Project Happy

“Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin.” John Lubbock, whoever you are, you’re a smart man.

I was drawn to this quote in particular, because in fact I used to play the violin, for about 10 years throughout elementary, middle, and high school. And as a musician, practice you must! Although I’m sure there were times in which my parents regretted encouraging me to play an instrument.

My violin is now collecting cobwebs somewhere in the depths of my closet. I always say I’ll take it out to play again one day…

But whether you play an instrument or not, happiness my friends, is something worth practicing.

I’ve never been the cheerleader type. You know, perky and smiley and all those other exaggerated cheerful qualities. Quite the opposite in fact. I was always an inquisitive, thoughtful, serious sort of child. Perhaps even a dark little thing at times. In second grade, when we were asked to write about a particular topic in our daily journals, such as: “What do you like about yourself?” I would write something like, “I don’t like anything about myself, I’m not good at anything.” Holy perfectionism!

No, a cheerful disposition never came naturally for me. Upon seeing a company of men getting all their equipment ready to cut down some trees at my next-door neighbor’s house, eight-year-old little me marched right over there with an 8″x 11″ hand-drawn sign that read: “STOP KILLING THE TREES!!!” The utter horror and injustice of such a crime was real and important to me. I was jaded by the age of 10.

But as I approach 30, I’m becoming that cheerful, happy person.  I’ve still got my edge and introversion, which are parts of my personality that will never go away, and I’m fine with that.  I’ve simply learned that what I focus on has changed.  Now (not all the time, but enough of the time), I focus on my vision.  That place where I see myself in a couple of years time.  Living on my metaphorical mountaintop, yet more connected than ever.

It’s a rad thought.

Ditching the Script

In a bigthink.com interview, author Porochista Khakpour offers advice to young writers.  The best part about her advice is to not take the advice of other writers, and “throw away the script”.  In other words, everything we think we “should do” is not always the best way to go.  Follow intuitive sense and common sense.  “The world is just run by other humans, who make lots of mistakes, and who are trying their best, and sometimes doing their worst”, she says.  It may seem like the thing to do to look to a mentor, an author you most admire, and try to glean exactly what their secret might be.

But that isn’t the way the creative process works.  Sometimes, there’s nothing to say and there’s no need to force anything.  I think another really interesting approach is the idea that you may not always want to try to articulate your thoughts onto paper.  Instead, use the writing as insight into what you’re thinking.  I sometimes do this with meditation, but I suppose writing (also certain sports, other forms of art, teaching) can be a form of meditation.  I never thought to view it that way.  Don’t always sit and ruminate and analyze your thoughts.  Let the thoughts spill out in a medium of your choice (in my case, writing) and then you’ll be able to observe what it was you were thinking all along.

There is so much noise in this world.  So many opinions and ideas.  Not all methods work the same for everyone.  Like I mentioned in “My Story”, everyone’s path in life is unique, so that means their thoughts are unique, so that means their abilities are also unique.  Next time you want to ask another person for advice, experiment with not asking for advice.  Use your own special form of meditation.  It might be woodworking.  It might be gardening.  It might be graphic design.  It might be cooking without a recipe.  Whatever it is, before you begin, ask that same question you were going to ask while seeking another’s advice.  Just put it out into the universe.  Say it aloud, or in your head, or just sense the presence of the question.  In being present, eventually the answer will come.

Sip a Cup of Positivitea

Whenever I feel happy, I try to record it.  Write it down, snap a silly selfie, wiggle my shoulders and belt out an NSYNC holiday song, smother one of my dogs with hugs and kisses, dig in dirt, stare at some trees, whatever.  I wrote the following in my journal just two weeks ago…and last night I cried and cried until the veins on my temples popped like on the biceps of bodybuilders.  Where had that joy gone?  Why can’t I keep it in my locket and open it whenever I need my mojo back?  It’s so easy to get sucked into the quicksand of sadness.  But the more I get to know myself, the quicker my recovery time is.  Why?  Because I know what specific things I can do to lift my spirits.  I can fake an obnoxious smile until my cheeks hurt (see photo).  I can read poetry, or an inspiring story.  I can curl up under a heated throw and eat dark chocolate chips out of the bag.  I can sip tea and tell myself, “you are worth it.  You have a birthright to be happy.”  And there it is.  My cup of positivitea.  It is my foremost goal in life to discover what it is that makes me/people/communities happy.

