Saturday, August 31, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

"Happiness is being on the beam with life - to feel the pull of life."-- Agnes Martin

Doesn't that just say it all?  To feel yourself floating on the river of life--totally going with the flow, not knowing, or caring, what's around the next bend and so immersed in the loveliness of the journey, so caught up in the direction the current is taking you and so in-the-moment that the only thing that matters is the ever-illusive NOW--that, to me, is the essence of happiness.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Happiness: a way station between too little and too much." --Channing Pollock

This quote reminds me of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  Her search was always for that thing that was "just right", which brings us back to the notion of contentment being a big component of happiness; when the stars are in the heavens and all is right with the world.
It's important to remember, though, that your search for contentment must factor in the needs of others. Nothing can harsh your buzz more than waking up to the three bears.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

"They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom."-- Confucius

Happiness is a moving target.
As you change, as your life changes, so too do your ideas about what it takes to make you happy.
As children, we swam in our happiness like fish in water.  We knew of nothing else, but thought our happiness would increase if we could just have that toy or be friends with that kid down the block.
As we grow, we see that happiness is a choice-- not in companions or material goods but in our own state of mind.
As adults, we no longer assume happiness. Long ago we lept out of the fishbowl.
I guess we evolved.  We developed strategies that keep us breathing the oxygen of adult life, but we yearn to swim again, to have the passion, emotional freedom, and excitement we once had as children.
On the bright side, change is inevitable.  We can learn to be amphibious: breathing and blending the heady air of our intellectual nature with the deep water of our emotional body with ease and mastery.

Monday, August 26, 2013

"Happiness isn't something you experience; it's something you remember." Oscar Levant

First I found the quote above and then I found this:
"Nothing prevents happiness like the memory of happiness."--
Andre Gide
For obvious reasons, I had to include both in today's post.

Here's the flaw I see from both Andre and Oscar: their definition of happiness seems to require a certain event that you look back upon with longing.  
There is such a thing as unreasonable happiness, that which just springs from the day, as unquantifiable, unknowable, and completely ephemeral as every true emotion seems to be.  
You just feel. . .happy.  
It's definitely an "experience" (take THAT Oscar!) and (En Guard, Andre) it's not "a memory" of something in the past.
It just is, and it feels wonderful.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

"I was happy, but happy is an adult word. You don't have to ask a child about happy, you just see it."--Jeanette Winterson

Actually, you don't have to ask an adult about happy, either.  You also "just see it".
I'm bemused by the way people view adulthood, as if they've left the innocence and freshness of childhood behind them as soon as they pass a certain age marker.
Yet most adults, and I'm sure you'll agree with me, are just children playing dress-up.  Unless they've been really damaged emotionally, most still retain their wonder at the world around us, their vulnerability in the face of social encounters, their boundless curiosity, their excitement over something new, and their ability to feel unreasonably happy.
A happy adult is as apparent as a happy child.  You know one when you see one.  Maybe you don't see as many happy adults as you do happy children, but when you do it's clear by their actions and energy that this is a happy person.
Perhaps to be a happy adult you have to tap into your inner child, but is that so hard?
Let me ask you: in your heart of hearts, what's your real age?

Friday, August 23, 2013

"Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony". --Thomas Merton Read

". . .Balance, order, rhythm and harmony"--sounds like contentment to me, and contentment is wonderful.  So wonderful that I wonder if "contentment" is just another word for "happiness".  Maybe what I define as "happiness" is actually "bliss", since bliss seems to be an almost spiritual high--one that is hallmarked by its intensity.
If happiness is "not a matter of intensity", bliss sure seems to be, and anything that requires intensity is hard to maintain.
Contentment, on the other hand, can last for a while without much effort.
Maybe there's a happiness scale, one that begins with contentment, travels through happiness, and ends up with bliss.
Perhaps if balance, order, rhythm and harmony are your baseline maybe bliss is closer than we think.  Get out your thesaurus and let's chart a course.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

"Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness."-- George Bernard Shaw

Yeah, right.
George sure takes the fun out of happiness, doesn't he?  He'd rather be great than happy, I guess.
"Just do what must be done" he says.
The dishes "must be done", but I know that ticker tape parades and paparazzi are not going to be my lot when I finish tidying up the kitchen.
Indeed, greatness has eluded me so far, and I've done a lot of "what must be done."
I even had a life coach who said to me: "Kris, life is not an endurance contest".  Doing "what must be done", day after day, in order to be great sounds like an endurance contest to me, and I don't see it as an effective route to  happiness either.
I must be missing his point.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

We can be stubborn in our unhappiness. It's almost like we've decided that our unhappiness must follow certain rules and timetables.
If we've been slighted, if we've been hurt, if we've had an argument with someone, if we wake up in the wrong side of the bed, etc. etc. we cling to our negative emotions; and we often use them to punish someone else.
"I'm not speaking to him until he apologizes.  Oh, what he just said was really funny, but I'm not going to laugh.  I won't even smile.  I'll show him."
We've even been taught that unhappiness is a sign of respect.
For example, many cultures organize mourning.  There's rules about the time spent, the appropriate clothes to wear, the hair tearing, and the unhappiness that one has to display when someone dies.
We've institutionalized unhappiness, even turned it into a virtue, and the danger of that is twofold:
1. See the R.W.E. quote above
2. We lose our ability to feel what's really going on in our hearts.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

"Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know." Ernest Hemingway

I don't know where we got the idea that being happy was for idiots, but it's out there.
I think it stems from the belief that intelligent people realize that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and happy people just aren't keeping up with the news.
I'm sure that there's a lot to be unhappy about, but I believe it's a blip in the radar compared to all there is to be happy about. You just don't see a lot of happy news because it doesn't make the papers. Why?
Because happiness isn't as dramatic or exciting as war, murder, and rape.  It's dull, dull, dull.
Because it's so commonplace.  You can't sell papers with headlines like "Parents take Children to Playground",  "A Beautiful Baby Was Born Today", "A Young Couple Fell In Love", "A Beautiful Garden is Growing", "A Wonderful Pet Found A Forever Home" .
That's not news.  It happens all the time.
Get it?  Happiness is not news.
Happiness happens all the time.

Monday, August 19, 2013

“Happiness makes up in height for what it lacks in length.” ― Robert Frost

I love this quote.  It so accurately defines happiness.
Contentment, as we realized yesterday, is wonderful.  It's like the cat sleeping in the garden sun: comfortable, safe, and completely at peace. Who could want for more?
Happiness is like the butterfly flitting in and out of sight before it's gone to the neighbor's yard: beautiful, free, light, and ephemeral.
There is an uplifting of the heart in happiness that feels almost scary.  You know you'll come down, but while you're there it's so delightful!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"The world is full of people looking for spectacular happiness while they snub contentment." ~Doug Larson

No snubber of contentment am I, especially on this lovely Sunday.  I'm ready to enjoy the delights of this beautiful day in which happiness is no longer an elusive quarry and contentment is already sitting on my lap enjoining me to go outdoors and carpe diem.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

"If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem." Richard Bach

Ever find yourself saying, "If he (or she) just did (or didn't do) that one thing, I would be happy."
Join the club.
It would be nice if happiness were as easy as getting someone else to change, even though getting someone else to change isn't easy at all.
I know.  I've tried it.
In fact, happiness depends upon just one person, and I'm sure you know who that is: it's the person the three fingers of your hand point at when you point your index finger at someone else.
Do you really want to give the power to be happy over to someone else?
Of course you don't.
Take back your power and decide to be happy no matter what.

