“I believe that the very purpose of life is to be happy. From the very core of our being, we desire contentment. In my own limited experience I have found that the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being. Cultivating a close, warmhearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease. It helps remove whatever fears or insecurities we may have and gives us the strength to cope with any obstacles we encounter. It is the principal source of success in life. Since we are not solely material creatures, it is a mistake to place all our hopes for happiness on external development alone. The key is to develop inner peace.” ~ Dalai Lama
I need to preface this post to advise that I appreciate Eowyn endlessly, and I will never tire of boasting about her. Truth is, she is a constant source of inspiration for me. We’re not a couple, even though she is willing to pick cilantro out of my teeth (begrudgingly) so that I don’t have green junk messing up my face during a photo shoot. Besides feeding me all of the wonderful things, being my vegan buddy, and a constant cheerleader… she is also good for me on a spiritual and intellectual level. She makes me examine myself and the world about me in a way I cannot help but be tremendously grateful for. She inspires me a better human being. She is such a generous person who is so loving and accepting of those around her. Not to mention incredibly giving, of herself, her time, her love and her many talents. Eo, you are a gift, I love you.
Recently, Eowyn mentioned that a local Universalist Unitarian church was hosting a discussion group regarding happiness. This group was based around the book The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. I think I must have frowned a little as Eowyn commented, “You don’t have to have read the book.” I tilted my head and commented that it sounded potentially interesting. I mean, who doesn’t want to be more happy? She commented that she was going the following evening and hinted she wouldn’t mind company. I advised that I would be interested in going. She seemed surprised but pleased and said she’d love my company. The following day we were both full of lazy and not wanting to put on ‘real’ clothes and wander out into the world. However, we both agreed we could use to get out of the house. So, off we went.
The group has about 9 of us. Lori, who was leading the discussion gave us some good jumping points. The first was to write down your answer to four questions:
- What makes me feel good?
- What makes me feel bad?
- Is there any ways I do not ‘feel right’ about my life?
- Do I have sources of an “atmosphere of growth”? (Things that promote progress, learning, challenge, improvement and increased mastery)
Answering these, I noticed something. It was easier to answer what made me feel bad, than to answer what made me feel good. That irked me a bit. Also, I noted my answers between what made me feel bad and things I do not feel right about were closely related. Or rather, I could see the connection between the two. Lastly, I realize I had almost nothing that fit into the “atmosphere of growth” category. Granted, I’m pretty critical of myself in that regard and I am still pondering that. Feel free to join in on the exercise here, it’s curious to see what your brain points out sometimes.
After 20 minutes of reflection and answering these questions, we came back to the group and partnered up to discuss our findings. The things that make me happy are pretty simple, music, communing with nature, tea, yoga and my dog. Some of the things that I find are causing me unease of late are me not being proactive enough, the fact that I am not traveling, and I do not feel I am meeting my full potential. I also need to create more “atmosphere of growth” opportunities in my life. This is all pretty straightforward, and left me with a ‘now what?’
The next step was walking through some of these things. We were instructed to make three resolutions, a call to action if you will. But with the caveat that you also add the what, how, and when of the resolution. Followed by how you could measure the progress. I came up with the following three resolutions for myself:
1. Make time for friends - I need to get out more and connect with people. I have been feeling really disconnected and uninspired lately.
- What: Once a week, schedule a ‘play date’ with a friend.
- How: Invite said friend(s) over for dinner, coffee, games.
- When: On a day off.
- Measure Progress: Note and see if I feel my friendships are stronger. Am I feeling more connected and less lonely?
2. Meditate – I need to clear my mind, it’s a cluttered mess.
- What: 15 – 2o minutes a day of meditation
- How: Sitting still for at least 15 minutes (set a timer if necessary)
- When: In the evening
- Measure Progress: By doing it. Making a chart.
3. Read – I love to read and have not been taking the time to do it. I need to commit to my learning and it inspires me to write. First book up: The Happiness Project
- What: Finish a book every two weeks.
- How: Library. Walk there. Exercise and reading in one. Win/Win
- When: Bi-weekly
- Measure Progress: By doing it. Put on chart.
So it has been a few days since I began this process. I made a date with my best friend Susan, kinda spontaneously. We went out and had dinner, a drink and hit the casino for a little bit. I suck at gambling, so I played penny slots for an hour with $5.00. It was great. We caught up with one another and I felt happier knowing all the things that were going on in her life. As much as I appreciate social media, I feel really disconnected from my friends and loved ones. I also have planned a hang out date with Adam and Suzi, my inspirational duo.
As far as meditation goes, I have been doing pretty good with that. I had aimed to start meditating in the morning, but realized I really cannot get myself to hold still that long. So, in an effort to stick with my goal I have been meditating before bed. This has been WAY more successful and helps me go to sleep earlier. I have also incorporated a loving kindness or ‘metta’ meditation into this practice. Sometimes I have trouble keeping my mind and body still, but I am a work in progress and this is the point of this exercise. I can honestly say I am feeling some healing going on. May I be peaceful and at ease.
The last one, reading. Man I struggle with this one. I adore reading, a lot. I realize that I have a hard time picking books up, because once I do I have a hard time putting them down. I will go months without reading as I am afraid of getting caught up in a book, or I just can’t bring myself to read something that I have on hand. Currently on my lack of nightstand is Living Vegan For Dummies. This book has a lot of helpful information, but I am trouble just reading it through. However, I picked up two other books today at a local thrift shop. I grabbed Freakonomics and Tales of a Female Nomad, both of which I am excited to read. I also plan on obtaining a copy of The Happiness Project used from Amazon.com as well. So, that should keep me busy for a bit.
My main goal behind all of this is to inspire me into action again. I feel stagnant, and it is not something I am okay with. I have made some motions to alter the course I am on, to take me back to the place I had intended to go. While I am waiting for the money end of things to fall into place, I figure I can take some time to focus on the corners of my life that need some attention. My ultimate goal is to travel internationally, it is what my heart has cried out for almost all of my life. Ideally, I would love to be a travel journalist and/or blogger. Travel for a few months, while writing about it, then come home. Stay for a couple months, then head out again. This is me, slowly working towards the goal. If anyone has any suggestions or leads for me, I am all ears!
I recently had a Skype date with a good friend (and my soul twin), Corin. She’s the mastermind behind the site TravelBug Productions and a fabulously inspiration person. We have a lot in common when it comes to where we want to see ourselves in the world. By a lot I mean pretty much all the things in common. We both want to be nomads who travel the world and write. When I was lamenting about my feelings about being stagnant she chuckled at me and said, “You’re not being stagnant if you’re worried you’re being stagnant. You are taking action to change it, the very opposite of being stagnant.” She also had many other gems of advice, which I adore her for.
In our conversation about how our dream is really the same, she commented that we should write a book together. Honestly, I haven’t stopped thinking about that since. I mean, how awesome would that be? Travel and writing. Two of my favorite things. She sets my soul on fire with possibility. We could all use people like that in our life. She gets the nomad thing, the wanderlust thing. The I-will-pack-my-bags-right-now-I-don’t-care-where-we’re-going thing. I intend to do just that. That is my ultimate Happiness Project.
This also got me to finally watch the documentary Happy, which I adored. If you want something uplifting, definitely give it a watch. It’s rather quotable and fairly thought provoking. Evaluating what makes you happy is an introspective and fun journey. Also, a great thing to do when you want to simplify your life.
Have any of you read The Happiness Project? If so, what did you get out of it?