Happiness on demand

23 08 2011

 

 

As you may or may not know by now, I was raised in a rather strict christian environment. And although lots of rules and ideas did not feel right and clashed with what I believed God to be, the essence of faith rang so true with me, that all the other things for a long time became secondary. Until it became apparent that my belief system created so much internal stress that life didn’t seem worth living anymore to the extent that I was contemplating suicide. Not good! I got counseling and got asked the most pivotal question of my life: ‘What do YOU believe?’ After having mulled over that question for two weeks, I still didn’t know and decided to let go of God.

At this point, the story becomes interesting. After another two weeks, I discovered that I may have let go of God, but that God had not let go of me. That which I experienced to be God was still present. Years have passed since and that which I used to call God is still with me. I’ve had quite some time to reflect on this presence and I did. I don’t know what to call it anymore, but this no-name experience is strong in me, always has been, and ever growing. I sometimes mockingly call it ‘The Force’, but that doesn’t cover it completely, or do it justice. I believe it is present in saints and sinners, that in some it is more developped than in others, and that development is a critical component of being happy, of feeling whole.

Everyone knows how it feels. It’s the love parents feel for their children, it’s the sense of heaven during really good sex, of awe when you see the sea for the first time, of connectedness when millions of bright stars are shining down on you. It’s the completely overwhelming presence of a wild and rapidly thundering waterfall, of the deafening silence on a mountain top. It is being moved by a piece of music, a good book, art, being touched by another human being, or by the wagging tail of your dog when she greets you at the door. It’s in the song of a bird and the flight of a bumblebee. It is what makes us feel alive and passionate about life, what gives us meaning and creates peace.

It is litterally all around. You can wait untill it accidentally hits you, or you can look for it. It takes focus, patience and perseverence, like any other training. It will not land you an olympic medal or some other tangible trophee. I say it’s even better, it’s something you’ve always dreamed of, we all have. As far as I’m concerned, it’s is the sexiest thing ever, it’s the one feature no one can resist. Happiness on demand. One simple exercise and it is yours.

All you need to do is open your heart and still your mind. And that sounds a hell of a lot more complicated than it really is. All it means is that you find the bright spot in everything you encounter. I said it’s a simple exercise, I didn’t say it would be easy. At first, it will be challenging, but I assure you there is an upside to everything. All you have to do is find it. That’s the exercise: to not give up until you have found what uplifts you and then focus on it for as long as it takes for your muscles to relax. Because that is what happiness is, it is the absence of stress or unvoluntary tension. We cannot feel good and stressed at the same time, they’re incompatible.  With training, your happy muscle will grow. Like your tummy, it requires a lifelong exercise if you don’t want it to sag. If you stop training, it will wither and you will have to start all over again. If on the other hand, you are willing to go beyond the discomfort that is part of any beginning stage and keep practicing, you will see results real soon. And it will get easier. Not only will you find miracles in unexpected places, you will find more and more and each time you do the exercise it will take less effort to focus your mind and body into relaxation until you will feel relief almost instantly. Happiness is yours. Now that’s what I call an awesome deal.

photo by voltphoto.co.uk





I AM who I AM

24 02 2011

 

my-first-real-painting.jpg

 

I’ve come a long, loooooong way. And yet, somehow, I never get where I want to be. With every destination I reach, my horizon expands and I’ll find myself en route again toward an even better destination. Where, at first, I found this road never-endingly frustrating, I’ve finally come to appreciate this process of constant expansion and fine-tuning. I am a work in progress.

The biggest lesson in my life, undoubtedly, is to fully appreciate who I AM and to own that, no matter what anybody else thinks of me. Coming from a place where, no matter how much I was loved, I did not feel loved, because at the deepest level, I felt unworthy, that is huge. Most of my life, I tried to feel loved through the act of pleasing. I tried to be the best daughter I could be, the best friend, the best everything. I had learned that pattern so early in my life, I didn’t know any better. When I was in my mid-twenties, it dawned on me that I was depressed because I was living my life through the expectations I thought others had of me. All of a sudden, I saw with clarity that with every externally motivated choice, I gave away my power and lost a precious part of myself. It was then, that the great undoing began. In the more than 10 years that have passed, I have undone my life of most of the over-painting (see True Colors). Slowly, but surely, I’ve gotten used to who I really AM. And finally, I AM ready to show the world my true colors. 

