There is a great deal of suffering that occurs every day in our world. People are in conflict constantly and at war with themselves, with others, with the planet. With the advances we've experienced in the last hundred years with medicine, technology, politics and personal development, it is surprising that so few of us are really, truly happy. Turn on the news, any channel, and prepare to be dismayed by the state of affairs in the world.
We love stories. Since we were kids we loved to be tucked up in bed at night with the promise of a tale that would transport us out of our bedrooms to a magical place where anything was possible. But somehow we lost the ability to imagine wondrous adventures that only needed some suggestive prose and the willingness to suspend belief. Our narrative became instead the stories that we tell ourselves of how our lives suck because of the government, because of our education, because of what our parents did to us or didn't do for us, of what the economy has done to our ability to thrive...the list is endless.
We love to make meanings out of the circumstances and events of our lives via our stories. But here's the thing. When we tell one of these stories, we close the loop, cut off possibilities at the pass, lock ourselves into a state of hopelessness and helplessness.
What if we dropped the story, or changed the punchline or outcome, rewrote it in a way that gave us joy and hope? No one is stopping you from doing so -- your imagination is in your head and no one has the keys to that but you. When you drop the story in this way, your mind will tell you that it isn't valid, it isn't real. I would encourage you to do it anyway. Reality begins in the imagination and if you don't allow yourself to imagine it, then it has no chance of showing up in your life.
2. Don't be right
One of the most damaging dints we put in our happiness is our insistence on being right. This is a difficult habit to break but completely necessary if we want true peace and happiness. It's easy to see why this is a peculiarly human condition - just look at any classroom where students are rewarded for agreeing with the teacher and punished for having their own answers. This cycle of reward and punishment continues for most from the cradle to the grave and is an insidious killer of happiness.
ATIC12 via istock
Everyone has a right to their opinion, but there is no person or book on earth that has all the answers. The answers are constantly changing. Pinching off possibilities occurs when there is only one answer to a question. What if we decide to live in the question instead by asking "what else is possible?" Next time you are having a conversation where there is disagreement or conflict of opinion, notice the tension in your body. Once you notice the tension, decide to let go of your need to be right and just think of what other possibilities exist without having an answer. You will notice that you can release your tension when you release the need to be right.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
mevlana jelaluddin rumi -- 13th century
3. Realize your infinite nature
Several years ago I did a Silva Method training weekend where we trained our minds to achieve certain feats that would otherwise be deemed impossible or 'luck'. The first exercise we did was to train ourselves to wake up without the aid of an alarm clock. The exercise involved going to bed that night but first choosing a very specific time to wake up that wasn't a rounded number - I chose 6:37am. To my surprise this is the exact time I woke up the next morning. I haven't used an alarm clock since. Try it yourself and let me know in the comments below how it works for you.
It occurred to me that there is a part of my consciousness that holds awareness outside of what I consider my mind to be. After all, during the night my mind was fast asleep, as was the rest of me. Yet if there is a part of me that has the ability to retain conscious awareness when I am myself unconscious, then the possibilities to creating a life of happiness and peace would be a walk in the park. It's reassuring to think that there is a greater part of my existence than what I previously considered to be 'me'. What else is possible?
You can choose happiness and peace for yourself at any moment -- you are the only one who is in control of your mind and heart. There are many paths that lead to happiness, as there are many paths that lead to despair, but who puts your foot on either path to begin with? That's right it's you. Your training of a lifetime may predispose you to one path or the other. If it's happiness you want, then you need to put your foot upon that path. If you find that you are well down the other path -- the path to despair, or any other path for that matter - then you can turn around now and change your path. Yes, it will take you longer to reach a similar position on the path to happiness, and that is reason enough to begin right now.