We talk about happiness
The way we do miracles,
The pots of gold at the
end of the rainbow.
Do you remember
your first rainbow?
I had just come home
from seeing E.T.
and was already feeling
and there it was,
right outside my
all the hues of life.
I was already looking
at the pot of gold,
and couldn’t imagine
anything more magical
and I can’t imagine
what is already
here. – TS
Love does not mean the kind of intimate relationship that often comes with more than a few strings attached … not to mention the feeling of attachment itself!
Love at its deepest, and in its purest form, is the wellspring from which all goodness pours into the world. It is universal. It is unconditional. It is for everyone, and it is based in empathy and compassion, which is to say, the genuine desire to see others rid of their suffering.
By bathing ourselves in this kind of love, we also free ourselves from the entanglements of craving, desire and attachment, which means that this kind of love both purifies the self and heals the world.
Today, let’s reach for all-encompassing love, and please share if you feel moved to!
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver
Full disclosure: there nothing complicated about what you’ll read below, no previously unheard of secret formula.
But just because something is simple doesn’t mean that we naturally generate the will or ability to do it. If we did, there would be a whole lot more balance, happiness and goodwill in the world.
Yet, all these things do exist in abundance, and it is our absolute birthright to be able to tap into these positive qualities of living. There are no miracles necessary, no magic-fix-all set of instructions to shoot us way up into the stratosphere of joy.
Happiness, harmony, balance—these are not end-games to which we jump, only to rest there until the end of (our) time. Of course not.
We are human. By our very nature, we come into this world with a body, and that body will eventually deteriorate, sicken, age and die. Often, our minds and our bodies will be at odds. Our body will want to run when our mind wants to quiver and cry. Our mind will want to soar when our body is unable to move.
This is not something to regret or bemoan. There is so much beauty in being unfalteringly, unwaveringly human.
Being human allows us to cry when we feel we’ve reached our limits, but also to laugh at the potential absurdity of the situation. Crying will leave us in one place, laughing in another, and both are temporary and both are infinitely possible, and repeatable.
To this extent, the choice is ours. Being human, right now, is not the choice, so there is little sense in feeling stuck or trapped by the very parameters of our existence.
How we are to be human is very much within our power. We seek happiness and barrel right back into feeling stuck or depressed, not seeing how we are clawing against the walls of something (that elixir of happiness) that is actually not trying to hide from you at all.
It’s existed all along, embedded into every single moment we choose to accept the situation we find ourselves in. And this is incredibly difficult to do, especially without a whole lot of effort, training and mindfulness, but it’s also incredibly simple.
Sometimes we just need to be reminded.
It’s often the littlest things that can propel us down this road of acceptance. If we can’t grasp the meaning of something as gaping and wide as happiness, let’s bring ourselves back to the things capable of invoking that giddy, joyful feeling, things that can remind us that we are right here, already in happiness’s arms.
Let’s do these:
Sing our favourite song: For real. Like, out loud. Belt it and feel something of eternity coursing through your veins. I usually choose Somewhere Over the Rainbow or Ain’t No Sunshine or In My Place, which aren’t the happiest songs, but their emotional resonance get me there every time.
Meditate: This is a no-brainer, and people cite this in every single “feel better” to do list. But there’s a reason for this. Meditation isn’t a hobby or an accessory. If we’re diligent about it, it can sincerely help us reduce stress, calm our minds and learn to accept everything that is happening in the present moment. To start, just sit and be aware of the breath going in, going out.
Standing forward Bend: Ahhh. Literally and metaphorically let it all hang out. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, and slowly bend forward from the hip. Only go as far as your body allows (you can use cushions to rest your hands on), and just hang, trying with each out-breath to release more, holding no tension whatsoever in your upper body. Take long, deep breaths, and let your tensions escape, as your strong, tree-like legs support and ground you.
Shut down the computer, phone and other such playthings: Do this for five minutes or an hour or a day, and cut off many potential sources of stress, and watch how the world doesn’t fall apart without our connection to every cyber-molecule of it. Look out the window, go outside, read a book, do nothing. Hang out alone. We are great companions, just the way we are, once we get to know ourselves.