I AM me. As much as I care about you, I don’t care what you think of me. As much as I want you to be happy, I am not responsible for the way you feel. As much as I love you, I love me too. I AM me. I AM happy. I love having you in my life, but you are not the source of my happiness. My happiness comes from within. It comes from knowing my truth and having the courage to own it. It comes from loving myself to the extent that I don’t need your validation. I AM me. I do what I do, because it makes me love myself more. I say what I say, because it makes me feel better about myself. I AM who I am, because being me gives me more joy than anything else ever could. 





When life hands me a lemon…

4 12 2007

Years ago, we were touring New-Zealand for four weeks. What I had looked forward to for months was a hike around Mount Tongariro. When we came to Tongariro NP, we were told at the tourist information, the park would be closed due to a snow storm. It could take up to a week. By then we would be on the boat heading to the South Island, we had booked earlier that day. I looked at our options and in a split second came up with an alternative plan. We would go east to Napier and then head south. My husband was stunned and honestly, so was I.

I come from a place of zero flexibility. When life did not go as I wanted or expected to, I’d sob endlessly over a lost chance or dream. I would get stuck in time and in life in general. What I have learned over the years is that everything in life is about letting go. With letting go comes flexibility. And with flexibility comes being human. It is a godgiven talent. Look at a child and you’ll know what I mean. I had forgotten I had it in me, and had not nurtured and developed it appropriately. It has taken a great deal of practice and courage to get it up to speed. I had to be willing to go out on a limb. To embrace the uncertainty of the unknown. To open my heart to all other possibilities life was handing me. I’m still learning, but I know for sure that when life hands me a lemon, I’ll make lemonade.





Living, loving, learning

30 11 2007

One year ago exactly, while giving birth to my daughter, I was born. It was one of the most powerful moments in my life. Never before had I experienced, something as raw, something as pure. Never in my life had I had such clarity, stamina or focus. It felt as if my consciousness expanded and I was joined by all those women from time immemorial who had gone through the same rite of passage. I could feel their energy, tap into their wisdom. I was not the first nor the last to experience this pain. I was but a link in the chain of life, a fortunate link.
A year has passed. It has been the best year ever. My daughter is this vibrant girl, full of energy. I am deeply grateful for her loving presence. For her open mind and ingenuity. For the joy she exudes. But most of all, I’m grateful for the lessons she has taught me so far. That I am giving, loving, patient and powerful beyond measure. To be in the moment, not to worry about the future or fuss about the past.  She is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. She has given me life.





Honestly?

16 11 2007

Being open to change is all about honesty. I need to be completely honest with myself in order to know who I really am. Honesty comes at a price, though. The price is pain. Then, why bother and submit myself to continuous self-examination? Why make life complicated?

I have learned that however painful uncovering the truth may be, it is less painful than hiding that same truth. Hiding doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Deep inside, I knew I was not being completely open, and I was constantly trying to cover up. Ever tried to keep a beach ball under water? All it wants is to surface. Keeping the truth about my life under the surface took most of my energy, and finally wore me out.
I have learned that when I have the courage to see life as it is, not as I would want it to be, I’m rewarded with a deep sense of peace, as if a weight is lifted from my heart. The reward outweighs the pain always. And with every lie I uncover, my sense of self increases and the pain lessens. Where I once was unhappy, I now feel at ease with myself. I am proud to be me. All the energy I freed up, I can spend freely now. I am happy and healthy. My life has never been better, and I know the best is yet to come. 

So ask yourself in all honesty, what does your beach ball look like? 





