in passive entertainment. This, he says, will create flow as well as increase happiness. I have certainly found this to be true in my experience. It’s easier to work a crossword puzzle than to stare down a blank page and write a poem, less effort to watch TV than to call a friend, but I know which of these feeds me and leads to greater happiness.

And again the idea of loving what is pops up–what Nietzsche called amor fati–“the love of fate.”  Csikszentmihalyi warns us that people can also learn to love what is destructive, so we must choose our goals wisely. Science has helped us to understand what promotes and sustains growth, life, and order, and to understand the uniqueness of each of us. He says “each one of us is responsible for our particular point in space and time in which our body and mind forms a link within the total network of existence.” Being virtuous (that is, acting to preserve order, taking into account the common good, the emotional well-being of others) is not the easy path, but the satisfying one, and connects one to the flow of all that was, is, and ever shall be.

*Finding Flow was previously mentioned here.


Showing Up

July 18, 2008

When we show up for our life, we are actively participating in being a happy person, achieving our goals, and generally living the life our soul really wants. ~from the Daily OM

Sometimes it’s all about showing up…for others, for ourselves. I am about to show up in my own life for some difficult work, that “heartbreakthrough,” I think, that I mentioned here. I am acknowledging and “containerizing” my sadness, rather than pushing it down (as has been my habit), in order to feel and deal with it at times when I can. So Iris’s “No Time To Cry” will become “time to cry later” for me. I’m certain that I’ll do this work imperfectly (as we all do everything, after all), but it does feel good to finally understand on a gut level that it’s what I need.

That may be another post entirely–the lifelong attempt I’ve made to understand everything intellectually, even those things we can’t figure out that way, like emotion. The only way out is through. Grief cannot be rationalized away. So I will show up when I can and let it be.

What do you think about feeling? Feel about thinking? How do you show up for life?


Happy Music

June 22, 2008

Be happy while you’re living, for you’re a long time dead. ~Scottish proverb

This week, to my delight, I signed up for Pandora and created my own Internet radio station, playing only music I love! Thanks, Dave, for introducing me to Pandora. And now I feel compelled to spread the word far and wide about this great site.

Pandora is an application of the Music Genome Project, which was begun in 2000 to “map” the attributes of songs, making it possible to match music to your particular tastes. It works!

My radio station is called “Americana Radio,” and I shared it, so you should be able to find it yourself if you’re interested. Here are the artists I entered as examples of ones I like: Bap Kennedy, Bob Dylan, Delbert McClinton, Emmylou Harris, Gillian Welch, Graham Parker, Gram Parsons, Guy Clark, Iris DeMent, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, John Fogerty, John Prine, Joy Lynn White, Kasey Chambers, Kelly Willis, Kim Richey, Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett, Nick Lowe, Rodney Crowell, Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle, The Beatles, Tom Petty, Traveling Wilburys, Van Morrison, Warren Zevon. Seems like it will be a great way to discover new artists, as well as listen to my favorites! Check it out…


Music and Cats

January 28, 2008

There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.  ~Albert Schweitzer

I am sometimes astonished by the power of music to lift my spirits. The right music, of course. John Fogerty, for example, or Professor Longhair. Just TRY to listen to the Professor’s “Crawfish Fiesta” and not smile. I really don’t believe anyone can do it.

And cats…well, watching my cat stretch and roll on her back on the sun-drenched deck makes me want to be in that same state of mind. It’s really about being present in the moment, because she is quite alert and apprehensive when a deer walks into the yard.

I think Schweitzer did pretty well with these choices, although I might add one or two things. 😉 What serves for you as “a refuge from the miseries of life?”


Lasting

January 27, 2008

To be somebody you must last.  ~Ruth Gordon

I got this quote out of the little book of Meditations for Women Who Do Too Much. The daily meditation that accompanies it is about perseverance, but I prefer to think that Ruth Gordon was talking about living a long life. It is only recently that I have had the thought that I want to live a long time. I think because it is only recently that I have really learned how to live.

When I was young, I assumed I would die young–I’m sure it was part of my overly dramatized depressive persona. Later, I just feared I would die young. Now I want to be a feisty, or at least spirited, old woman who says exactly what she thinks, does what she pleases (which will certainly involve learning), and laughs a lot.

Michelle Shocked sings, “When I grow up I wanna be an old woman,” and that seems about right. Meanwhile, I’ll keep in mind what Ruth Gordon says and try to last.