Journal: This might not be second nature for everyone, or maybe it’s a daily activity. It’s a truly wonderful way to check in with the self and become more attuned to feelings on physical, mental and spiritual levels. Take the time to nurture and foster this connection with self, and discover how much this enables a journey out of the head and into the world of instinct, intuition and beautiful human connection.
Do something for someone else: Give. Donate. Hug someone. Call a friend in need. There a countless options, and you likely know keep inside exactly what and how to do it. Make the world a bigger place by sharing its amazing bounty.
Write a letter: Pen and paper! You may be old enough to remember when writing people letters or having penpals was an ordinary part of life. Even when it was ordinary, it was awesome, and it always felt so good to write and receive letters. Now that it’s extraordinary, imagine how good it will feel to take the time to pour your heart out to someone, and to also receive a piece of their heart in the mail.
Scan the body: Feeling bad? The mind and body are cohorts, and you might be surprised to find that there is a physical element to your mental discomfort. Maybe it’s your posture, or that you slept funny on your neck last night, or that your limbs are stiff in this not-quite-warm weather. Do simple things like stretching to limber up, and watch your energy channels open and clear your mind/psyche.
Take a walk: Walking is truly a salve for the soul, living meditation. We often forget the healing powers of being literally grounded, connected to the earth. Cars take us away from this, and even bike-riding doesn’t quite compare to feeling the earth under you. If it’s possible, get off the roads and onto trails and grass. Take off your shoes. Feel how alive everything is, and how much you’re a part of it.
Laugh: This will do it every time. Whole strains of yoga and meditation are dedicated to this form of release, which de-stresses on all levels, and is the best soul-medicine around. A stress-free life is a happier and arguably longer one, and laughing and stress literally don’t know how to share a space together. Laugh often. Laugh alone, with friends and loved ones, and slide into a happy-place that is always at your fingertips.
TO B A TREE
When meditation won’t come
when the breath is undone
and your mind is on fire
and your heart is so tired,
come and let’s see.
Let’s try being a tree.
Maybe the tree’s in the yard outside
or in our heads, or a park nearby,
or peering over rocks on a sandy shore,
craggly and wise forevermore.
Maybe there’s a treehouse for sleepover nights,
for spilling deep secrets in the dimmest of lights.
Maybe, right now, our hearts are screaming
weighing us down in all their hurting.
Let’s turn into a tree that carries on,
brimming with peace like the newest dawn,
not at all haunted by who she might be,
which is how we should be,
if we want to be free.
Let’s watch the roots from the center unfold,
longer and stronger with each story told,
as they breathe Earth’s offerings in order to grow,
thriving and sparkling on the ground below.
Have you ever nestled into those giant roots’ arms,
become transfixed by their greatest charms,
have you wondered what happens when they finally meet
for subterranean hellos, what news they greet,
as their connections deepen around the world
their flowing tendrils gently unfurled?
Now let’s rest in evening’s dark,
and sit against the great tree’s bark.
Feel the strength. Feel the love.
Feel the air swoon high above.
Feel how she has nowhere to be,
how there’s no anxiety in the tree.
Feel the girth from years of life,
of being witness to so much strife,
how she rejoices at our victories and cries at our woes,
and knows that it comes, and knows that it goes.
Feel the coolness against your back,
the ridges marked by time, not lack.
Now let’s bring our hand to touch,
look how quietly she’s grown so much,
how she never hesitates or has any doubt,
how she breathes, pure grace, within and without.
We can wrap our arms around the tree,
tune in to the immovable power of she,
feel our hearts pattering and sure
soothed under the weight of all that we were.
Feel the tree’s heartbeat against our own,
feel the kindness the tree has shown
to so many of us needing to calm our fears,
maybe for thousands upon thousands of years.
Let’s turn an eye to the branches of trees,
curved into their sacred geometries,
arching in a final, undulating dance
as they move toward their skyward chance.
Maybe leaves have fallen and winter’s come.
Maybe spring has returned as Earth’s great sum,
alive with green ripeness, soft and course,
ready to receive from the celestial source.
Up there, so high, there is no fear.
The ground holds space; the ground is near.
The breath of life hums through the tree,
which demands nothing, and is full, and is free.
This is how calm can be regained,
how a balm for mad minds can be reclaimed,
as we drop to our knees and bow,
in the presence of a holy now,
so we can come to rest with ease and glee
at having become a glorious tree.