Do Happy: Forget Yourself


Listen“When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand.” ~Sue Patton Theole

Whether you’re talking to your mother or your coworker, odds are you don’t always give your complete attention without formulating thoughts of your own. Even the most Zen person sometimes waits to talk instead of really listening.

It happens all the time.

As your sister recounts her afternoon and the hassle she encountered at the DMV, you feel the temptation to interrupt and one-up her—your afternoon was even crazier.

While your boyfriend tells you about his interview, you half-listen and half prepare your own monologue, entitled My Long Day at the Office.

And let’s not forget your daughter’s after-school recap, when it takes everything inside you to not finish her sentence, rush her to the point, and start doling out chores. Without realizing it, you’ve given a subtle cue she doesn’t deserve your time and full attention.

When you focus your energy on planning what to say next, you don’t completely hear what someone’s saying—meaning you respond to them without digesting their words first. Instead of staying open, allowing their story maximum impact, you listen halfheartedly so you’ll have your turn, and hopefully their agreement or approval.

After all, that’s what we all want: a sense that we’re heard, our feelings make sense, and we have a right to feel them.

Why not give that gift to someone else before seeking it for yourself?

It’s challenging to stop thinking about our lives long enough to focus on someone else’s. And it may seem counterintuitive—how can you converse if you don’t process what someone else says and considerate it within the context of your own reality?

It’s not so much a matter of shutting off your mind as it is learning to focus your attention. To actively listen without judging or drifting so you can respond from a place of clarity. To quell your instinct to switch the subject when that person you care about would appreciate just a little more of your time.

When you resist the urge to compare or compete, and refrain from forming opinions, you let other people know you care about what they have to say. Not just because it gives you an excuse to talk about yourself, but because you value their thoughts and learn from them.

In the process, you also give yourself a break from worrying, analyzing, and judging—a brief flicker in time to let everything go and just absorb the world around you.

In that way you benefit twofold from forgetting yourself for a while.

Do happy. It’s something you’re due.

This post is republished with permission. Find more of Lori Deschene’s writing at tinybuddha.com. Read the original post here

Do Happy: Let Go

BalloonSome people think it’s holding on that makes one strong—sometimes it’s letting go.” ~Unknown

Maybe your life doesn’t look like you want it, but you’re not sure how to change it, or even if you can—so you feel hopeless, frustrated, and even a little bitter.

Or maybe someone hurt you so deeply you don’t know if you can trust them anymore—so you feel angry, defensive and indignant.

Every day we can find a million and one reasons to feel discouraged, or incompetent, or vulnerable, or harried.  All things that hurt when we hold them inside like a tight fist we refuse to unclench.  And yet we do it anyway.

Until we decide to stop.

You can’t always control the way you instinctively feel about things that happen in your life.  You can’t pretend you don’t hurt and just smile to make everything go away. But you can choose at any time to feel what you need to feel, and then change it into something else. Take all that energy and put it into the change you want to create.

Use your discontent to take one small step that could make your life more fulfilling.

Decide to stop hurting yourself rehashing the past, and relate to the humanity in the person who wronged you.

The first step toward feeling good is simply deciding not to feel bad. Simply choosing to let go.

Do happy. It’s something you’re due.

This post is republished with permission. Find more of Lori Deschene’s writing at tinybuddha.com. Read the original post here

Do Happy: Connect Without Complaining

Rose Among Thorns“Instead of complaining the rose bush is full of thorns, be happy the thorn bush has roses.”~Proverb

Complaining can be a bonding experience.

You meet up with your friends after work, and immediately start rehashing frustrations with your boss.  You have dinner with your siblings and commiserate about confrontations with your black-sheep uncle.  Or you release tension on a blind date by noticing the wait staff’s shortcomings.

Commiserating is a great way to immediately establish rapport.  In that moment you feel connected–you  both have grievances, problems, and wishes for a better world.  It’s even easier to do in a challenging economy, where anxiety is de rigueur.  In one study of complaining in a group situation, subjects averaged 50 expressions of dissatisfaction per hour–close to one complaint per minute.

