I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness and choices that we make; how these things affect our demeanor, our mood, our opinion of the world, the way we interact with others and the way that they see us, and perhaps most importantly, how we see ourselves. I think many of us can benefit from choosing happiness.
My friend Kelly just visited and I always feel like she’s bubbling over with positivity and fun and I think she actually sees me the same. I sometimes forget to be that person though. Seeing her was like the seven years we’ve been apart were the blink of an eye. We went right back to our old joyous selves, only a little older and saner. We still broke some rules and laughed more than we talked. My world feels brighter when she’s in it. Certain special other people also transform me in this way. But it got me thinking- why aren’t I always this person? Do I wait for someone to coax it out of me? Can’t I choose it for myself more often?
I’m reading a book called Everyday Joy, about choosing to see life as the biggest, best party anyone was every invited to, which is a pretty big fantastic idea, overflowing with fun. But shouldn’t life be like that? Isn’t it fun? “In each and every moment, you have the ability to choose to enjoy yourself or not.” Always, you can opt to be happy and joyful. Sometimes, it feels like external factors like a long line or internal factors like a headache are in control, but in reality, it’s always you. You can let something or someone get you down or you can choose not to let the interaction ruin your day, hour, or even minute. You can observe rather than absorb the negativity. It’s a choice. It may take some practice not to let the moment crawl back into your mind later if you choose to ignore it now. But what good does it really do to revisit the negative and unpleasant? Why not choose to move on to this moment? And enjoy it?
One of Thich Nhat Hanh’s famous meditations is “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment.” Inhale the world exactly as it is right now and exhale your appreciation back out into it. Simple. Beautiful.
You can practice this same concept in your waking life as well- appreciating and showing gratitude for the beautiful and joyous in the world.
I’ve heard time and again that people are happiest when they are present in the moment– not doing one thing and thinking of another.
The other influential book I’m reading now is The Complete Guide to Yin Yoga. I’m still on the introduction about Yin and Yang. Yin is dark, passive, slow, female, night. Yang is light, active, fast, male, day. These descriptions seem so concrete and easy to identify. However, every moment is relative- like the shadow of the sun moves slowly as the Earth rotates, changing what is dark and what is light. Although yin and yang are opposites, they always contain a bit of each other. Even in a fast-paced vinyasa class, you may still find a yin-style slowness and calm in your breath or mind. Even in a sad or difficult moment, you can find some small joy if you look. Even in a happy moment, there may be some small pain or hardship. It’s all a matter of perspective and choosing to place your dao- your balance, your center- on the happy side.
Personally, I know I need more practice- more mental awareness of choosing to be happy, rather than continuing with my norm. I want to honor the joy in myself and allow it to come out more. In an effort to start to train my mind to find the happiness, I want to give it a head start for where we (my mind and I) can likely find joy and embrace it. Starting with where it comes easily may help me remember to look when it’s harder.
- laughing with my kindergarten students- they are hilarious! I love them (even when they’re naughty)
- talking or joking with my man
- exploring this magical world, like different temples in town (even with the stares I get)
- dancing and singing, especially to mantras
- girl time with friends
- giving in to certain impulses- grabbing a chocolate or smiling at a stranger
- feeling the wind rush by on my motorbike
- watching the sunset and/or the birds (even when it’s smoggy)
- asking questions (even when it’s hard)- I enjoy digging a bit deeper sometimes
- savoring each bite or sip
- waiting and watching the world do what it does wherever I may be (even in line when I’m starting to get impatient)
You can try this too.
For a meditation, start with thinking about something that makes you happy. Think of the details of that thing, person or situation. Feel it fully. Then go deep into the happiness it brings you, dwell on it. Be so intensely taken by the happiness that you become it. Let go of the impetus that brought you to this happiness and just be happy, be happiness.
Choosing happiness in each and every moment may be a difficult undertaking at first, but with practice and awareness, it can be done. This world can be so beautiful and joyous if we choose it.