How to Find Bliss in the Little Things.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

“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.

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This is Why Today, I Meditate.

Tammy T. Stone

Tammy T. Stone

 

I will bring myself to the cushion, not because I want to be enlightened.

Yesterday, I might have been thinking like this.

Yesterday, I might have unintentionally brought goals with me to my meditation seat, memories of learning from a place of love and light, compassion and bodhicitta, soaking in this glory under so many bright, holy suns.

Maybe the memories go even further back, into a consciousness that leaves its imprints even as I can’t reach for their source.

Today, there is fear. There is the temptation to find solutions to problems my mind doesn’t know how to handle. Confusion enters, reigns, dominates.

This is what fear does, it spirals and expands and makes me desperate to climb out, but instead the terror creeps slowly out from the cover of dark and makes its way slowly around the world’s every crevice.

There is fear all over; I fear the world is baking and burning in fear. I am enjoined, too; the darkness and terror envelops me and originates in me too.

Acts of hatred, of violence and hostility—I shake all over, not comprehending. There is a great danger in this confusion. I fear being a mirror on all sides, exponentially growing my confusion as I spread it out far and wide to everything I come in contact with.

My mind will spin from here to the end of time if I let it. It does this well.
Sadness emerges through the fear, a bottomless ache that I know lives underneath fear because I have unearthed these layers before.

Feeling sadness brings me one small step closer to myself.

In fear, I run away. In sadness, I can allow a certain stillness.

So I sit, not to erase being sad and afraid, not to jump right over them to the unparalleled post-thought clarity I might have been seeking yesterday.

Today, I need to sit on my cushion and not think about fear and destruction, but see them. See them not as images and thoughts, but as unease written all over my body.

I need to do this as I breathe in, breathe out, letting my breath remind me of my physical presence, my map of all I have been and all we have come to; and also of the heartbeat that connects to the living organism all around me, because this being is expansive and bathes us even when we forget, and doesn’t seek destruction.

I will meditate because I want to embody and reflect peace, not fear when I go outside today, and because the path of the warrior, of the gentle, compassionate activist begins with an ability to be quietly, fully present with the self.

Today, I will meditate not to get me somewhere else, but to get back here to start from where I am, to caress the wounds by observing them, watching them change, and anchoring myself in a breath that is specific and grounding and also shared with every other being.

“Life is glorious, but life is also wretched. It is both. Appreciating the gloriousness inspires us, encourages us, cheers us up, gives us a bigger perspective, energizes us. We feel connected. But if that’s all that’s happening, we get arrogant and start to look down on others, and there is a sense of making ourselves a big deal and being really serious about it, wanting it to be like that forever. The gloriousness becomes tinged by craving and addiction. On the other hand, wretchedness—life’s painful aspect—softens us up considerably. Knowing pain is a very important ingredient of being there for another person. When you are feeling a lot of grief, you can look right into somebody’s eyes because you feel you haven’t got anything to lose—you’re just there. The wretchedness humbles us and softens us, but if we were only wretched, we would all just go down the tubes. We’d be so depressed, discouraged and hopeless that we wouldn’t have enough energy to eat an apple. Gloriousness and wretchedness need each other. One inspires us, the other softens us. They go together.” ~ Pema Chodron