Tag Archives | being happy

SOLITUDE

There is something lovely about being on your own. We often confuse being solitary or alone with being lonely, feeling deprived of company. The two do not necessarily follow: we feel lonely if we wish we did have company, but being alone is a choice to enjoy your own company.

And that choice allows the possibility of just doing and being whatever we feel like – it is a form of freedom. When no-one else is involved we have the opportunity to follow our own rhythms, to indulge our own fancies, to consider ourselves first.

We can eat and drink what we like, when we like. We can sing our hearts out, or have complete quiet. We can get up when we’re ready to, or lie in bed with a cup of tea and read a book. We can even have complete control of the TV remote!

In our busy world, it is good for us, once in a while, to have some solitary time. It allows us to replenish our energy, and that freedom to be completely ourselves,

So this year, see if you can find yourself a little solitary time. If you live with others, suggest they go out for the day, and bask in the freedom of solitude for a little while.

May 2019 be a great year for you!!

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THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY

So much in our world at the moment seems to be doom and gloom: our politics, our ‘news’, the lack of compassion for others. It is hard to break out of the predominant zeitgeist sometimes, and remember that this isn’t the only human condition.

Yet in amongst this, there are always reminders that there is so much more to being human. I was reminded this week in a way I wasn’t really expecting. I went to see “Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again”. I don’t really like musicals or Abba’s music, but I sat and soaked up the atmosphere it created: warm, funny and joyful. It made me laugh and cry, engaged me totally, and left me with a feeling of hope and optimism. Why? It told the other side of the story of being human.

Most of the people I know and meet are kind and friendly. They are not selfish or greedy. They may worry about things, but they find their way through it. It’s time we boosted these aspects of being human and began to offset that unpleasant version that seems to infect everything.

If we’re going to change the zeitgeist, we have to start with ourselves. We can be the role modes and demonstrate the best of the human condition.

So let’s start by refusing to take on the story:

  • Let’s find the reasons to be optimistic rather than despairing
  • Let’s notice the good in people rather than what’s wrong
  • Let’s be kind and compassionate rather than critical
  • Let’s find reasons to laugh rather than be miserable
  • Lets appreciate what we have rather than wish we had more
  • And let’s enjoy all the good moments in our lives

It’s time we all told the other side of the story by how we live our lives, and that way we can remind even more people that life can be good.

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JUST BEING HERE NOW

We spend so much of our lives doing stuff: work, chores, going places, watching things, talking with others. Even when we’re not busy doing, we’re usually busy in our heads: reviewing what’s already happened or thinking about what’s ahead of us.

And in all this occupation, we miss something important: this moment now. If we stop for a little while, we can appreciate our world, and be with ourselves more completely. I don’t mean some grand or difficult version of being present. I just mean that moment of noticing what’s happening around you, what’s going on with you, how you are in this moment.

For example, I am sitting in a courtyard with warm air around me. There are noises of people and movement and cars outside but they don’t feel intrusive – they just highlight the peacefulness of this spot. I am enjoying my morning cup of coffee and feel quite relaxed. And I feel comfortable with myself this morning. That’s it! It doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful – it is just a way of being present for a moment, before the mind rushes off somewhere else.

As we stop, we notice more of what’s around us in the world and can appreciate the buzzing of the bees, the light playing on the wall in front of us, the colour of a favourite cushion – whatever it may be – and take a little taste of delight. We can also assess our own state and if necessary, do something to improve it.

So why not take a moment now, to just be here, now, – and then another in an hour or so. It gives us an extra fillip to our everyday.

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THE RICHNESS OF LIVE EXPERIENCE

Last night, my friend and I went to see James Taylor in concert. It was wonderful and just reminded me of the vast difference between a virtual experience, through a screen, or listening on a player, and actually being there for the live experience.

Visually, it was captivating, musically it was perfect and delighting, yet it was so much more than that. The atmosphere was all-enveloping and warm, and the feelings evoked in us were obviously shared and therefore amplified by those around us. And James Taylor exuded love and joy and warmth which helped create that closeness with the band and the audience that grew with every moment – a wonderful feedback loop.

It was filling my memory bank with delight, and at the same time, calling to the front similar memories, linked to James Taylor, his music, other great concerts, and just joyous moments.

I came out completely filled up and replete, body and soul, with another amazing experience shared with my friend in both our stores of good times. And I was reminded of why I go to a concert rather than watching it on TV, or listening to the cd. It gives me so much more.

And on an everyday level, I also realised why I so much prefer spending time with someone face-to-face, rather than talking on the phone or emailing, messaging, texting. It involves so much more exchange of all sorts of information, and opportunity to influence the feedback loop between us.

I like my life to be rich. I can treat myself to the odd concert, but I can also enjoy the richness of live experience with people, with places, with life. How lovely is that!

