Monday, February 24, 2020

5 Tips for Making Ourselves Happier


These tips that have all worked for me. They aren't hard, and we can usually manage at least one each day.

• Connect each morning with the natural world. This can be done on the way to the car or to the bus or on the way to work. Quiet your mind just a little and let yourself notice that tree in the next yard, or the lake as you drive by it on the way into town. Let yourself feel a sense of wonder that we live in a world that includes such amazing things. This is easily done with delicious food, too. A moment to marvel that we live in a world that includes chocolate, well...

• Surround yourself with happy people. When we surround ourselves with complainers and worriers, we learn how to complain and worry. When we surround ourselves with happy people we learn how to be happy. Watch what they do, how they live and what they say. 

• Do a Metta (Lovingkindness) meditation every day. If you have trouble finding time, do a short version in the shower. Offering a genuine wish for all beings to be happy raises the "happy" factor in your own life. You'll find an example here.

• Practice saying something kind to somebody every day. Keep track that you do this every day. Do it especially with people you don't like. Just be sure it's authentic. It gets easier, and gives amazing results. 

• Say a Gratitude meditation at bedtime every night when you say your prayers. To fall asleep with a positive thought makes for sweet dreams and a happier awakening. You can find one on this page.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Quiet Time


When I was a little kid, I liked to sit under a willow tree in the back yard, the leaves surrounding me like the walls of a green, sunlit cave. I also liked draping blankets over the furniture in a corner of the house to make a quiet hidey-hole. I wasn't a loner, but I always needed to carve out time and space just for me. 

In the green willow world or the quiet hidey-hole world it was just me in the universe. Me in the context of something other than all the stuff of the world. To dream. To reflect. To read. To get perspective. To get a rest from myself. To be myself. 

As a young mother I found it harder to find time for myself but even just a couple of minutes in the shower was important. 

In times of big change, I need it even more. I don't isolate myself, but I spend less time with others, even dropping activities I usually enjoy with others so that I can nourish myself more deeply. 

This quiet time isn't about accomplishing anything, bettering myself, learning something. It is more about 'being' than 'doing'.

In her book, "The Hermit of Eyton Forest," Ellis Peters said it much better than I can. In this story, Cadfael, a monk from mediaeval times, was lingering in church after a service.

"The office had its beauty and its consolation, but the solitude afterwards was also salutary in its silence, after the echoes of the music had all died away, and to be here alone in this evening hour had a special beneficence, whether because of the soft, dove-coloured light or the sense of enlargement that seemed to swell the soul to inhabit and fill the vast arches of the vault, as a single drop of water becomes the ocean into which it falls. There was no better time for profound prayer."

I love that "... a single drop of water becomes the ocean into which it falls." 

When I look around and see how terribly busy people have become and how many more demands are being made on their time, it seems especially important to make time for ourselves. 

To do this, we have to quiet the inner voice that says taking this time is a selfish action. We have to learn to say 'no' to those who want us to do more for them and stand firm when we must do less. We have to give ourselves that bit of space to take a breath and see what the Universe wants of us right now, not the person in the next room. When in our own version of the green willow world, we need to remember this isn't about 'doing,' it's about 'being.' 

John Daido Loori, in 'The Still Point' says, "Every other creature on the face of the earth knows how to be quiet and still. A butterfly on a leaf, a cat in front of a fireplace; even a hummingbird comes to rest sometime. But humans are constantly on the go. We seem to have lost the ability to just be quiet, to simply be present in the stillness that is the foundation of our lives. Yet if we never get in touch with that stillness, we never fully experience our lives."