We have so many thoughts each minute, each day, each lifetime. Some believe we have 50,000 thoughts in a day so that would be over 18 million thoughts in a year — far too many thoughts to hear and remember. So what determines the thoughts we believe and cling to and the ones that never catch hold and quickly disappear? It’s more often than not a choice. I want to carefully choose the thoughts I listen to for they create my reality.
A couple months ago I made a list of simple things that made me happy like yoga, listening to music, eating healthy, being creative, reading, etc… I sought out to include one or more of those things in my life every day. The results? I felt a lot happier than I did before. Seems kind of obvious right? If I hadn’t made a conscious effort though, I could definitely see those types of things getting lost in the shuffle of a busy day.
I feel like happiness is something you need to invent in your life every day, every moment, rather than look for it or wait for it. The act of seeking distances you from happiness because it puts you in a space where you’re unhappy with what you have presently rather than making the most out of what you have. Happiness, contentment, or acceptance are available in every moment if we are open to them.
I talked with my family about the idea of choosing happiness every day in life and it stirred quite a debate. They told me that being happy everyday was an impossibility. They said there are specific moments for happiness, such as graduating college, having a child, or getting married, but to be happy every day would be like lying to yourself since so much of life is painful. I felt sad that they could only see major and infrequent accomplishments in life as the times where they could allow a bit of happiness into their lives. I wonder if a lot of people feel this way. Do people feel guilty to be happy or maybe scared to be happy since they think of it as a fleeting emotion?
When I talk about happiness, I’m not talking about those rare moments of utter joy. I’m talking about the contentment and inner peace that comes with coming to terms with the ups and downs of life and finding the blessings in both of these. I’m talking about staying in the moment and not letting thoughts of the past or future overwhelm you but just enjoying the simple beauty in every moment like a kind word, a good meal, or five rounds of deep breath.
Happiness also entails being true to yourself and to the things you want out of life. If you spend over 40 hours at a job you hate or are in an unhealthy relationship with yourself or others, then you already are deciding against happiness and the simple things might not make as big of an impact on you.
What do you think? Is happiness something you feel like you’ve been able to choose in your life?
photo by Mansour Ali.
“Spirituality is facing yourself with a smile when life confronts you.” – Yogi Bhajan
i feel safe. i never thought i would say that, but it permeates every part of my being when i am on my yoga mat. it is my space of nonjudgment. my place where i can simply be and breathe. i don’t have to deal with my boyfriend’s “hates me, loves me, ignores me, wants to marry me” mood swings or for that matter my wallet’s hates me, loves me swings. my insecurities don’t even exist because it is a space of love and ahimsa (nonharming). why would i have anything to feel insecure about if no one including myself is going to judge me?
i love yoga — not just the postures but the meditation, the focus on breath, loving kindness, and intention. it takes me completely within myself and allows me to finally open my eyes to just how beautiful the real me is. why have i spent so much of my life being guarded and hiding so much of myself from others? i can see now that only i have the power to reject myself.
i don’t want to view the troubles in my life as troubles but more so stepping stones to get to a higher form of me. i feel happy more moments than not. i feel like surrendering into the experiences in my life can be the hardest thing to do but without a doubt the way i am able to enjoy life the most. sure, sadness and anxiety are never too far away, but it’s different. they’re not surrounding me. they’re not scuffling around making my chest so tight that only teeny pathetic whimpers of breath can get out. they’re not nagging me with their singsongs of my downfalls so loudly that i get my usual four pm headache. they respect me. or maybe i’m giving them too much credit. they’re giving me space because i have created that space. i have found that point of stillness inside of myself, where i am as kind and forgiving of myself as i am to others. this shift in putting myself first has actually allowed for me to care about others more deeply from a genuine place as opposed to my previous please love me space.
yoga taught me how to create that space. after two years of a solid yoga practice where i had this deep sense of loving kindness in class, i decided that i needed to be this way to myself throughout the day on and off the yoga mat. it’s a growing and budding space inside myself that understands that loving my fears, loving my imperfections, takes all their power away. i’m content with myself and with my life right now. that’s my goal for each moment. it takes so much stress off of me living that way.
I kiss my demons at night and bathe
myself in their kerosene grins.