But, despite your initial bonding experience, complaining does more harm than good.

According to Will Bowen, author of A Complaint Free World, complaining exacerbates individual and collective problems because our thoughts create our world. In focusing on everything that’s wrong, you create a world dominated by those ideas.

Stopping that cycle isn’t easy because you can’t dictate how other people will behave.  If they continue to vent and you refuse to engage your whole social dynamic will start to shift.  Right?  Maybe not.

People will always feel the need to vent; it’s an emotional release that helps us find control in a chaotic world.  You don’t have to judge or curb other people’s instincts.  You just have to redirect your own.

Today when you start relating over mutual dissatisfaction, shift your focus to something you appreciated today.  When your coworker starts griping about your slow work computers, change the subject to the free lunches you’re grateful to receive.  When your brother complains about your father’s frequent requests, extol your Dad’s progress in physical therapy.  Focus on what’s going right with the world, and you’ll start to notice and experience it more often.

Contrary to Bowen’s title, a complaint-free world may not be possible or even advisable.  We all have the right to express ourselves when we feel annoyed or troubled by a person or experience.  But there’s a balance to be found that turns angst into ease and dissatisfaction into gratitude, at least some of the time.  Why not find it today?

Do happy. It’s something you’re due.

This post is republished with permission. Find more of Lori Deschene’s writing at tinybuddha.com. Read the original post here

Do Happy: Look Longer

Eye“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for a minute?” ~Henry David Thoreau

You’re riding on the subway, immersed in a book.  You’re running in the park, lost in your iPod.  You’re waiting in line at Starbucks, fixated on the menu.

Sometimes we act like we’re completely alone, even when  surrounded by lots of people.  It’s like we’re following an unspoken rule that suggests we shouldn’t look at each other, at least not for too long.

It happens all the time: you suddenly make eye contact with someone you don’t know, and your discomfort compels you to avert your eyes.  If you do manage a smile, it’s probably perfunctory, without real joy and affection behind it.  Those are emotions you reserve for people you  know–people you’re more intimate with.

Some studies have indicated people who live in cities are less apt to make eye contact with strangers than people who live in suburbs. This may be a response to crowding; when you feel you don’t have enough personal space, you’re more protective of it.

If there’s truth to that hypothesis, it’s somewhat ironic.  You move to a city to experience the life that pulsates through it; and respond by shutting down in everyday situations.

Resist the urge to shutdown.  Instead of walking with your eyes glued to your feet, hold your head high and connect with people. Really see them and let them see you. If you’re not a confident person, connecting for more than one second may feel incredibly difficult.  Just try.

When you make a genuine connection you acknowledge the person in front of you is real and worthy.  You remind both them and yourself that no one operates in a vacuum.  That the world is so much larger than the constructs we operate within: our families, our teams at work, our friends.  And lastly, you foster the type of spirit that stays open to possibilities.

When you look a little longer you see more–more in other people, more within yourself, and more within your reach.

Do happy. It’s something you’re due.

This post is republished with permission. Find more of Lori Deschene’s writing at tinybuddha.com. Read the original post here


Do Happy: Pursue Fewer Goals

This post is republished with permission. Find more of Lori Deschene’s writing at tinybuddha.com. Read the original post here.

Goals

“The sculptor produces the beautiful statue by chipping away such parts of the marble block as are not needed- it is a process of elimination.” ~Elbert Hubbard

A couple weeks back you probably wrote out a list of resolutions; that’s what people do when a new year approaches.  And that’s a wonderful idea.

According to research published in the University of Scranton Journal of Clinical Psychology, people who explicitly set resolutions are 10 times more likely to reach their goals than people who don’t.

Perhaps your list addressed  multiple areas of your life–professional milestones you’d like to reach, objectives for your health and fitness, experiences you’d like to have.  If you’re a blogger, you may even have listed 50 things you’d like to achieve.  It’s a popular format in the world of online lists.

As impressive as all these plans look on a page–and as capable as you may be–you might find it difficult to follow through with all those good intentions.

