Proactive Happiness

From The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

“Sometimes the most proactive thing we can do is to be happy, just to genuinely smile. Happiness, like unhappiness, is a proactive choice. There are things, like the weather, that our Circle of Influence [what we can change] will never include. But as proactive people, we can carry our own physical or social weather with us. We can be happy and accept those things that at present we can’t control, while we focus our efforts on the things that we can.”

There is only…

There is only this one life
There is only this year
There is only this month
There is only this day
There is only this hour
There is only this minute
There is only this second
There is only this moment
There is only this instant
There is only now
There is only
There is

There is only this day – what else exists apart from it? There is only this day, how wonderful! No need to worry about tomorrow! Or next week! Or yesterday! Just live today! With all your might! And what is today made up of? Moments… No, even smaller bits than that… Instants…. Ever-evolving iterations of Now. Now is wonderful, wondrous, awe-inspiring – …when you really stop to look. Now is the best. Now is when we are alive! Now is unsurmountable. Now is Fascinating, Infinite, Incredible. How lucky we are!

The Atom’s Width of Letting Go

Right next to uncertainty, suffering, anxiety, difficulties, there is complete peace, happiness, ease, wellbeing, and joy. There is a minimal step between them, an atom’s width, a neuron. The step between the two – between suffering and peace – is letting go. Releasing. Releasing a desire, releasing an idea about happiness or how things should be, releasing control, wanting things to be a certain way, to stay the same, not change.

If I am suffering because I don’t like the way things are going, I can realise this is because I desperately want things to go how I think they should. A mad attempt to control the uncontrollable. An attempt to establish permanence in an uncontrollably changing universe. I cling to permanence in an impermanent existence.

The moment I realise this folly, that it’s my desire, or my mind’s attempt at control that is causing me all my anguish, that I can’t control a thing, the moment I let go of all of that, there is complete peace. Real joy at the realisation, at being on the other side. All I have to do is let go. On the other side, just an atom’s width away from all the suffering, is the freedom of impermanence, of letting go, of acceptance, of stepping back and watching life dance along. I can join in, I can take part, but I don’t need things to go one way or another. Whatever happens happens, I smile at it all.

That’s the atom’s width between suffering, and peace and joy. A single step in my mind. Once you realise this, you also realise that it’s completely up to oneself to decide which side you want to be on. Let go, let go, again and again, and you live in a special kind of freedom. One atom’s width away.

“The mind is its own place and, in itself can make a heaven of hell or a hell of heaven.” – John Milton

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” – William Shakespeare

Nothing is as important as my peace, my joy…

Most mornings for the past few weeks, I’ve been listening to these lines as part of a guided meditation (“Calm, Ease – short version”) by Thich Nhat Hahn on the Plum Village App. (You can find the audio here on the web too):

Breathing in I smile…

Nothing is as important as my peace, my joy. I smile to everything, even to my suffering, to my difficulties.

Breathing out, I release, I let go...

This is the practice of freedom.

Smile…. Release…

The line “Nothing is as important as my peace, my joy,” is becoming firmly implanted in my whole being. It makes such sense. How can I be of any use to myself or to anyone else if I am not living in peace, and joyfully? What is more important? Money? Work? Recognition? Fretting? Rushing? Getting loads of things done?

So every morning I smile to all my difficulties, to any suffering, and I release, I let go, and find a measure of peace.

And slowly I begin to understand why he says that this is a practice of freedom. When we let go of our difficulties, and live happily in the present moment, we are free – free from our worries, our fears, regrets about the past, thoughts that drag us into the future – everything that ensnares us and keeps us from living fully what is right in front of us. All the amazing things about life – being alive! The stunning outside world. Close ones. Perhaps just a nice meal or a good book. The breeze, the frost, the trees, a friend…

Nothing is as important as our peace, our joy. This kind of freedom sounds very good to me.

On Disastrous Meditation Sessions

I was telling a friend about how I’ve been getting up at 6am for the last couple of months to meditate before the rest of the house wakes up.

‘This morning was a total disaster,’ I said, ‘thoughts going wild the whole time.’

‘Hmmm,’ she said, ‘it’s interesting, meditation gives us a lot of information. Like the fact you call it a total disaster, that you judge yourself like that.’

‘Oh,’ I replied, ‘yes, really negative self-judgement….’ And to compound that negative self-judgement, I was momentarily pissed off with myself for having judged myself!

But she was absolutely right. One of the cornerstones of mindfulness is its non-judgemental character. Whatever happens, happens. Whatever comes up, comes up. In life as much as on the meditation cushion (or chair, in my case). No need for judgement, one way or the other. Just be with it.

I’m very grateful to that friend for her comment. I hope to refrain from classifying meditation sessions (or anything else!) as disastrous. And if I do, I’ll smile happily at the passing moment of judgement, and let it go.