Happiness seems to as elusive as unicorns or the winning lottery ticket. We believe it exists, yet it seems so far removed from our day to day life. Instead we get more work projects, upset kids wanting a ride somewhere, bills to pay and aging parents falling off ladders because they couldn’t wait for us to change the lightbulb. I recently sent a friend an email outlining these typical life woes I feel burdened by. Her response both angered and inspired me. In one simple sentence, she put my world back into perspective. “But the only way I could survive and GROW is to stop assigning the way I felt to my circumstances and others around me.” She followed that up with a comment about stop blaming others. How dare she suggest I was blaming anything? I wasn’t blaming, I was just pointing out how my life has changed and how things get me……Oh wait, there is it. I was blaming my life for how I was feeling.
After stopping to think through the full magnitude of this, I came to see I was making a choice. I was choosing to be upset over things. After all the research I have done and learning on how the brain works, I forgot to apply it to me. I made the choice to suffer. The things around me are nothing more than things. They have absolutely no meaning to me without me being present. My marriage has no meaning if I am not engaged in it in this moment. The business we have created has no meaning if I am not active in building it. My life has no meaning if I am not here, now. All my memories stem from being present in those moments long enough for my brain to register the information for future recall.
More importantly, the incredible power that comes with stopping to see yourself in the moment. My emotions stem from a part of my brain that gathers information from my senses. I can choose what I give my focus to. I can also choose what story I put with that information. A cool breeze on a hot day can be refreshing or terrifying depending on the story I attach. If I choose to see the breeze as refreshing and a single incident in an otherwise, hot sunny summer day I have a good experience. If I choose to see the cool breeze as the beginning of a freak summer storm bringing snow and ice my experience changes drastically to a bad one. I have the power to change my reality. With one thought I can go from enjoying a day to planning for a disaster. That is rather powerful. And it all started with me.
What else starts with me? If I think of myself as a spec in the middle of my life. Everything is moving around me. Imagine a string between you and ever aspect of your life. Each aspect has it’s own string. The only common factor to all of it is you. How the strings move around you, is your choice. How close they get or how far away you let them go is all you. You are the puppeteer of your own life. Making the strings dance or sag. That seems like a tremendous responsibility. Luckily there are ways to help yourself be the best you can be.
Enter mindfulness. Mindfulness is not some mystical practice of ancient gurus passed to us lesser folk. In a nut shell, it is the intention to pay attention. Pay attention to where each string is, how it feels as it moves around you. Is it too close? Is it too far way? Moving too quick? Once you start paying attention, you become aware of how you interact with these things. How you feel and how you can shift slightly to a better place for you. When things gets crazy, stand in the middle of the chaos and imagine the strings. Pay attention to where you are, how your body feels in relation to everything else. Are you feeling nervous, excited? What is physically going on in your body at this very moment. Use your breath to remember you are alive. As long as you feel that air passing through your nose, you are alive. And you have the choice to pick what you want. Always remember you are the rock everything around you is anchored to. You are the centre of your Happiness Universe.