10.3.15 Journal Entry

I feel so inexplicably wonderful in this moment.  Full of love, devoid of anxiety, relaxed, and grateful.  I smile because I am blessed.  Suddenly, I noticed that I was brimming with love and I was not trying.  Maybe my metta meditation has worked.  Maybe I’m moving closer to my dharma and that makes me feel hopeful.  Maybe it’s just that there’s nothing going horribly wrong right now.

I feel held by something greater than myself.  Quiet, soft, my body billows like a down comforter.  Self-love, perhaps, is the culprit, the wellspring.  Maybe that’s what this feeling is.  The idea that I am in charge of my life.  That I have the passion and the inspiration to be successful no matter what I end up doing.  Maybe I’m starting to enjoy the journey.  Trust the process.  Know, deep in my gut, that everything will be as it should be, and so I can let go of my worrying about it all.  This is a remarkable feeling.

Next I think, “I hope this never ends.”  Clinging to comfort.  Buddhism says grasping causes suffering.  I am mindful enough to recognize this knee-jerk reaction to clutch to comfort.

As I began writing this, halfway through the page I started to feel that old pang in my chest come up again, like that stubborn eyebrow hair you keep on plucking.  I wonder if that anxiety comes from not wanting this happiness to end.  Or maybe the anxiety comes from the ever-increasing hushed words of the self-critic, who could be suggesting that I don’t deserve this happiness, and it, in fact, won’t last, and I’ll be back to discomfort and dissatisfaction.  Even still, I feel pretty darn rooted in the belief that I can accomplish anything, and I no longer need to seek approval.

I’m an adult.  I have to remember that.  Sometimes I still feel like a child.  But I’m an adult.  A fierce, compassionate, innovative healer.  I can eat popcorn for dinner and soup for breakfast if I want to.  It’s exhilarating to start to release perfectionism, approval-seeking, whatever.  I am happy being me.  Finally!

What dream of yours seems so outlandish, that it couldn’t possibly materialize into reality?  I challenge you to challenge that belief.  Instead, say, “why not?”  Why can’t this dream happen?  Pay attention to what stories you might be telling yourself.  Write them down.  We’re about to turn all of that on it’s head and chuck it into the ocean.

xo Steph

Mindfulness Challenge

 

In my garden, the rose opened. But I was in too much of a hurry, and passed it by. Love remembered me and said, I will make a rose bloom in your heart. -d. Chopra

It’s #mindfulnessmonday.  A reflection is in order.  How often do you not remember your drive home, because you’re consulting the to-do list in your head, or blasting the radio to drown out that same list?

There’s something very powerful and compelling about silence, and mindfulness.  I think some people find it intimidating, and need to fill the spaces with conversation, music, white noise.

There are times where I want to listen to a podcast, or jam out to some 311.  But in silence, I start to notice more of what’s all around me. Particularly in this season, when the trees are exchanging last hugs with their leaves until spring introduces new friends to embrace. The colors, well I can’t tell you about them. It will never be like experiencing them.  I am grateful for the mindfulness that allows me to bask in the beauty of the landscape all around me.

This is a practice.  Being mindful doesn’t always come naturally, especially to those of us who are chronic worriers, or have active, analytical minds.  I myself have a total monkey mind, as it’s referred to in yoga.  My mind swings from one thought-vine to the next, hardly pausing to notice, to take a breath.  So you can see why I meditate.

I have new experiments I’m beginning.  I’ve got 3 so far:

  1. Simplify my life.
  2. Get rid of stuff I don’t need.
  3. Blog daily.

That is all.  I’m practicing number one right now.  Less words.  Less thoughts.  More living.

Until tomorrow,

Steph xo

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