The Importance of “Happy” and paying attention

One of the coolest projects I’ve seen in awhile is Joel Robison’s “Feel Good Friday” webseries. Once a week he shares “ways to feel better about ourselves and the world around us”. These videos are light-hearted and beautiful. They range from “Tips for Feeling Better” to simply affirming that “You can do it!“.

There’s one where he discusses the importance of having a happy place. Not just somewhere you can wander off to in your head but a physical location that you can go to. He says “[happy places] help us clear our minds, they give us positive energy, and they give us a place to go that’s really just essentially a place to feel happier”.

I wanted to contribute by saying that paying attention to what makes you happy is important. Physical happy places give you an anchor if you’re feeling blue. You can visit them and take time to relax. They offer a way to unwind and find your inner happiness.

The Dalai Lama stressed the importance of cultivating that which causes happiness and to refrain from that which causes suffering. This advice seems apparent but most of us don’t live that way. We stay in our stressful patterns and, through ignorance, continue the cycle of our unhappiness.

Becoming aware of physical places that help you “clear your mind” and “give positive energy” is important. It’s one step towards becoming more conscious of ways to improve your life. Paying attention to the way you respond to other things are beneficial.

For example, I’m guilty of listening to really sad music. In fact, if you look at my library, you’ll find that my ‘most played’ songs are about horrible breakups and unrequited love (…and look at my love life…). When I open Spotify, these are the songs I immediately go for. Not because they’re sad but because, for some reason, they’re the ones that I life.

Now, if I pay attention to how this music impacts me, I can see that I probably should listen to it. I’ll go from a neutral mood to an unhappy one. My mind becomes chaotic and caught up in previous relationships and memories. This isn’t the case for everyone but the point is, I can see how the music impacts me. I have the opportunity to change that behavior. It takes a lot of consciousness but I can remove one element that brings suffering to my life.

On the opposite note, there are excellent bands which make me joyous and dance around my room. I love listening to them and I walk away from the experience feeling elated. Why don’t I always choose to listen to that music? It’s a “happy place” for me. Instead, I wallow to the sad music.

This is the opportunity to grow! You can learn to pay attention and notice what causes suffering and happiness in your life. Find places that you can go to relax and let loose. Those places are important. Realize that there are many things in life that will help lift you up, you just have to be conscious enough to know what they are.

I can’t give an answer on what your happy is. That’s something you have to find yourself. Really feel and take it in. Find ways to lift yourself up and pay attention to that which brings you down. You know where to go from there! 🙂 Hope you all have a wonderful Friday!

BLOGtober day twenty nine!

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The Meaning of Life

It’s late, so today’s post is going to be briefer than usual.

After work, there was a guy sitting outside of his dorm room a few doors down from mine. We met a few weeks ago during a fire drill. Everyone in the dorms evacuated downstairs and while we were waiting, I introduced myself. He was reading a book by Deepak Chopra and seemed like an interesting guy.

Our conversation cut off after the fire alarms stopped ringing and we didn’t get to really have a deep conversation. Over the last couple weeks we’ve walk passed each other and exchanged head nods and hellos.

Well, when I got off today, he was sitting outside writing in a book. I awkwardly said hello and asked him to if he wanted to talk. I didn’t know what about but I don’t meet many people who read. I walked into my room and changed quickly. When I walked back out, I sat on the ground next to him and we started talking about books.

The conversation delved quickly into the meaning of life. He talked about how our purpose in life is to pursue happiness. Ultimately the desire to be happy. An interesting, if not cliché, idea. I was more than okay to discuss this with him. I’ve read enough Buddhist books to feel equipped for this kind of conversation.

He went on about happiness was the meaning of life. I played devil’s advocate and asked him if sadness was the opposite of this goal. Is the point of life to avoid sadness? He disagreed, then continued on about happiness. I asked him if he was happy. “No”. Then I asked him why not.

His answer started to fade out in my head. He started labeling the reasons he wasn’t happy. As if there was this resistance around him that prevented him from achieving happiness. I’m not saying this to invalidate his logic or beliefs but rather to discuss my reaction to it.

He brought up what’s going on in his life, what he’s doing, how he’s pursuing happiness but it just faded in my head. All I could think was how he wasn’t choosing happiness. There was no resistance. It was just him. Nothing in his life was preventing his happiness, only he was.