A complaint free world

13 11 2007

I guess everybody knows someone who’s always complaining. She just goes on and on and on. Nothing ever seems to be right. How I ‘d wish she would just stop whining. Yesterday, someone burst my bubble of holiness.  I may not have been complaining about the weather, I sure was complaining about her whining. I honestly believed I did not complain so often. I was shocked to see how much I actually do. I may not complain out loud, but it’s not the verbal expression that makes the complaint, it’s the thought itself. In this short period, I have learned it can be very subtle, it can come in a myriad of disguises, but they all have in common a sense of victimization. This feeling of being wronged diverts my attention from all things good and beautiful. That is not how I want to live, it is not who I want to be.  So this morning I went to A Complaint Free World and ordered my purple bracelet. I invite you to do the same. Be the change you want to see in others.





A good return on investment

6 11 2007

I have been depressed for years. Being depressed, I did not feel like doing anything, and the less I did the less I felt capable of doing. There were days when coming out of bed was daunting, going to the store to buy food would equal climbing Mount Everest. Until I recognized how doing little or nothing had reinforced the state I was in. To get better, I had to do things.
So the years that followed, I was mainly being busy not to do nothing. Most days, I was continuously doing things from the time I got up to the time I went to sleep. On other days, being tired of being so busy, I mindlessly sat in front of the TV or read some boring book. Until I recognized how being busy to be busy left me numb. To feel fulfilled, I had to do things that are important to me.
So these days, next to doing things that just need to be done, I do a little nothing everyday and ideally spend the rest of my time on things that matter to me. It is not easy, sometimes even daunting not to turn on the TV, but I have learned that, even when feeling tired, giving energy to things that fuel me gives me more energy. I don’t know how, but the energy I invest comes back to me morefold. I can honestly say I have never felt so good in my life.





Just do it!

2 11 2007

Have you ever sat at your desk playing office, doing things that did not matter, just because you dreaded a phone call you had to make or a paper you needed to write? Something similar happened to me yesterday. The worst thing was I knew I was just fiddling around to avoid what I had to do. I was feeling awful. Finally, it hit me: I had better felt miserable while doing what had to be done. Then I would have been halfway and finished in the time I had reserved for it. This morning, as a result, I got up early to write this post, so I will have some extra time later to finish what could have been done yesterday.





On letting go

1 11 2007

These last weeks, I have been confronted with traits I don’t particularly value in people I do love dearly. It was eating me. How could I let them see they were on a road to nowhere? How could I let them see the world differently. Basically, I wanted to solve their problems. Until I discovered there is nothing I can do to solve this problem. There is no problem to begin with. Nothing has to be solved. This problem exists only in my mind. I have to let go of a wrong and right way of doing things.  Albeit I see they have so much more potential than they’re showing and would want their lives to be better, I have to let go of how I think people should react to life. I have to remember that even if they don’t see it themselves, they are still great. But most of all, I need to recognize these notions of good and bad exist only in my head.





Give the world your best

20 10 2007

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self-centered; forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives; be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true friends; succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; be honest and frank anyway.
What you may spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; do good anyway.
Give the world your best anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God; it was never between you and them anyway.

Mother Teresa





Home at last

18 10 2007

I have struggled with feelings of unworthiness from the age of seven. At the age of 27, I decided I was worthy simply because I’m alive. That was a huge step, but it has taken an additional eight years for my feelings to change accordingly.
Celebrating my 35th birthday, something extraordinary happened. Some of my friends didn’t show up. A few years ago, that would have been catastrophic to my self-image. It would have been proof that I wasn’t worthy. This year, I was surprised they weren’t there, that I had not heard from them. I missed their presence and  hoped they would still come. When they didn’t,  I sincerely hoped they had just forgot, that everything was ok with them and their loved ones.
When I realized what had actually happened, I felt a jolt of pure joy. All these years of hard inner-work had paid off. Of course, I had already noticed enormous shifts in my self-perception, but this felt like coming home. Home at last!





Be inspi(red)

16 10 2007

Today, I turned 35. I feel a deep gratitude for each breath I take. I feel blessed beyond measure for reaching this age. I’m still here, still healthy. So many people cannot repeat these words after me. They have either been infected with HIV or have died of AIDS already. Entire generations wiped out. Babies and young children dying of AIDS alone, because they have no parents to take care of them. Hospitals filled with people who do not get the proper treatment, because there is no money. While we live our lives comfortably, pretending everything is OK, people are dying on our watch. Take a moment to realize your blessings and be inspi(red) to act. Embrace the world and give life!