I pour liquor and sugar
on my ginger colored edges
and lay on baking sheet liner
deep in their smoky inner hollows.
My skin wrinkles and hardens
but it never changes form.
I never become fire.
I don’t even burn.
Can you burn the fire deep
within you with more fire?
I want to do more
than just evaporate my tears.
i’ve read confessional poet extraordinaire anne sexton a lot lately particularly as i have developed the series on depression that i started posting this week. i don’t think there are many people who have written about the disorder better than sexton. she writes about most things better than anyone else but depression is a particularly difficult subject to describe because of its tendency to eat away at your senses. sometimes, i feel like i have huge holes in my memories from periods of my life when depression strangled my world. i know a lot of people must feel that way because of the distortion that depression causes. how then do you write about something that you can’t even see clearly?
… … … … … …
my favorite sexton poem: “barefoot.”
“the poet of ignorance,” a poem about the helplessness of depression that particularly grips me.
“lessons in hunger,” one of her last poems before her suicide.
i love sexton’s fairy tale reincarnation transformations and kurt vonnegut jr’s foreward in the book:
I asked a poet friend one time what it was that poets did, and he thought awhile, and then he told me, “They extend the language.”
Anne Sexton does a deeper favor for me: she domesticates my terror, examines it and describes it, teaches it some tricks which will amuse me, then lets it gallop wild in my forest once more.
–Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
i love his interpretation of her writing. sexton writes about the most intimate corners of her life but it never seems narcissistic or overdramatic; she allows a voice for every one of the emotions running rampant in you.
i remember the first time i read transformations. i was staying with an ex in brooklyn who had the most amazing little apartment. his roommate had decorated the living room with a small sofa, wooden statues that resembled different parts of a tree, and piles of piles of books in every corner. for days i wanted to walk around the room barefoot and touch all of the different books. i didn’t though because i’ve always felt like looking through someone’s book collection was too intimate for a stranger to do (his roommate was away on assignment in africa — i never met him) but my ex, a devout writer yet very reluctant reader, laughed at me and laid a giant pile of books on my lap. it was then that i found transformations and entered the mind of sexton for the first time.
i have yet to read any of vonnegut’s books (he’s on my to read list). however, i do love to read and reread his eight rules (particularly #7) for short story writing which are from Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction:
- Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
- Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
- Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
- Every sentence must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
- Start as close to the end as possible.
- Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
- Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
- Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
He qualifies the list by saying that Flannery O’Connor, and other great writers tend to break all the rules except for #1.
i love the fact that he adds that little clause at the end about breaking the rules. rules and tips are great especially when writers are first developing their style and voice but who needs rules when it comes to creativity?
some people can’t love at all because of fear. i’ve met most of them and foolishly loved them all. this piece isn’t about that but that would make for an interesting line to some other story i may write some day.
photo by garry.
i am scared.
it keeps me awake some nights. my heart beats so fast i have to let it loose. i breathe tiny baby breaths that don’t go anywhere and stare at the ceiling wondering if this will be the night that i lose my mind. some times i’m flooded with fear. other times i magically disconnect; i am all alone in a tiny box and i can see fear on the other side waiting for me. if each fear is attached to a thought, if i don’t feed them, if i could just stop thinking, would they go away and let me live a lovingly zombielike existence? i would love to be a zombie for a few years.
is fear something inherently part of being a human that keeps things from being too easy? maybe some people don’t get scared at all. they label fear as stress and thrive from it.
maybe i should love fear. i should make it chocolate chip pancakes and sing it lullabies. we should do things i always wanted to do like sleep in a dirt field with nothing but stars and crickets everywhere, think about the future and not drown in the vastness of it, be myself, confront my childhood, move across country, and read my poems aloud to strangers.
the poetry reading — it wouldn’t have to be a performance. i could read despite my shaking limbs and sweaty armpits. it won’t matter if my voice quivers or if i look at the floor for half of the reading. there will be that moment when i leave my body and enter the spirit of the piece when they see the essence of me in poem form. i will touch them. i will breathe the gentle fire that burns inside of me and dare them not to feel me. then, i will walk back to my seat, take a deep breath, and feel the self-love spread through me and chase away the fear.