Friday, August 16, 2013

"Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn't know you left open."-- John Barrymore

The sudden realization that you are, in fact, happy is a wonderful thing.
It's like a patch of sunshine in a dark woods.  You stop for a while and enjoy the beauty and peace you find there.  You didn't expect to stumble upon this tranquil spot, yet here you are; temporarily out of the woods of stress, confusion, dailiness, tedium, boredom, and all the sturm and drang of modern life.
You know that you can't stay there forever, but you can bask in this experience for a little while before the sun shifts and darkness falls again.
Best of all, you know that unexpected and unreasonable happiness really does exist, and that you'll have more opportunities to find sunshine on a cloudy day again and again whether you're looking for it or not.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

“Hope Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering 'it will be happier'...” ― Alfred Tennyson

Having a bad day?  Got some bad news?  Things going wrong?
It's often hard, and sometimes downright impossible, to be happy in the face of misfortune.
In times like those, it's best to go for hope.
They both start with an "H", and hope is certainly a better choice, energetically, than despair.
Hope is the dream of happiness yet to come, and as the song goes:
"You gotta have a dream
if you don't have a dream
how you gonna have a dream come true?"*

*from "Happy Talk"
 written by Richard Rodgers with lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” ― George Burns

Families are a complex mix of love, hate, annoyance, enjoyment, disappointment, refreshment, surprise and button pushing.  You never know what you're going to get.  The only person you can control in the face of this potential emotional chaos is yourself.
I heard an Aikido master talk about the difference between lightness and softness.
Lightness is like a shirt you put on that's patterned with all the strategies you've learned in order to adapt to whomever you're with.
Families can make you lose your shirt faster than any social entity I know.
Softness is bone-deep.  It's the REAL you.  Learning how to be and remain soft when you're in a challenging situation is the key to social happiness.
How do you do that?
Don't ask me, but if I stumble into a good idea, I'll let you know.

Monday, August 12, 2013

"...Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness."--Thomas Jeffersen

Life is a given, liberty we often have to fight for, but why must we "pursue" happiness?
We all have good reason to be happy. We're alive in a miraculous world full of amazing and wonderful people, things and experiences. Given that, shouldn't happiness be a given too? Yet we struggle towards happiness, pursuing it like greyhounds chasing the ever-elusive rabbit.
What if we just stopped running and simply assume that we are, indeed, happy?
Maybe the idea that we have to chase after happiness is the very thing that keeps happiness at a distance from us.  Maybe we should just stop assuming that our baseline emotion is unhappiness and decide, here and now, that happiness is where we begin and end.
Stop the race, stop the chase, and just be happy.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

"Life is not about making others happy. Life is about sharing your happiness with others."--ANGEL CHERNOFF

The Jimmy Durante song I quoted yesterday, Make Someone Happy, gave me pause.

Too often the attempt to make someone happy involves draining yourself of your own energy and aliveness.  I like the title quote, because it makes it plain that you have to be happy first before you can coax another towards happiness. It's like what they tell you in the airplane before take off:  Put your own gas mask on first before you help someone else with theirs.

You have to HAVE what you're giving before you can truly give it.

If you don't feel happy yourself, you can't make anyone else happy.  They'll feel the drain that they are on your energy and resent your attempts to do whatever you can, whatever it takes, to make them smile. Walk away from the unwilling. They will pull you in their direction faster than you can pull them in yours.

If you want to make someone happy, then daily assess your happiness quotient.  Is it a flickering candle?  Then focus on enlightening yourself before you try to light the way for others.  Is it strong and bright?  Then you'll share your happiness like the sun shares it's light, effortlessly, joyfully and freely.  