When I told him that, he said that maybe he wasn’t ready for happiness. Everything within me rumbled. He was pursuing happiness by trying to understand it. He wanted to know what it was, how it got there, and why he should feel it. Yet, the purpose of life, in his head, is to have happiness. He couldn’t have happiness until he understood it.

I asked him if he needed to understand happiness to have happiness. He said no, but he just wants to understand why he’s so resistant to it. Why this and why that. There were so many questions that were getting in the way. Big fancy questions about life that ultimately served no purpose.

These questions used to drive me mad. I wanted to know. Deeply within my being, I wanted to understand happiness and why people feel happy or sad. The questions would feel like a weight on my shoulder. I could only have what I understood emotionally. If I didn’t know what happiness was exactly, how would I know if I had it.

Over time, I’ve realized that these questions, while they seem important, often aren’t. There’s no way I could calm his mind and say “be happy”. He has to find that himself. He’ll pursue understanding of many things – and that’s alright. Maybe he’ll find happiness in a way that I haven’t.

I bring this up because I learned a lot about myself today. He felt like a reflection. I resisted happiness and wanted to understand it. I wanted to know things which are ultimately unimportant. Why my relationships have failed, why I’ve chosen this life path working in the military, what am I going to do to be happy when I finished my contract.

These questions are distractions from happiness. Seeing him fumble through these questions made me realize how much I’ve been focusing on removing obstacles from my happiness. The only block in my path is me. I’m the one who distracting myself and blaming circumstance for my unhappiness.

It seems so simple now. There’s no way I could properly communicate my understanding of this. I tried to explain it to him. Understanding doesn’t always equal happiness. Knowing how to be happy doesn’t make you happy. (As I shout this last sentence at my bookcases filled with self-help guides).

While these are noble pursuits, they don’t bring you what you want. In fact, there’s nothing out there that you don’t already have within yourself. If you want happiness, then take it in. Really appreciate it when you have it.

I don’t think the purpose of life is to seek happiness. I think seeking happiness leads to unhappiness. The purpose of life seems to be to experience life to the fullest. Feel every emotion as deep as it is. That means happiness, sadness, anger, bitterness, bliss, and the wide variety of emotions that you feel on a daily basis. Really take them in. Experience them.

When you walk, feel your feet hitting the floor. When you eat, really taste the food. When you lay in bed, really sink in and feel it. That is my current view on life. Not to say it’s right or wrong but it’s what I’ve learned thus far. Talking to my neighbor today really highlighted that belief. You can choose to take everything and experience it… or you can try to understand it and examine it at every angle. Neither is better than the other. Life is just life.

Anyways, this post is becoming longer than I anticipated and much more existential than it needs to be. It’s almost 0300. I need to hit the hay.

If I haven’t said it enough already, go check out my cousin Tabby’s blog. She’s writing everyday for the month of BLOGtober. AND… AND… she just redesigned her blog. Go give it a looksey through this LINK. Today she wrote an update about living at home while her husband is deployed. It’s worth a read. Her deployment series is interesting – since I haven’t experienced it yet, I enjoy reading her perspectives on it.

Happy day five of BLOGtober!

 

Life is in the Mundane Moments

There’s this promise I keep making myself. Every few months it comes back and I remember. Deep down I always want to write more. Creating content is a huge passion of mine and, on days where I’m digging for ideas, I go back through old photos or blog posts. When I see old faces of friends I had and the places I’ve been, I always wish that I had written more or taken more pictures.

In fact, there’s a greater promise that I make when I see older pictures: I want to make an effort to live more, to feel more alive, and to appreciate what I have. When I look back, those seem to be the traits that I lack. Why wasn’t I happier? What kept me from taking those opportunities? Why didn’t I appreciate what the people around me?

There’s something that has to be realized from this though. Each time I make that commitment to foster those traits, I put it off into the future. I say “I’ll be more alive when I’m out with friends or when I’m doing something”. “When something exciting happens, I’ll take it all in and be appreciative of it”.

Well, that’s the problem there: I’m waiting for an exhilarating experience before I appreciate what I have. Rather than enjoying mundane day-to-day life, I’m waiting for a huge moment. Like having a wonderful night with friends or exploring the town. I’m craving more, more, more.