Do exploit every possible moment of live experience – it’s so much more wholesome, in every sense of the word, than anything else we’re given.

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IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD!

I have needed my own reminders over the last couple of weeks! The double whammy of snow in March and a stinking cold took me to that place we all experience sometimes: it’s not fair, everything is awful, I’m always coming up against obstacles etc.…

I do know, however, that when I start using words like always, never, everything, nothing, I have lost perspective. My focus on feeling rough and hating cold weather had coloured my view of the world and of my experience in it. It’s as if we put on a lens that only highlights those particular colours and ignores everything else.

So I have had to apply my own teachings to myself. This means consciously adjusting that lens. Firstly, we need to widen the perspective beyond the immediate. In this instance, I am reminding myself that most of the time, I am healthy, and most of the time, it is not that cold.

Secondly, we need to consciously pay attention to those elements of the immediate that have been ignored by that restrictive lens. After all, I have a lovely warm home, and my milk and groceries are delivered, so I don’t have to go out in the cold very often. And although I’ve felt a bit ‘under the weather’, I’m not bed-ridden, and I’ve caught up on some good movies. And friends and family have shown concern and distracted me from my miserable state.

Finally, I came back to the realisation that it’s not the end of he world!

The snow has gone now, and spring is showing itself in crocuses and daffodils, just a few days later. The cough and cold are on their way out, and I’m feeling much better. It was only a temporary blip, and life is back on track.

We all lose perspective sometimes, but we don’t have to stay in that place – we can adjust the lens to something more useful. Most of the time, life is pretty good, isn’t it!

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DOES IT MAKE YOUR HEART SING?

I’m in the midst of one of my periodic clear-outs. I find it both satisfying and interesting to go through all my ‘stuff’ and get rid of things I no longer want.

It’s satisfying because it means cupboards, wardrobes, drawers etc. get cleaned and tidied and decluttered – and I find some of those things that get lost or buried – you know what I mean: the other earring, sock, the cheese knife, the favourite pen!

The interesting aspect is seeing what I can part with this time. Of course, there are some things we keep because they’re just useful: the vacuum cleaner, the washing up bowl, the tools we have to help us with our everyday tasks. However, most of us have a lot of stuff that doesn’t fit into that category. And years ago I realised that logic doesn’t help me to de-clutter everything else. Throwing things out because I haven’t used them for a year doesn’t work for me. What does work is a simple question: ‘does it still make my heart sing?’

In the first place, this question helped me to get rid of heaps of stuff that didn’t fit with my story any more. I let go of those things we have because someone gave them to us, and the things that were part of my past rather than my present, and the things I had because people like me are supposed to have them.

Nowadays, the answer to: ‘Does it still make my heart sing?’ shows me how my story is changing, what I’ve grown out of, so to speak. The process helps me to clarify who I am now, and at the same time ensures that the stuff I have makes me happy, makes me smile, reflects me back to myself.

And much of what I get rid of can go to the charity shop, and find another home, be in someone else’s story for a while. I also use freecycle, where you email in what you have on offer, and if someone wants it, they can contact you and you give it to them. I love finding someone who really wants those odd things you’d prefer not to just throw away!

If you haven’t looked through your stuff for a while, why not give it a go? Just do a bit of a check: does it make your heart sing? And if it doesn’t, let it go to a new home. And if it does make your heart sing, appreciate it, enjoy it fully.

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LEARNING TO ACCEPT

We are contrary creatures! Most of us are poor at accepting how life is. We know from experience that it is not a smooth ride, yet we still struggle with its ups and downs. We fight the natural flow of life, both in its external form and in our moods and motivations.

When external circumstances are more difficult – our job is hard, the weather is bad, the item we wanted is out of stock – we rail against it, complain and wish it were different. When we are not in a good mood, we try to hide it, berate ourselves for having no good reason for being like this, or blame others. Yet we know that you can’t just wish it away. When we fight how things are, or how we are, we just perpetuate it – what you resist persists.

And we even resist when life feels good, rejecting compliments, telling ourselves that it won’t last. It’s a great way to spoil the moment!!

There is an alternative approach and it works more usefully for us. It’s called learning to accept. This word is powerful. It doesn’t mean give in or give up. It means to actively take hold of how things are. Instead of passively wishing things were different, we accept how they are. Then we are back in control, and we can do something about it.

For example: ‘I am feeling fed up today. What can I do that would cheer me up?’ or ‘It’s really cold today. So where’s my warm scarf and gloves?’

When we accept the state of affairs, we have the possibility of making a change that will help.

And if it’s a good mood, a good moment, our acceptance means that we give ourselves an extra boost. Enjoying and accepting a compliment puts an extra spring in our step. If we’re in a good mood, we can use it to tackle something we’ve been putting off.

