Spiritual Baby Steps

"Doing" spirituality in the real world

Archive for the tag “passion”

What Makes You Happy?

Do you know what makes you happy? What makes you really happy? What feeds your spirit and makes your heart sing? 

It seems like an easy enough question, doesn’t it? I think most of us think, at least on some level, that we know what we like… what makes us feel good… what makes us happy. But honestly, most of us are just not that good at truly figuring it out. We think we know, but we’re wrong. 

There are so many examples of this in our daily lives. We live in a constant state of more-is-better mentality… and it’s confusing the heck out of us. We’re under the impression that if we just get a little more of this, that or the other, then we’ll be happy. I’ll be happy when… I make more money… I lose some weight… I get a different job… I have more time.

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”   ~Dalai Lama

So, how do we figure it out? What’s the secret, magic formula for happiness? Ha! If you watch TV, read magazines, listen to the radio or in any other way are exposed to advertising… then you know it is as simple as buying the next widget, gadget or gidget. Or is it? On some level, we all know it’s not. And yet, if you’re like me, you are continuously sucked in and often succumb to the message that we are just not good enough and won’t be happy unless we have the latest this, that or the other. Perhaps we don’t spend enough time really contemplating our happiness. If happiness is the purpose of our lives, it surely gets short shrift compared to the numerous hours, days and years we spend on less important tasks. So, what’s the first step?

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” ~Rumi

I won’t pretend to have all the answers. To be perfectly honest, I struggle with this as much as anyone! I’ve bought my fair share, and then some, of self help books, audio programs and new age magazines in an effort to find that magic pill… experience transformation… be good enough… be happy! It’s a little ironic when you realize that you’re doing all this searching but you’ve never really thought very much about what you’re trying to find. Happiness is a somewhat vague concept that needs to be personally defined by each person.

I’ve heard that one good way to recognize your joy is to find activities that lead to losing track of time. When you get caught up in the activity and 2 hours feels like 2 minutes, then you know you’ve found something that makes you happy. But… a recent jaunt on FB has me questioning this concept just a bit. I’m not so sure spending hours online checking FB, pinterest, and playing words with friends is exactly my call to joy. But if I step back a bit, I can see that connecting with others and being social is joyful for me and makes me happy.

I’d like to propose a first step. Spend some time pondering and writing about happiness. Play with the statement “Happiness is…”

The next step, once you’ve gotten a bit clearer on what happiness is for you, is to notice your daily actions… how you spend your time. Ask yourself, as you move through the day, whether or not your actions are supporting your happiness. Now… I’m not saying that every single action in your day is going to be a joy-fest… but in some way, the actions and activities we engage in should align with our values… what’s important to us… and what makes us happy. Doing laundry, per se, is not necessarily joyful… but I can take a moment to be thankful for the clean, beautiful clothes that I possess. While I may not be elated with every detailed task I perform at my job, on a higher level, I believe in the mission of my company and know that my work contributes to the greater health and well-being of many people.

“When hope is not pinned wriggling onto a shiny image or expectation, it sometimes floats forth and opens.” ~Anne Lamott

So call forth your joy. Summon your giddiness. Explore what makes you happy with life… really, really happy… and spend time doing it. Pay attention to your daily activities and ask yourself if they align with your values… your true desires… your river of joy. (then tell me what it is so I can try it out myself!)

Love and light to you!  ~Rashel  

 

Happiness

I’ve read and heard a lot of people talk about the fact that when you get down to it… what people really want… what truly matters… is being happy. You want money so you can feel safe… so you can be happy. You want friends so you don’t get lonely… so you can be happy. Certainly we place a lot of emphasis on being happy. And yet, there are a lot of ways that we sabotage our happiness. For one thing, we often look outside of ourselves for happiness… we depend on other people or external circumstances to lift our mood… make us smile or laugh. Often we don’t even take the time to understand what makes us happy. I had a really interesting epiphany when I went through ‘The Writer’s Way’ by Julia Cameron (13 weeks of daily writing pages and weekly fun dates). In this amazing guided spiritual journey, you are asked to schedule one thing for yourself each week that is completely fun and fulfilling (at least, this is my recollection – it’s been a while). I didn’t really know what I liked to do for fun. I was so caught up in what I needed to do every day that I hadn’t tapped into my enjoyment factor in a long time. Do you know what makes you happy? Ever since that experience, I’ve done a better job at paying attention to what I enjoy doing… not that I always get to it… but at least I know what “it” is!

In Marci Shimoff’s book, Happy For No Reason, we are invited to explore the possibility that we can be happy right in this minute… regardless of any external circumstances. Is that possible? Is it really just a matter of perspective? Seeing the glass half full instead of half empty? In the emergence material I’ve been working with, Derek Rydell gives an analogy that I find interesting. Imagine a time when you were really happy… something great has happened and you are just smack dab in the middle of it. Take a moment to experience it. Did you feel happy in that moment that you were imagining being happy? If you imagined well, you did. According to Rydell, this is basically proof positive that we do have the ability to make ourselves feel happy in any given moment. But of course, the larger question for me becomes – do you just walk around in an imaginary state, imagining yourself happy? What would that even look like?