Flying

January 26, 2008

Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.  ~Toni Morrison

Birds and flying figured in all the poems I wrote for several years. I used to dream about plane crashes regularly. And I carried excess weight in my body, even though I am not a naturally heavy person. Perhaps these things are related.

Now I feel lighter, literally and figuratively. What are the things I have let go? The over-reliance on the opinions of others; unnecessary striving when waiting would do; and struggling to live each day without the understanding that the day will be what it is, with or without that struggling.

What is the shit that weighs you down? What could you jettison that would allow you to fly?


Expectations

January 25, 2008

My happiness grows in direct proportion to my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations.  ~Michael J. Fox

I have missed blogging the past few days! It has become a habit, a practice, that helps ground me. In one 48-hour period this week, I drove 600 miles, or about 9 hours, for a 7-hour meeting. That just seems crazier than ever to me. Not to  mention the impact on the environment of that kind of living. I want to work toward a quieter, simpler life. I don’t mean to fight with the life I have, but as I said to David this week, I’m learning to completely let go of attachment to the outcome (expectations), while moving in what I think is a good and right direction.

I don’t think much about expectations these days. I am much more focused on day-to-day intention, action, reflection on what is (acceptance). And that is radical and wonderful. More and more of being here now, and less and less of dwelling on past mistakes or future possibilities, is liberating and exhilirating. What can I do in this moment to express my values, tune in to the rhythms of nature, be one with all, and honor the gift that is my “one wild and precious life”?*

Who am I really in this moment? It doesn’t matter who I have been, who I will be, who others think I am. What matters is living authentically now. And beginning again (and again, and again…). So…your turn: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do / with your one wild and precious life?”*

*from Mary Oliver’s extraordinary poem, “The Summer Day.”


What Is

December 18, 2007

The inner Self simply knows that behind all situations, challenges, and opinions, behind all questions of preference is the ground of what is, and that when we rest on that ground, we’re open to the grace that is the real source of contentment.  ~Sally Kempton

The ground of what is–not what the ego wants or what we think we want, not how we wish we were, but how it is right now, breathing in this world. I’m reminded of Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is. I want to rest on the ground of what is here and now, how the world is here and now, how I am right here and right now. I love Walt Whitman’s lines, “there was never any more inception than there is now,/nor any more youth or age than there is now,/and will never be any more perfection than there is now,/nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.” Kempton says, “contentment is the gift that comes when you touch the timeless essence inside a particular moment of time–the ever-present now.”


Happiness

November 12, 2007

Happiness is not a station to arrive at, but a manner of traveling.  ~Margaret Lee Runbeck

The gorgeous fall colors light up the mountains, and clouds drift above them, grey clumps against a pastel blue sky. It is getting toward dusk, which used to be my favorite time of day. I realize I hardly ever take time to really see it anymore. And yet these moments ground me, remind me that life is good.

For a time, I made a practice of gratitude. There is always something to be thankful for. And today I am happy to have health and to live surrounded by the natural world. I’m reminded of a poem I wrote on seeing a rainbow over these hills.

Rainbow

It is easy to see where each foot lies;
one at the base of Chestnut Knob,
one at the end of Cedar Ridge.
Tinting trees and rocks, it arches
over our dailiness, still and rooted.
Beauty, being for its own sake,
flickers in and out with the sun,
with God, then disappears.


Aging

October 8, 2007

Give up philosophy because I’m an old man? It’s at the end of a race that you break into a burst of speed.  ~Diogenes

As my joints get creakier, my hair grayer, and my memory less reliable, I am most hopeful (and pretty confident) that Diogenes is right. Barring any serious health conditions, I expect to see more clearly (of course that’s figuratively, not literally!), understand more deeply, and be more centered as the years go on. Because it seems I learn something every day about how to be happier, I also expect to be more at peace as I age, with increasing capacity for gratitude and compassion. So I find myself today looking forward to growing in mind and spirit so that I can bear declining in body.  What’s your hope or fear for your “golden” years?

**Note:  This quote was taken from a new book by James Geary, Guide to the World’s Great Aphorists.  What an interesting character Diogenes must have been!  Geary writes: “Before arriving in Athens, where he eventually took up residence in a tub and lived with a pack of stray dogs, Diogenes was captured at sea and sold into slavery. During the auction at which he was up for sale he is said to have pointed his future owner out in the crowd and instructed his captors, ‘Sell me to that man. He needs a master.’ Diogenes got the buyer he wanted, and he went on to become the bad boy of ancient Greek philosophy.  He famously disdained conventional manners, morality, and metaphysics. The only worthwhile philosophy, he believed, was one that helped people live a good life in the here and now.”