Life is a game

12 10 2007

Long ago, on a sunny summer’s day. On a green lawn, a young girl is hula hooping. Trying to keep the hoop around her waist as long as possible. As it goes down slowly, she’s keeping it going around the knees, even around the ankles. Laughter when it eventually drops. She picks it up and starts over again. She’s relaxed, confident that next time she’ll do better.  Nothing on her mind yet, just the sheer joy of playing. This girl, or boy if you prefer, may have been me or you. Somewhere along the way, I lost that playful feeling. Life became doomingly serious. It is not. Life is a game. I just forgot how to play, how to have fun while failing. I’ll be playing hula hoops for the rest of my life. Laughing when it drops, picking it up and starting over again.





on becoming an optimist

9 10 2007

We all have beliefs about life. Our perception is constantly scanning our environment gathering evidence to prove our beliefs are right. This is how pessimists and optimists can view a similar experience oppositely. Their outlook on life is completely different. A pessimist believes there is a negative side to everything. An optimist believes good things can come from bad experiences. A pessimist could too, if (s)he’s willing to find a positive side to everything.





My life, my choice

8 10 2007

I used to be a notorious people pleaser. I believed pleasing people was a quality.  Until, one day, I recognized that I had made some of my poorest choices simply to please others. It was my weakness. People pleasing was my addiction. It was not about the rush, it was about soothing the fear people would love me less. I craved their approval so much, I would do anything to get it. It had left me feeling numb. I did not feel alive. Then and there, I decided I would make a conscious effort to be honest about what I wanted in life. I understood it would not be easy, certainly not in the beginning. It meant confronting my fear and confronting people with my own choices. This was difficult, because I did not want to hurt their feelings. I slowly learned that as much as I am responsible for my own happiness, so are they for theirs. This is my life. In the end, only I am held accountable.





Spirit like water

2 10 2007

From crying profusely when a cake collapsed to being apathetic when my boyfriend was five minutes late. From cleaning my house, basement to attic, when my mother-in-law would come to not calling the dentist when I needed to. Most of the time I did not react appropriately to what was happening in my life. Over the years, things have gotten better, but my reactions are still off. I have high hopes for the future, though.
Alone by getting aware of this imbalance, I attained more balance already. It feels so good, I want more. I want to reach a state called mizu no kokoro. I want to have ‘a spirit like water’, be a perfectly still pond, mirroring the amount of energy that comes to me. If someone throws a pebble, I want to ripple accordingly and then return to calm. I want to go with the flow, be a current, following the path of least resistance. If I meet a rock, be it big or small, I want to simply follow its shape and keep flowing toward the sea. Which reminds me: I really do need to call that dentist.





gratitude attracts gratefulness

25 09 2007

Most of my life, my glass has been half empty. I was not happy with my life. I focused on the things that I didn’t have, that weren’t going the way I wanted. I wasn’t grateful for all the things I did have. You cannot see your glass as half full and half empty at the same time. At one point, I started a gratitude journal. Each day, writing down 5 things I was grateful for. At first, it was so hard. I just didn’t know where to look for it. But slowly, I learned to find gratitude in everything. In the smile of the woman passing by, in the bird singing his song, in the green of grass, in the way raindrops tick on my window, even in the way my tummy looks after giving birth and the extra pounds I have gained. Nowadays, my glass is half full on a bad day, but full on most days. I have learned that gratitude attracts gratefulness. What are you grateful for?





Breathtaking

23 09 2007

butterfly

Enjoying life is about enjoying the small things, like this butterfly warming itself in the September sun on one of the few flowers left.