I can imagine the water cooler conversations would shift dramatically! If you think about it, most of the time, for the majority of us, we walk around whining and complaining about our life circumstances. I’m going to suggest that in most cases, there are as many great things as negative things going on in our lives. (If you can’t think of any, circle back to some of the basics we take for granted like friends, family, etc.) If you step back, from a larger perspective, isn’t it just as much a lie to focus on only the negatives as it is to focus on just positives? And yet, I will admit for myself, it’s hard not to get caught up in what’s not working and what I’d like to have different. I certainly don’t think of myself as making things up and lying to myself just because I’m focusing on the “issues” in my life. Why is it so hard for me to turn my focus around on the positive?

I do believe that what you focus on, you get more of. In fact, I can easily see that the more I focus on what’s wrong, what’s not working, the issues in my life… the more I tend to notice what’s wrong, what’s not working and how very inconvenient those “issues” in my life are! I can even attest to this phenomenon in situations that are neutral… for example, after buying a Ford Edge – I went from not even realizing that this car existed to thinking that at least half the population in the bay area must have just realized what a great car this was… they were everywhere!  Obviously, they were already there… but once my focus was attuned to this car, I noticed. The challenging part is that when I try to focus on the positive things in my life, I don’t always feel like this phenomena sets in… sometimes it feels like the negative is just there… at the ready… waiting!  I guess my quest is not to understand why the negative is so easy to stick with… as much as it is to explore the possibility of changing that engrained habit of where to focus… and shifting to a positive state as much as possible. Perhaps the trick is to practice “being happy” as much as possible so you can start stringing those moments together into a happy life.

Let’s give it a shot, shall we? Love and laughter to you! ~Rashel

 

Pause… and Effect

I’ve been reading Martha Beck‘s latest book, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World. I like Martha’s books and her column in O Magazine. The thing is, I find that her most simple and straightforward advice is the hardest to implement. In her book, The Joy Diet, the number one road to JOY she says is pausing… taking time to meditate or find stillness every day. I’d tell you more about the road to joy, but she suggests in her book that you not move on to the next step until you’ve mastered the one before… so that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

Now I’m reading about Finding Your Way… which is divided into four parts. The first is wordlessness — which again pertains to pausing… stillness… connecting to your nonverbal self for a period of time each day. I read this and a part of me resonates with truth and a certain knowing… Y E S !!!  and then I stop to wonder… why am I not doing this? Why is this so dang hard to implement when there is no part of me that questions the value? I realize that this is true of numerous things in my life… the difference between knowing and doing. Exercise comes to mind… eating healthy meals and snacks… drinking lots of water… always lathering on the sunscreen… the list goes on. Then again, if I had to choose just one thing to do every day that I thought would have the biggest impact on my life, it would definitely be meditating or taking time to be still and let go of the verbal chatter. Yet, I still don’t do it. Oh don’t get me wrong… it’s not like I never do it – but I don’t do it every day. And there’s something about the ritual of doing it every day. It’s like taking a walk every now and again… doesn’t exactly lend itself to a fit and toned body.

I was reading an article by Leo Babauta on how he managed to start flossing after years of not. He has a pretty straightforward approach that may just make way too much sense to be embraced by the masses. He suggests that you pick a trigger, use a visual reminder, start very small, focus on the enjoyment and mark it on your calendar. (read the whole article here… http://zenhabits.net/floss/). The take away for me is that I would like to use his approach to start meditating every day… tackle one small thing, take a very small step forward, set up my environment for success and track my progress. OK… now we’re talking.

I do love to meditate, but there are certain things I associate with this practice. At least 20 minutes of quiet time with no distractions. HAHAHAHA… that’s why I don’t do it more often. It is rare for me to have this combination of factors in my current life! I’ve actually managed to carve out some time at work to meditate… but the idea of integrating this practice into my home life seems overwhelming. That’s where Leo’s approach starts to seem more feasible.

Here’s my plan to add stillness (we’ll get to meditation later!)…
pick a trigger… my trigger will be brushing my teeth in the morning and at night;
use a visual reminder… I will put a sticky note on my toothbrush;
start very small… I will be still for 2 minutes – the amount of time my electric toothbrush takes;
focus on the enjoyment… I will take a moment to be thankful for this moment of stillness; and
mark it on your calendar… I will get a small calendar to track my progress and post it on the wall next to the bathroom sink.

What would you like to do that you aren’t doing because it seems overwhelming or too big to pursue? How can you incorporate the steps above to realize your goal? The beginning of a great dream begins with one step. TAKE IT… track it… do it.

Love and laughter to you!  ~Rashel

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