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Posts from the ‘Happiness’ Category

The Focused Life

“Living the focused life is not about trying to feel happy all the time…rather, it’s about treating your mind as you would a private garden and being as careful as possible about what you introduce and allow to grow there.”― Winifred Gallagher

With rapt attention, the bee moves into the center to fulfill her purpose. Pick your flower and dig in.

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee, And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few.” – Emily Dickinson

Care for and guard your garden. Clarity comes in slowness, unfolding in gentle solitude of an open heart. Wonder, possibility and awe follow.

Never stop asking or answering Mary Oliver’s question “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

The focused, wild and precious life. One attention-rich day at a time.

Pull Over, Daily

This past week was my first week off this year. No meetings, open time to think rather than react, sleeping in without an alarm (made it to 7:00 am, but still a victory.) Simply delightful and longgggg over due.

We need to create space daily to witness and participate in our life, to see what’s right in front of us, to set our priorities and be conscious.

Pulling over shouldn’t be an annual event but a daily practice. Slow the pace, pull over to enjoy the view, fully awake, deeply aware and profoundly grateful. Racing from one thing to the next is no way to live, unless you’re in hot pursuit chasing a tennis ball to catch it on the first bounce, of course.

As we enter this new year and decade, commit to creating space daily, expanding your capacity for gratitude and basking in joy. Catch the ball on the first bounce. Happy New Year and Decade! Pursue joy!

“It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.” – Denis Waitley

Alleluia

“Life itself is an exercise in learning to sing alleluia here in order to recognize the face of God hidden in the recesses of time. To deal with the meaning of alleluia in life means to deal with moments that do not feel like alleluia moments at all. But how is it possible to say alleluia to the parts of life that weigh us down, that drain our spirits dry, that seem to deserve anything but praise? The question is a worthy one. Life, after all, is a struggle, a journey in uncharted space, an exercise in both gain and loss, joy and sorrow. No life consists of nothing but success and satisfaction, security and self-gratification. Failure and disappointment, loss and pain are natural parts of the human equation. Then what? What use is an alleluia then, except perhaps to encourage some kind of emotionally unhealthy self-deception? But alleluia is not a substitute for reality. It is simply the awareness of another whole kind of reality—beyond the immediate, beyond the delusional, beyond the instant perception of things.”— Uncommon Gratitude: Alleluia for All That Is by Joan Chittister, Rowan Williams

Today is someday.

No more putting off joy, AWAKEness and gratitude for our imperfect, frustrating, fleeting, abundant and beautiful life.

If we wait for the perfect time, when all is well to sing alleluia, not a note will be sung. Our resolve, practice and commitment to “alleluia” daily living defines the essence and substance of our life. It requires action, rigor and hope amidst our natural inclination to pull the covers over our head and weed out all people who are a pain in the a** out of our life. We are not called to perfection. We are called to love, often the “unlovable.” Love is nothing if not unconditional.

While a sunset, a dog gazing into your eyes and the simple delight of a child prompt shouts of “alleluia” and “amen,” we must be alleluia people amidst people and circumstances that are a drag and drain. Empathy, compassion and understanding beyond the surface of our knowing are the greatest gifts that we give to ourselves and others.

Keep singing alleluia beyond the instant perception of things. You will then be in control of the only thing you truly have control of – your own response, outlook and ability to contribute positively to this world by singing loudly, regardless of what the world is serving up right now.

Do I have an “alleluia”!!??

Tough and Soft

“Be soft, don’t let the world make you hard. Be gentle, don’t let the people make you difficult. Be kind, don’t let the realities of life steal your sweetness and make you heartless.”― Nurudeen Ushawu

Outlook is grounded in what’s inside. Be careful with your words and thoughts for they create the path on which you walk. Nurture and foster goodness and light, letting the noise and distractions fade away. Never give into circumstances, outside negativity and easy cynicism.

Own what is yours and let others own what is theirs to own. Show relentless empathy. Forgiveness is freedom. Break no one’s spirit, especially your own.

Optimism is a daily choice worthy of practice, discipline and rigor. Build your mental toughness so you remain soft, capable of delight in the smallest of things. Gratitude is the fuel.

Focus your thoughts, expand your life. See colors, there are many to see. Be foolishly positive and trust the unfolding of each day, anchored firmly in possibility and awe. Any other path is a dead end.

Soft. Gentle. Kind.

Petals

“There is that in the glance of a flower which may at times control the greatest of creation’s braggart lords.” John Muir

“Do not waste time dreaming of great faraway opportunities; do the best you can where you are. Open your petals of power and beauty and fling out the fragrance of your life in the place that has been assigned to you.” – Orison Swett Marden

Deep vibrant hues, fragile elegance, open arms embracing the sun. The flower is whole from the sum of the petals.