As a culture, we tend to think more is better, but this mindset often sacrifices quality for quantity; never mind that it sets most of us up for failure.  When you overwhelm yourself with plans and information you’re likely to get overwhelmed and stop before you start.

Statistically, only 64 percent of people keep moving forward with their New Years resolutions into February; and only 46 keep going beyond the 6-month mark.  The rest slowly go back to what they’ve always done, perhaps recommitting when January comes again.

If you find yourself already losing steam or motivation–or if your past suggests you might do so eventually–now may be a great time to revamp that list you made.

Whittle it down to just a few key goals, making sure each of them is SMART (described in more detail here).  Break each one down into small steps, and spend a little time every day working toward each of them.

Staying focused and committed to a few objectives, and achieving your desired results will be far more fulfilling than making short strides multiple directions.

You may be surprised by how rich your life feels when you do less, but do it better.

Do happy. It’s something you’re due.


Do Happy: Stop Doing

This post is republished with permission. Find more of Lori Deschene’s writing at tinybuddha.com. Read the original post here.

Relaxation“The only Zen you find on tops of mountains is the Zen you bring up there.” ~Robert M. Persig

We live in a fast-paced, achievement-oriented society.  At the end of a busy, to-do-list-focused day, we often find ourselves mentally and physically exhausted and uncertain whether we’re actually moving in the right direction in “the pursuit of happiness.

Perhaps this explains our fascination with all things Zen. It’s become a buzzword in pop culture, branding products that have little to do with peace and enlightenment—and oftentimes, represent ideas that are diametrically opposed.

Zen Dharma Teacher Rev. Lynn “Jnana” Sipe takes an interesting look at Zen in titles in print publications, on all topics from automobiles to music.  Some notable titles include: “Engine Zen,” “The Zen of Contractor Relations,” and “Zen and the Art of Propane Safety.”

Then there’s the vast world of products branded with Zen: tea, candles, rakes, fans, stones, books, eye masks, pillows, fountains, wind chimes, bath products, incense, oils, home décor. All intended to soothe our harried minds. It’s ironic that their acquisition requires more doing and earning—and possibly more stress.

We reach for our wallet to buy little pieces of peace because we’re programmed to fix problems by doing.  Sometimes doing itself is the problem.

Our minds are like little hamster wheels, desperate to reach some point down the road when things get easy, or things make sense.  In all reality, we never get there.

There will never be a moment in time when everything feels done.  When everything is certain.  When there’s no pain or discomfort. Life is a constant juggling act of items in the inbox, people to please, feelings to process, tasks to complete, experiences to be had, problems to face.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

At any given time we have opportunities to learn, grow, change, and experience life.  There’s no shortage of things to do in this world—new hobbies to try, challenges to take on at work, steps to take to strengthen relationships.

It’s all available to us at any time.  They key to enjoying these undertakings is learning to completely stop in between.  Stop thinking. Stop analyzing.  Stop worrying.  Stop planning.  And simply do nothing for a while.

It’s one of the most difficult things to do in this world; it’s why fewer people meditate than buy little Zen fountains for their desks.  But stillness is far more rewarding than the gratification of making an impulse purchase, and the fleeting moment of joy you feel when rippling water offsets the sound of your typing.

You don’t need a complicated plan to spend 5, 10, or even 60 minutes doing nothing.  You just need commitment to that goal.

Find an uncluttered space where you won’t be distracted—preferably somewhere with minimal technology.  Write down everything on your mind, and then move that paper to a different room.  If it helps, put on some soothing music.  Be sure you haven’t eaten and drank anything recently so your body doesn’t put a snag in your plans.

And then work at being still and clear-headed, starting with just a few moments.  Inhale and exhale deeply, focusing solely on your breath. It may help to visualize your breath filling and draining from different parts of your body, starting with your feet and ending with your head.

If thoughts come into your head, simply notice them and let them go.

You will spend your whole life juggling different thoughts, jumping back and forth between true presence in the moment, and thought processes or feelings that pull you out.  Make a goal today to spend at least a few moments in the former state.  It will definitely change your day, and it just may change your life.

Do Happy.  It’s something you’re due.