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

Extreme weather

29 06 2011



Yesterday, my psychological and emotional state resembled the weather in the Netherlands. The weather forecast had predicted unstable weather. The royal meteorological instituted had even had released an extreme weather alert. The forecast revealed to be rather accurate. At the end of the day, we had heavy rain, strong wind gusts and some serious thunder and lightning. Somehow, it felt good the weather agreed with me; it was time to release some tension.


I started my day rather absentmindedly, I somehow was unable to land in the now. At eleven in the morning, I finally had the clarity of mind to stop doing and listen to my body. It felt heavy, like the weather. I felt like crying and sleeping. So I went upstairs to sleep. In the middle of my sleep I was woken by a ringing telephone. I answered. It was my husband. He had two simple requests. My brain short circuited. It seemed I was unable to process requests with more than one variable.  Even one variable would have been challenging. After that I cried. I cried and could not stop. I cried because was stressed, frustrated and I felt guilty. Guilty for not being able to take some load of his shoulders. Guilty for not being able to be the wife I want to be. Guilty for being stressed over nothing, essentially.


I twittered about it. That was not easy, because I know from experience that most people only see a drama queen, having a pity party, fussing over nothing. But yesterday, there also were people who understood what was happening, who could relate to what I was saying. That meant the world to me. There was a sense of recognition, of connection. It was priceless. One lovely lady called it a ‘discharge’. And that landed me in the now. Because that’s exactly what it was. A discharge of tension that had built up for days. My easily stimulated brain was overstimulated and needed to discharge to get equalized again.


As the day progressed, with one drama after another, some small, some really ugly (I sweared like a fishwife at the idiot who through uncareful driving, almost hit my girl and her friend while they crossed the street using a pedestrian crossing), I turned my mind around. I was doing my best. Only today, my best was different than my best on any other given day. And that’s okay. I am not proud that I snapped at my daughter, but I am proud at the moments I did not snap. Proud that on a day with almost zero tolerance for stress, I was capable of caring and compassion. Proud I was able to put my daughter’s safety and emotional needs first (most of the time). Proud I was able to turn my guilt into pride. Proud I twittered about my discharge like other people twittered about the weather.


photo by Ronny Beliën

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.

Easy does it

30 10 2007

How do I do what matters most to me, without letting slide all these not so important things that need to be done? I’m not talking about those chores I do on a daily or weekly basis, they get done. Rather, how do I make time to finish the curtain that I am (or better said ‘was’) making for our kitchen window. Custom make that vinyl tablecloth so my girl can try and eat her own yoghurt? Adjust the leg length of my jeans? Sew the button on a shirt? I see it needs to be done, but I don’t seem to get around to doing it.
All of a sudden, I realize it might have nothing to do with having or making time. It’s about the sewing. What I want usually doesn’t exist or is so expensive I decide to make it myself. But as well as I can sew, I really don’t like it. Now what to do? There are three solutions. One, just buy what is available. Two, pay someone else to make it for me (risking it is not up to my standard). Or three, learn to have fun sewing. For the present projects, I will exercise willpower and try to change my perception. If that doesn’t work however; next time, I’ll consider having it done. And as a last resort, I can always go to the store as normal people would do. 
As obvious as this may seem to you, it’s huge to me. You really have no idea.

What’s the point?

23 10 2007

Yesterday, I was listening to an interview. All I could think was, He’s missing the point. Then it hit me. He was actually making the opposite point, which to me was not a valid point. Our basic paradigm was completely different. My first impulse was to stop listening, but after some deliberation I decided I would keep listening. Not prove him wrong, but to learn from him.
My brain is scanning the world to find proof for my beliefs. As does anyone’s brain. There are as many realities as there are people. This doesn’t mean everyone is right, but it does mean each reality is just as valid as the next. 
I decided I did not want to dismiss what he was offering, solely because his brain is looking for different proof. By validating his reality, I was able to see the point he was making. I was able to learn from his wisdom. His view on life has not changed my core beliefs, but trying to understand his reality has broadened my horizon.

Peace of mind

19 10 2007

Recently, I went through the process of clearing from my head all the commitments I have made with myself and others.. This mental to-do list was taking up too much space and way too much processing time. In stead of tossing everything, I put it down in writing. In three separate lists: things I’m committed to at present, the next step I need to take to get these things done and things I might commit myself to someday. It is interesting to see how the mind actually quiets down when you get rid of all excess baggage. Apparently, the mind keeps repeating whatever commitment you have made to yourself, even the simplest of simple intentions as ‘check out that website’ or ‘sew button on pink shirt’ (which reminds me..), until it is done. Writing down al these to-do’s and checking your lists on a daily basis gives peace of mind, and even better it makes room for actual thinking. For that, I want to thank David Allen with all my head.

Swing is a state of arrival

6 10 2007

Rowers have a word for this frictionless state: swing … Recall the pure joy of riding on a backyard swing: an easy cycle of motion, the momentum coming from the swing itself. The swing carries us; we do not force it. We pump our legs to drive our arc higher, but gravity does most of the work. We are not so much swinging as being swung. The boat swings you. The shell wants to move fast: Speed sings in its lines and nature. Our job is simply to work with the shell, to stop holding it back with our thrashing struggles to go faster. Trying too hard sabotages boat speed. Trying becomes striving and striving undoes itself. Social climbers strive to be aristocrats but their efforts prove them no such thing. Aristocrats do not strive; they have already arrived. Swing is a state of arrival.

Craig Lambert in Mind over water

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.

This is… whose mind… IT IS!

6 09 2007

Yesterday, I cleared up my inner basement. It was a dump. I couldn’t even move around.  Without realizing, I had held on to a lot of beliefs I just didn’t need any more. I keep yearly spring cleanings, so I was under the impression my mind was not too cluttered. But in stead of tossing old beliefs, I had apparently been storing them in the basement, because I found heaps and heaps of them. Newer beliefs on top of older ones. I couldn’t belief I had been holding on to so much broken records. What had I been thinking?!
So, I lined up everything I found on the driveway. I walked by all these beliefs, looked at each belief and decided in a split second if it was still useful or not. I guess about 95% went to the local dump. The other 5% I organized neatly on some shelves.
All mess is distracting. A cluttered mind as much as a cluttered house. Energy can’t flow freely there. You may say: what you can’t see, isn’t there. But you know, the point is: you know it’s there! You may say:  it doesn’t bother me. Then I’ll say: O yes it does, you just don’t know it, because you have never consciously lived a clutter free life. Clutter holds you back. So, just clear up one area of your mind and you’ll be amazed at the how good it feels to move freely through your thoughts, to clearly see what you’re thinking and to simply enjoy being there. You decide who’s in charge: some bunch of old beliefs and habits or YOU. It’s your mind, you claim it!