Life isn’t logical; it’s an emotional experience. When we resist how it feels, we are fighting the way it works. It’s like wishing a one-way street allowed you to go the other way – futile! When we accept the way life works, it gets easier, and we can enjoy the ride..

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BE KIND TO YOURSELF

Oh dear, when are we going to remember that we’re only human, not super – man or woman, not an angel of perfection!

I keep being reminded that we are taught too well to be critical of ourselves, and to expect more from ourselves than we do from anyone else. It is so mean!! We wouldn’t be so harsh with any of our friends or family because we recognise that they are only human, with ups and downs, good moods and bad moods, motivated days and apathetic days..

I have learnt that I ebb and flow – sometimes inspired, sometimes daft as a brush – nothing is constant in me and my moods. And of course, that is our natural state – we aren’t robots or machines that can just keep going at a constant speed in a consistent way. The trick is to take advantage of the times of motivation and energy and let ourselves off and have a bit of a rest when we don’t feel like doing all that stuff – most of it is not actually that important anyway. I find I set myself ridiculous targets and deadlines, and then beat myself up for not meeting them. So I have to re-assess every morning – not whether I have ‘succeeded’ or not, but whether I have been giving myself too much to achieve. Ad if I have, I need to reduce the targets for that day. By doing this regularly, I can keep my tendency to make myself feel bad to a minimum!!

So this week, how about being kind to yourself? I is getting colder, the days are shorter, Christmas is coming and we are feeling the pressure of present-buying, card-sending and stocking up for that – we deserve a break!

So let yourself off, be a little kind to yourself, sit down with that cuppa and relax for 10 minutes, take that extra thing off your list – it can wait – treat yourself to something that makes you feel good, remind yourself of how much you have done, rather than what you have not done. Let’s have a being kind to yourself week – you wouldn’t be so mean with anyone else – don’t do it to yourself!

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MAGIC MOMENTS

It is so easy to miss the magic moments in our lives. They come in many forms, and it is not as if they usually have some major significance – they are just little reminders of what it’s all really about.

I’m talking about seeing the sun’s beams of light coming through the clouds, hearing a baby giggling with delight at something, smelling the scent of jasmine or roses as you walk past, that first mouthful of really good coffee or tea, feeling a few slight drops of rain on your skin when it’s been hot, exchanging a smile with a stranger you pass on the street.

These magic moments interrupt our normally busy minds, if we allow them in, and just for a moment, we stop and smile. And that moment is like a reset button. It puts a little more spring in our step, it lightens our thinking, it interrupts any negative stories we are creating in our heads, it gives us an opportunity to start again in our day.

Now we are all more likely to notice the magic moments when we are not caught up in our normal everyday lives. I always realise that there are hundreds of them every day when I am on Maui and taking life easy – and then tend to forget again when I get back to my normal life!

And I’m getting slowly better at noticing them no matter what is going on, because I recognise how much they can make a positive difference to my day.

So once in a while, let something catch your eye or ear, and give it a moment’s attention. Once in a while, just stop and appreciate that taste or smell, or sensation on your skin. Once in a while, look up and notice the person smiling, the baby laughing.

Let’s all have magic moments in our lives – they are there for the taking, if we give them a chance.

 

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THE POWER OF LOVE

Sometimes we forget something that we all know in our hearts – that love is the most powerful, all-pervasive feeling in our universe.

We don’t generally talk much about love; we keep it down at a smaller level: like, quite fond of, pretty good. It’s almost as if we are wary of the bigness of it, protecting ourselves from having such a strong emotion, perceiving it as a bit risky to open ourselves up that much.

And that’s understandable. Loving is often a place of vulnerability; if we open our hearts for love, we are also open for hurt or rejection, or sadness. And yet if we keep our hearts closed, we miss the joy, the passion, the power of loving – and these are what feed our soul.

They are also the emotions that keep us physically healthy. Science has shown that positive emotions create chemicals in our bodies that boost our immune system, keep our organs healthy, and help us to fight off illness.

In my experience the positives of love far outweigh the risks. Our hearts can recover from heartbreak, but they wither when kept closed.

And we can practise lots of our loving without any fear of rejection. Nature never says no thank you to love and thrives on loving attention. A delicious meal, a wonderful perfume, a warm fluffy sweater, a beautiful piece of art, an inspiring piece of music – let’s love them rather than limiting them to quite nice, and feed our souls with that feeling. When we do, the world seems brighter, more benevolent, prejudices are overcome, fear is dissipated.

And maybe we can then love other people in the same way – not as a tit for tat kind of thing: ‘I’ll love you some, if you show you love me some’ – but just because they are fellow human beings. They will have the free gift of our loving warmth towards them, which they will feel even if they don’t know it. And we will have big warm hearts because giving love feeds us too.

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