As brilliant petals complete the flower, moments are the petals of our life. Wake up, observe and participate in each moment fully, entering the beauty to be found in a single day.

Celebrate the full bloom of life that is rooted in details of the petal.

Where you are. Petals of power. Flinging uninhibited.

Imagination

“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” – Albert Einstein

Watching kids’ excitement at Halloween is a delightful and much-needed reminder of the importance of imagination in our daily life. Smiles are deep and wide. Joy is pure.

I had a wonderful night walking the neighborhood witnessing kids running excitedly door to door yelling “trick or treat” and saying thank you with vigor for a few pieces of candy.

Logic is linear and how we roll through our days, checking off the task list. Imagination brings color, possibility and bigness to our days. Nonsense makes good sense.

“I like nonsense; it wakes up the brain cells.” – Dr. Seuss

“Halloween is not only about putting on a costume, but it’s about finding the imagination and costume within ourselves.” – Elvis Duran

Harmony

“Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

Agreement is defined as harmony, as a contract, an arrangement. As I was on a long run yesterday, I downloaded Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations podcast with Don Miguel Ruiz on one of my favorite books The Four Agreements:

  1. Be Impeccable with Your Word.
  2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
  3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
  4. Always Do Your Best.

I have the four agreements posted on my desk at work to remind me. Simple yet difficult rules to follow when others don’t do the same, when we want to be right, when we are self-absorbed. Each of us is responsible for our own happiness and it comes from within. When we carry and show our innate joy, we invite others to do the same. Take the high road and be a source of harmony.

“I am here and I’m alive. That’s enough.” – Don Miguel Ruiz

Change Your Explanations

“While you can’t control your experiences, you can control your explanations.”― Martin E.P. Seligman, Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life

We want things to be different but are unwilling to change. When we shift our energy and effort from trying to change other people and circumstances, we can focus on the only thing we can change – ME.

Studies have shown that optimism and gratitude improve our health including preventing chronic disease, improving our immune system, reducing stress and increasing life longevity.

And, yes it can be difficult to be optimistic when other people are pessimistic, complaining, gossiping and chirping. But with attention and practice, you can strengthen your optimism muscles and be healthier and happier. A worthy pursuit to be sure.

In her article How to Be Optimistic When the World Around You Isn’t, Amy Morin, LCSW offers a few suggestions:

  1. Optimism is a choice – turn your mindset around and think positive thoughts;
  2. Decide to be optimistic – it’s a daily decision, start each day reading, thinking and saying positive things. Force it until it takes hold;
  3. Avoid positive energy vampires – boundaries and limits on toxic people and the news;
  4. Recognize your negative thoughts – catch yourself in the act, reframe and flip it;
  5. Bestow positivity on others – share positive feedback with others – BONUS – it returns to you!;
  6. Imagine a positive future – dream big;
  7. Practice gratitude – an instant boost of optimism.

There is no risk, only reward in becoming optimistic. Changing your perspective, old stories and explanations = happier life.

 

Preparation

“Winter is a season of recovery and preparation.” – Paul Theroux

“Wisdom is nothing but a preparation of the soul, a capacity, a secret art of thinking, feeling and breathing thoughts of unity at every moment of life.” Hermann Hesse

We need to prepare for the inevitable – snow, inconveniences, detours, delays, loss – all that life weaves between the victories, joy, growth, happiness and love that lasts beyond this world. There will rarely be long stretches of problem-free living. While we can’t control some circumstances, we can prepare how we will react to them.

I bought a new snowblower yesterday to be ready for winter, which in Minnesota can happen anytime now. My Sears snowblower lasted 20 years.

I remember the day that my Dad and I bought it like it was yesterday. I just had been diagnosed with melanoma in February, 1999 and had surgery in March with three lymph nodes removed under my arm. I couldn’t lift my arm for about a month. A  week after surgery, we got a few feet of snow. I usually shoveled and didn’t have a snowblower.

When I saw my Dad and neighbor digging me out, we went out the next day and got a snowblower. As I said good-bye to my tough old Sears model, I thought, as I do daily, how much I miss my Dad. And I am deeply grateful for many good years with him. He was my best friend.

A lot has happened in the last 20 years and the past three has been intense at times. As Gretchen Rubin says, “the days are long and the years are short.” If we are wise, loss gives us a deep appreciation for what we have right now and to not take one day for granted.

Prepare for joy and be open to discover it daily.

Joy Guards

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.” – Marcus Aurelius

Pessimism is easy, passive and spreads quickly. Optimism requires daily intention, attention and aggressive pursuit. Guard your joy. You own it and are responsible for it. No one else, it’s yours.

The girls always guard me, their toys and their joy. Each day, they remind me that joy really does come in sips, not gulps.

They were watching me get ready for work and their eyes were telling me to put on a bit more make up and do one more brush through the hair before leaving.

Joy guards reporting and on duty.

“Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” – Sharon Draper

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