Happiness is an inside job

At first sight, it may appear that we need reasons to be happy. We get a promotion at work, someone says how nice we look, our partner does something particularly kind.

Looking deeper it is apparent that even if everything is going well, we are still able to create thoughts and worries that will rob us of our happiness. On the other hand, we can sometimes be happy in spite of, rather than because of the external circumstances of our life.

Happiness is always an option. Looking at the positive is not a case of ignoring the realities of life, rather it is looking at the deeper realities, underlying the things we see on the surface.

Today’s Meditation: If happiness is truly an inside job, then I have all I need to be happy.

Today’s Action: Today I am willing to be happy, and I will actively look for ways of expressing that happiness.

Feelings aren’t “good” or “bad,” they just are.

We like to label feelings and try to hold on to all the pleasant ones and get rid of the less good. But all feelings start inside us, and should not be considered in this black and white way.

To want only the good is a manifestation of self will run riot. They are a sign that we are trying to run the world, rather than accept our place in it. The truth is that all feelings are transient, here now, and then changed in the next moment.

When we get the sensation of pain when touching a hot stove, the feeling is not “wrong,” even though it hurts us. The pain serves to teach us a valuable lesson about stoves. It is the same with emotional feelings. We can learn as much, often more, from the feelings that hurt us.

Today’s Meditation: Feelings are precious; we have them for a reason.

Today’s Action: I will look at what my feelings and what causes them. What can I learn from hurts so that I do not have to repeat the lesson?

The Next Right Thing

Many of us feel that we have to know all the steps in a task, before taking the first one. This cautious approach can sometimes be appropriate, but most of the time it restricts us in finding our own unique path in life.

We have to start from where we are, rather than from some ideal place where we feel safe and in control. But all we need to do is take that next step, the one that is right in front of us. It is just the next right thing that we are concerned with, not all the other actions that may be needed.

When we do that next action, we will find that what looked impossible before is now a step closer. By taking each “next right thing” in order, we achieve something that we might have once thought was impossible.

Today’s Meditation: In thinking about my path so far, I will remember those times I started without knowing the final outcomes.

Today’s Action: I will not put off until tomorrow something that I can start today.

The Whole Truth?

In our daily communication with other people, we often don’t really get to know each other. Every word we hear, every expression we see, is filtered through the screen of our own experience. Our constant thought, either consciously or unconsciously, is “what do they really mean by that?”

It is true that people do not always say what they mean. It is also true that we are very bad mind readers. If we are positive, we assume that everyone wants us well, but if we are gloomy, we think that people are out to get us. The truth lies somewhere between the two extremes.

A better approach is to listen to others and also to our inner thoughts and feelings and to strike a balance as best we can between our perception and the truth.

Today’s Meditation: When do I listen to what people say, and when do I hear what I think they mean?

Today’s Action: I will actively listen to what people say, and not assume I know what they mean.

“Put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.”

How many times have we heard that announcement just as our flight was about to take off? The reason is clear: if there was to be a sudden drop in cabin air pressure, and we stopped to help other passengers, soon we would be the ones in need of resuscitation.

The same applies to the rest of our lives; we can’t assist others if we are drawing from an empty well. In the end, it comes down to balance, and each of us has to find their own definition of what balance means to us.

The announcement is a two part instruction; first put on your oxygen mask, and then help others. It is not self-centered to look after ourselves when we do so to be of better use to our fellows.

Today’s Meditation: What are the things I do that are my “oxygen mask,” so that I can help others?

Today’s Action: I will take notice when I am not putting on my own oxygen mask, and take corrective measures.

It’s not about us (even when it is)

Someone attacks us verbally, for no good reason. We take more than 30 seconds to respond to a green light, and the car behind flashes and hoots his horn. In lots of different ways we feel personally attacked during our day, and it is easy to think that it is about all about us.

For much of the time, we need to take a moment and realize that it really wasn’t about us. What it was about we don’t need to guess, but it is clear that it is the other person’s issue. We just happened to be a convenient place to put it on.

We are not saints, but we can try to be patient, to count to 10 (or 100, or 1,000), when someone takes exception to me. Because, most of the time, it’s not about me, even when it is.

Today’s Meditation: Thinking of a time when I was hurt by someone’s words or actions, can I see that they were not really about me?

Today’s Action: I will think before responding to another’s actions in anger: is this really about me?

Rights

Some years ago, when my children were small, we went out for the day to a local forest area. It was used by lots of locals for recreation, including those who liked to ride horses. We, along with other family groups were queuing up to buy ice cream when one of the horse riders came along. They wanted ice cream too and rode up close to the waiting people, some of whom asked if they could keep the horse away, as the small children were scared of it. The reply was “It’s a free country, I have a right to ride here.”

 

She was correct, of course, the area was one where horse riding was perfectly acceptable, and she did indeed have the right to ride her horse there. But just because she had a right to, did not make it right.

 

Today’s Meditation: Where have my “rights” got in the way of my doing the right thing?

 

Today’s Action: When I am tempted to insist on my rights, I will stop and consider if it is really what I need to do.