The Secret to Living Happiness

Have you thought about the life that you lead in terms of internal peace? Do a quick check by closing your eyes and taking stock of all that is going on in you. Anxiety, confusion, a little fear over things like the word “recession” or “war.” It’s a troubling time in the history of the human race. Collectively, we are an anxious nation, an anxious global economy, an anxious world. There is no question that uncertainty seems to have increased dramatically in the last few years.

We worry about job loss. We worry about terrorism. We worry about war. We worry about relationships and settle for far less than love. We worry about legacy. We worry about the world that we’re bringing children into.

Just last night, Brian and I had a long talk over the adoption we’ve been considering. I can’t tell you how much I love the daily life of being a parent. Then you consider the financial end of raising a child, especially one that comes from dysfunction and abuse. Our home is filled with love, understanding and space to grow and learn. Parenthood is a complicated thing that bears some thought.  I am adopted – it comes with come baggage. I know abuse. It comes with lots of baggage.  Am I equipped in my mortal, failed state to be responsible for loving and supporting a wonderful, albeit hurt, child?  My absolute answer? Yes. I have to consider our country’s path in this as I plan for a young one’s future…college, private school, therapist.  Have we gone to far down the road to financial collapse like the USSR before us, like Greece faces today? What then? How do you find internal peace amongst all this social noise, all these concerns? Believe it or not, it is simple. All of these things are outside of your control. You are able to rise above any situation that life hands you. All of us can live a life of satisfaction and hope right here in the middle of turmoil. All of us can find a sense of peace and purpose. But how?

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled

by a spark from another person.

Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude

of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

— Albert Schweitze

1. “Change your mind, change your expectations.” Can you let go of the idea of “should?” How is your actual mental health? What are you carrying forward from your family of origin? Are you basing your life on the preconceived notions that brought you out of puberty and into the first steps of your adult years? That’s a lot of questions for one paragraph. To come to a place of self-actualization, here is a key: Find a place that is neutral, calm and quiet. Close your eyes. Imagine that all the things bothering you are butterflies, and one by one, you open your hand to allow them flight. You are imagining letting go of trying to control things over which you have no control. One of the main causes of suffering is our wanting things to be different than they are. Yes, we all want a peaceful world instead of a world filled with weapons of mass destruction. Yes, we all want health instead of illness. Yes, we all want healthy, happy children instead of children who break our hearts. But sometimes life doesn’t hand us what we want. And when we unset our hearts from our needing it all to be a certain way, we can breathe a sigh of relief and open the door to a more powerful way of living.

2. Create a “wondering” life instead of a “hoping” life. It helps us un-set our hearts when we replace the words “I hope” with the words “I wonder.” Let me demonstrate. Instead of “I hope the war ends quickly,” make it “I wonder if the war will end quickly.” Instead of “I hope the stock market goes up,” make it “I wonder if the stock market will go up.” Instead of “I hope I keep my job,” make it “I wonder if I’ll keep my job.” Notice the relief in this simple shift. Even with difficult situations in our lives, substituting “I wonder” for “I hope” keeps our hopes from being dashed and opens up the possibility of our learning and growing from whatever happens.  It also asks the question…what can I do in this situation? Do your best, and let your wonder guide you.  By the way….wonder and worry are not the same words.

3. Choose the path of trust. When you fully understand that you have little control of the external world, you then have two choices: you can choose to see yourself as a “poor-me” victim at the mercy of circumstances or you can choose to develop the trust that, no matter what happens in your life or in the world, you will have the inner strength to create something good from it all. Hopefully you will choose the latter!

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now

after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance

that exists in your life.And you will have set in motion

an ancient spiritual law:the more you have and are

grateful for, the more will be given you.”

— Sarah Ban Breathnach

4. Increase your inner sense of power.One way to help you develop trust in yourself is to cut off negativity in the mind by saying to yourself over and over again, “Whatever happens in my life, I’ll handle it!” Those of you who are familiar with my work know that it is one of my favorite affirmations. I suggest you emblazon this powerful affirmation on your mind. If you say it often enough, you will ultimately believe it. And if you really believe that you can handle anything that happens in your life and in the world, what could you possibly have to fear? Nothing! So when the “what-if’s” are driving you mad, simply cut them off by saying over and over again, “Whatever happens, I’ll handle it!” You’ll feel a sense of confidence wash over you. “What if I lose my job? I’ll handle it.” “What if my children have difficult times? I’ll handle it. Whatever happens in my life, I’ll handle it!”

5. Collect “heroes” who have learned to “handle it.” Heroes to me are people who have created much good in this world as a result of horrible experiences in their lives. A few heroes come to mind: Christopher Reeve, who created so much good as a result of his paralyzing accident; Viktor Frankl, who created so much good out of his experience in a concentration camp; Ram Dass, who created so much good as a result of his debilitating stroke; Marc Klaas, who created so much good after the murder of his daughter. As you collect heroes, you understand this important thought, “If they can learn and grow from their experiences, I certainly can learn and grow from mine!” As you collect your heroes, your trust grows and your worry about the future gets smaller and smaller.

6. Focus on the learning that can come from any situation in your life. Yes, you can learn and find strength from anything that happens to you, just as the heroes mentioned above have done. I certainly learned from and found strength as a result of my own experiences with MS, heart defects, cancer and divorce. If you see ALL situations in life as a way of learning and growing, it helps you let go of your need for things to be a certain way.

7. Embrace the thought “It’s all happening perfectly.” This is another affirmation I use over and over. And it truly helps me let go of my needing things to be a certain way.  We cannot know the “Grand Design,” the great mystery of it all, and as we say “It’s all happening perfectly,” we begin looking for the good in any situation that life hands us. When we look for the good, we always find it. Yes, so much good can come from so much that is bad. In that, it truly is happening perfectly. So when things seem very difficult in your life or in the world, just keep repeating this reassuring statement until it becomes an automatic part of your thinking. This always helps me to have trust, not only in myself, but also the universe.

8. Focus on the blessings. I have learned from my heroes that, no matter how horrible life may seem on the outside, it is so important to focus on the beauty. As we go about our daily lives, we take so many wonderful things for granted. It’s now time to notice.  This is hard to do when we have our eyes focused on the bad or the “boring” circumstances in life.  Train yourself to  notice all the beauty in our lives.  Focusing on the blessings is an absolute necessity for diffusing our fears about the future.

9. And finally, be incredibly grateful.  Include those moments of hard emotion, the changes and the things that aren’t perfect.  Include the people that contributed to your understanding of self and unanswered prayers.  You see, you are an original work of art, someone that is different than any other around you – and that is the result of a life lived through your experience.  Relish it, enjoy it, be who you are. Embrace change like a new wave of the ocean – stand on your board and feel it come under your feet, challenging your balance, running the wind through your hair.  Be grateful for the wave, the beginnings and endings of it.  Meditate on the joy that is…you.

“Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously

in our lives, as parallel realities. It is always our conscious choice

which secret garden we will tend… when we choose not to focus

on what is missing from our lives but are grateful for the

abundance that’s present — love, health, family, friends,

work, the joys of nature and personal pursuits that bring us pleasure —

the wasteland of illusion falls away and we

experience Heaven on earth.” –Sarah Ban Breathnach

Peace and light to you.

2 comments for “The Secret to Living Happiness

  1. Marie
    May 23, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Thanks. thm helped me a lot this morning. Been spiraling down toward giving up.

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