Hershey Gardens, Hershey, PA
Photo by Sofia Reddy
There was a woman I knew who was never satisfied. No matter how much wealth she accumulated or how many loving people she had in her life, she was never happy. This woman had difficulty with giving and receiving unconditional love. She always had a scowl on her face. She complained about anything and everything. Nothing was ever good enough. It got to the point where she alienated everyone around her and she created the lonely life she had always feared having. The most challenging part of trying to help her was that she refused to see that she had the power to change her life by changing her attitude and perception of what true happiness is about.
Happiness is not about material wealth or the number of achievements we have acquired. It’s not about wearing top designer fashions or obtaining approval from others. It’s not even about how many friends we have on Facebook and how many of them give us a thumbs up on our posts.
Happiness is always found within. When we love and accept ourselves unconditionally we can experience true happiness. It won’t matter how many material possessions we acquire or how many diplomas and awards we have hanging on our wall.
Most of my joyful memories involve spending quality time with my son and husband. When I conjure up images of shared experiences with loved ones, I feel joyful. In this moment, I can focus on what is happening, right now. I can breathe and notice my body taking in nourishing oxygen. I can choose to focus on joyful memories. It doesn’t mean I stuff painful ones, but I can simply notice and feel, without giving in to the impulse to numb or escape. I can be.
Being in the here and now, compassionately, is one of the greatest gifts you can give to yourself. It helps you explore what is going on in your mind and heart. It gives you insight and wisdom. You can discover who you are and what might be causing your feelings. You can then choose to respond in a loving way.
Today’s practice: Find a comfortable, quiet place, and sit or lie down. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Take 3 deep breaths, inhaling in through your nose, exhaling out through your mouth. As you exhale, notice the stress and tension melt from your body. Focus on your breathing. When negative thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them as such and let them go, as easily as they came. There is no need to focus on them.
After you have reached a place of calm, steady breathing take some time to acknowledge what brings you peace and happiness. What do you have in your life right now that brings you joy? Who are the people you trust and inspire you? How does it feel to focus on these thoughts?
When you’re timer goes off, take your time and get back into activity slowly. Now take this practice with you throughout your day.