In retrospect, those huge moments were great. Last month I got to meet an amazing group of photographers, I definitely won’t forget that. Even bigger than that, I got to live for another month. Each day I got out of bed and went to work. I pushed myself and blogged. The days were not distinct; they mesh together into one giant experience. I cannot differentiate last Tuesday from last Sunday.

However, I will miss last those days more than any of the big moments. Laying in bed for a few extra minutes, walking to work, things like wearing sweatshirts because the temperature is dropping.

These moments don’t happen overnight. They creep up and slowly encompass your life. Going to night shift is a total lifestyle change but you don’t really notice it. It happens with time. One day I will look back and see the significance of it but at the moment I can’t see it. It’s too mundane.

Meeting new people is the same way: it doesn’t feel significant. Hanging around your best friend each day doesn’t feel special – it’s just how life is. Then, with time, it changes. In years you’ll back at the friendship and see its value. But, for the moment, you’re too close to it. It’s all happening in front of your eyes.

See, life is happening around you. Each day, you’re making memories. They may not be distinct but you’ll remember them one day. You’ll look back and miss waking up and getting ready for work in ten minutes flat.

That promise I made to feel more alive, to live more, and to really appreciate what I have – that starts now. It begins with having an appreciation for what I have. If that’s sleepless nights, cold mornings, and long days, then I have to accept it for what it is. I can’t wait for spectacular moments; that’s not where life is.

Our experiences are built over time. Friendships don’t happen overnight and books aren’t written in one week. You can only walk forward one step at a time. Rather than saying you’ll feel more alive in the future, and disregarding how you feel now, you should enjoy the mundane. Life isn’t in one-of-a-kind experience, it’s in the day-to-day. Find that and you’ll find yourself.

356/365

Social Media Dream

I want a blank space where all my friends are at. A website that is completely customizable, like a blog. You can create the layout and set it up in a way that displays your content beautifully. If you don’t want to spend time designing a layout, there should be a stock design that is simple.

This site should be social – meaning that unlike blogs, these pages should be interconnected. Blogs tend to be islands that don’t connect unless their authors write about one another. On this site, the user has a homepage, which will display an overview of what’s going on that day.

On Facebook, there’s a tendency to log on and only scroll through the Newsfeed. This site will have a general overview of the people you follow. Maybe one page with 20 posts on it per day. You’ll mark your closest 15 friends that you interact with and their content will display on this homepage. This page will have a layout similar to a newspaper, where you’ll have columns and the scrolling won’t be up/down.

You’ll be able to read yesterday’s newspaper-styled homepage and to continue back for one week. The homepage will be incredibly customizable where you can turn on/off images or memes. You can opt out of connected websites like Twitter or Instagram if you don’t want to see that content.

Artist should be able to showcase their content in the highest quality possible. If you’re a photographer, you should be able to post your images in 350 dpi. If you produce music, you should have the ability to share your music in 320kbps. We want to focus on users uploading their own content, so they should be able to post easily.

There will be no way to “favorite” or “like” a post. The only interaction will be through text based comments, with rudimentary HTML enabled. This means you can hyperlink within your messages or boldface certain text.

The site will have ads to keep the servers running. If a member wishes to disable the ads, they can choose to pay a cheap yearly membership which will cover the cost for them to use the site. We will not sell their personal information or any information that they share on the website. The idea is to have a free space where people can interact without the worry that their information would be used against them.

The site will be adjusted minimally with the intent of creating an open environment where the users can be social. After all, the purpose of social media is to be social.

There are ten thousand different ways we could improve social media. It’s imperfect and will always be changing. However, there are a few things which should never change:
-users should maintain control over their content.
-their privacy should be secure

I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. What do you think?

247/365

 

Now.

You know how when you dream you only experience the important details. Think about it for a moment. Do you ever remember walking out to the car, step by step? Or how about unlocking a door and setting your things down after a long day at work? When we dream, we tend to skip the menial tasks. Sure, we take a few steps towards the car but then we skip all the way to opening the car door and so on. Those moments are forgettable anyways. You’ve walked here to there 10,000 times in your lifetime, why would you waste a thought on it.

In fact, we do the same thing in our waking life. We go into a zombie mode when we’re doing simple tasks. There’s no use in being aware of every step we take. You’ve been walking your entire life anyways and you’ll be doing it until you’re dead.