What makes sense to me

20 09 2007

I know christians as well as atheists who stick to their principles with ardour. They have taken a stand and will not budge. Not when there’s evidence pointing in the other direction, not when an inner voice whispers there might be an other side to their truth. It is their way or the highway.
I was one of them. I was afraid to see the evidence and to hear that inner voice, because I feared my life would collapse if the foundation was taken away.  It did, but under the remnants I discovered another foundation. I discovered me.
The real me doesn’t know for sure if there is a higher power, what it is like or if it affects my life. What I know is that I feel it’s presence in everything. Maybe, my mind is playing tricks on me. I don’t care. It may not be logical, but it makes sense to me to believe I am a spiritual being having a human experience, to believe I am part of something bigger, to believe the journey continues after this life. I may not believe everything that is written in the scriptures, but it makes sense to me that a higher power cannot be captured by human vocabulary. You may think I’m fooling myself. You may think I’m no true believer. Maybe.
I ask you to consider that your beliefs are … well… beliefs, that whatever you believe, you have chosen to believe. So, until this great Mystery is solved,  I choose to believe what makes sense to me. I listen to my heart and follow that inner voice …





Closed path

19 09 2007

I thought that my voyage had come to it’s end
at the last limit of my power, - that the path before me was closed,
that provisions were exhausted
and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.

But I find that thy will knows no end in me.
And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders.

Rabindranath Tagore





Don’t cheat yourself out of a choice

18 09 2007

“I’m a woman, I should be able to bear children.” I heard a woman say who is physically unable to have children naturally or through IVF. I am deeply sorry for her, not only because she cannot fulfil a lifelong dream, but also because she is not willing to let go of that dream. She feels cheated by nature, by God and she’s angry about it. I can understand that. She believes giving birth is her birthright. She cannot accept this is beyond her call. She is fighting a fight she cannot win and is depending her happiness on something she cannot control.
In everything, she sees reminders of the children she should have. She says she feels stuck. I am not surprised and am afraid she will for the rest of her lifeif she doesn’t drop the ‘shoulds’. Been there, done that. Different subject, same should. I can tell her it’s a dead-end. Instead, I have learned to see my life as it is, to change the things I can change and accept those I cannot. I have learned that in some circumstances, my power lies in how I cope with them. I have learned that choosing a different perspective changes the way I feel about them. I have learned this choice is my birthright. I have chosen to count my blessings, become pregnant with hope and have given birth to happiness. With all my heart, I hope she will too.





If I had only one day left

17 09 2007

Trying to live each day as if it were your last, seems awfully tiring to me. Frustrating too. I mean, if I had only one day left, I certainly wouldn’t bother cleaning my house or paying the bills. Yet in order to live a balanced life, be happy, it is also necessary to those things you don’t like.
Although, I refuse to see this day as my last day, I live my life as if death were around the corner. This means I’m aware of my mortality, but it also leaves room for the future. It gives me focus. I try to enjoy every moment to the fullest and be grateful for everything I experience, so I will have lived a full life. I try to keep the end in mind and make choices that reflect my values, so I will have done what matters to me. I try to do my best and learn from my mistakes, so I will have no regrets.
And if this were my last day…? I would organise a goodbye party to celebrate my life, to tell everyone in person how they enriched my life and how thankful I am for their presence in my life. While writing, I realise I don’t do that enough. I make the decision that from today on, I will tell the people in my life how appreciative I am of them on a regular basis, so that when I die suddenly everyone will know for sure I have loved them. 





The time will come

12 09 2007

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott – from Collected Poems 1948-1984





What will it take for you to be happy?

11 09 2007

At this moment in her life, this was perfect for her, said a woman living in an apartment of 23 m2 (about 250 ft2) in the West-Village, NYC. Maybe one day she would love a penthouse with a roof terrace, but for the moment she wouldn’t want it any other way.  It raises a question: How much do you need to be happy? Do you really need that extra pair of shoes, that bigger house? How long before you would want more? Really, what would it take?  Imelda Marco’s shoes? Buckingham Palace?

This year, I’ve come to understand that if you’re not happy with where you are and what you have in this moment, all the shoes in the world or the largest house on earth will not make you happy. I repeat: will not make you happy! You will always be in search for more. Life will never be good enough.  Ask yourself: would you rather be happy now or in a year? Well, what are your waiting for? Choose to be happy right now. Love who you are. Be grateful for what your have. And enjoy what you do. Everything else will come naturally…