Friday, August 9, 2013

"Happiness runs in a circular motion. . ." Donevan

Actually, everything does.
It's called Karma by some, and the biblical metaphor (roughly) is "Cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you seven-fold".  
Just what you would want with a bunch of duck-rejected soggy bread I'll never know, but I digress.
"Make someone happy and you will be happy too!"  sang Jimmy Durante in the movie Sleepless in Seattle.
There's lots of musical claims for this idea, but don't take a songwriter's word for it.  The only way to really discover if it's true is to test it out.  Make a conscious effort to study the effects of your actions on the people around you. When you smile, does the world smile with you? When you cry, do you cry alone? (yet another rough musical paraphrase).
Check it out, report back, and let's see if we can nail this one down.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Happiness is having a scratch for every itch."--Ogden Nash

Is it?  I don't think so.  Having a scratch for every itch means that everything you desire is yours.  That is not the definition of happiness to my mind.  That is the definition of boredom.  Comfortable boredom, yes, but boredom all the same.
Have you ever watched a child on her birthday receive a toy she really, really, really wanted; seen the excitement and the happiness suffuse her face, then an hour or so later hear her say "I don't have anything to do."?
We adults haven't outgrown that.  We love having something to look forward to, we love that unscratched itch.
Having an unfulfilled desire can be an uncomfortable experience, it's true; but at its best it's the beginning of the next exciting journey towards the fulfillment of another wonderful dream.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

"There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will."--Epictetus

Like the past and the future. They are both beyond our ability to change or control.  The past is gone.  The future hasn't happened yet.  Both are outside the workings of our will.
Yet it's so easy to drag the miserable past into a similar present, the ghost of it chilling the heart and destroying our enjoyment of the moment.
Or we worry about what comes next and how this moment might affect our future.
Happiness is a moment to moment thing. Our power, our will, only exists in this moment.
This moment.
Ignore the past.
Disregard the future.
Choose to be happy now.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Keep Thinking About Pollyanna."--Richard Diebenkorn

Yesterday we talked about the tyranny of the mind.  Keeping the mind in line is the first step on the way to unreasonable happiness.
Maintaining an optimistic framework is one of the ways we do this, especially when we're starting something new.
Beginning anything requires optimism. You won't begin anything if you don't feel like you'll further yourself in the process. This idea is captured perfectly in the title of this blog, which is artist Richard Diebenkorn's 8th rule in his "Notes to myself on beginning a painting."
Pollyanna is the goddess of optimism.  She looked at every person and situation in the best possible light. She didn't let negativity enter her mind.  She expected the best, and was never disappointed.
Optimism keeps your mind open to possibilities. Optimism keeps your heart open too.  These are the essential ingredients for feelings of well-being, and states of unreasonable happiness.

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Tyranny of the Mind

My Tai Chi teacher tells me the mind's job is to evaluate.  It can't seem to stop weighing and measuring just about everything.  This is where "judgement" comes in.  Good/bad, black/white, friend/enemy.
Discernment is another kettle of fish.  This is where we evaluate what works for us and what doesn't.  No judgement, just practical analysis.
In my ongoing search for what happiness means to me, I realized that I had to put my mind to work on discerning without evaluating.
My mind would say: "Housework=Bad".
But it felt good to get the place clean.  It added to my sense of well-being.
"Well, then", says my ever-changing mind: "Housework=GOOD".
No.  It depends.  If it feels good at the time it's good.
I decided to use that measure to discern what actions contribute to my feelings of well-being.
I realize I'm still using what I do as a way of analyzing how I feel, but it's early days in my search to find the path of unreasonable happiness. I'm still looking for the meaning of the word; but it's a place to start, and I'm glad I've begun.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

What the Heck is Happiness?

I'm going to find out.

I know there's a lot of things that create feelings that I call "happiness", but the elusive, unreasonable happiness is what I'm looking for. Perhaps I'll find a clue in exploring the commonality within the experiences that I identify as "making me happy." So let's see. Today, so far, what has made me happy was enjoying my morning cup of joe brought to me by my husband, the two of us wrestling with the Time's Crossword--and pinning that sucker to the ground, the happy good morning from my little dog, and breakfast made by my daughter.

If I didn't have these things, would I still feel happy?

Don't know. It's something to ponder. In the meantime, I leave you with the Google definition:
  1. happiness  

    Web definitions
    state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

    Feelings of well being.  That's common to all the things I've identified so far.  It's a start.

Saturday, August 3, 2013