But these moments are the most important. After a long day at work, you walk out to your balcony and lean against the edge. You take a deep breath in and sigh. You see the world in front of you but you’re not living it, you’re not taking it in. That beautiful fucking world is in your eyes. It’s staring at you. But you let it slip away. These moments aren’t worth remembering anyways.

A year later you’ll look back. It was leaning against that balcony that characterized your life. After working a shitty job and coming home in an equally shitty mood, you could let go. It was your relief. That stupid railing where you’d kick your feet and think about how you’d have to go back to work the next day. How you’d imagine a day when you could come home happy.

It’s not the grand moments that make your life. You’ll never find meaning winning the lottery or getting that promotion. You can keep fantasizing though. The true moments, the ones that you’ll look back on and long to relive, are the moments that you forget. They are walking out to your car in the crisp but way-too-fucking-cold mornings or commuting to work. Yes you always got stuck in traffic and you were always 1 minute from being late to work but you always got there. You always made it through.

Remember that when we dream, we skip these details. There isn’t any purpose to them. Why walk when you could just teleport to wherever you want to go. We want life to be in the great moments, Friday night when you go downtown or taking a vacation, but that’s not where life is.

Where it is is right here. It’s right in your goddamn face. It’s you reading these words sitting on your chair/bed/couch. The soundtrack to your life is what you hear right now. It’s the sound of a noisy air conditioning unit or neighbors who never seem to sleep. It’s not a carefully composed symphony. It is what you hear now and it’s happening right in front of you.

I can’t make you to pay attention to it but I want you to know that your life isn’t somewhere in the future. It’s not far away. Nor is it in the past before your horrible life happened. Life is breathing against your nose. It’s pressed its goddamn fingers to your chest and saying “wake up”, “pay attention”, “stop dreaming your life away”.

All you can do is gaze past it. There’s something more interesting over there. You don’t even know where “there” is but it’s definitely not here. It’s definitely not part of your life and you’ll spend your entire life chasing after what you think would make it better. Stop it. Stop making yourself miserable. Stop chasing. Stop searching. It’s right here. It’s right now. Walk to your car. Lean against your balcony. It’s as simple as that. Do everything completely and totally. Don’t let your attention escape. Notice every footstep and breath. Pay attention. Your life is happen now.

Where our Trails Meet

There’s a poem that talks about how we are all marching to our graves, leaving nothing behind us. Our life is like a dream that happens quickly, and is often neglected or forgotten. We spend so much of our lives in our heads that, in retrospect, it looks like years have gone by in minutes. Our sense of time is deluded and with so little of it, we wash most of it down the drain.

Some days I wonder what the purpose of anything is if we’re going to be gone in 100 years. Why live or have a job or work hard or change the world when life will carry on without us? In blogging this extends; why interview a person if they’re going to be interviewed by other people? Why make art if everyone else already is? Why smile at strangers if you’re never going to meet them again? Why help? Why do anything?

These questions have haunted me for years. With so little time it seems that there really isn’t purpose in life other than to live. But why do we live? Why do we carry on? Why do we do anything if we know that it will all end? Every house will crumble, every relationship will end, and every civilization will eventually cease.

I think the reason we do anything is because we crave experience – we crave life at a deep level. We crave the underlying feelings that can only be accomplished with time. There isn’t anything else to do in life other than to live. We want to experience and discover life, so we choose to carry on and take in as much as we can. Life is fleeting, there’s only so much of and there really isn’t anything to do.

However, falling in love creates feelings that extend beyond the relationship and our actions carry on much further than our lifespan. Sure a romance will end but isn’t it better that it happened? While it’s true that everything will end, it’s also true that everything once existed. Love, loss, happiness, grief… they will all end but their effects continue on.

How you treat someone today may dictate how that person treats someone tomorrow and so on so forth. Each person’s actions ripple forward. Martin Luther King Jr.’s actions changed the world – the effects are limitless. There is nothing to measure the impact of his life, there is no way to see what the world would have been like without him.

Similarly every experience that you go through shapes your actions and how you impact the world. Who was the person that inspire MLK Jr. to become an activist? What inspired them? The root is so deep that it is unimaginable.

If nothing else the purpose of life, in my eyes, is to experience. It is to carry on and feel everything that you possible can. Every high, every low, both the bliss and the depression. Life only flows through our veins for, if you’re lucky, 80 years. Maybe you aren’t the whole story, a century isn’t even a sliver of time, but you are part of something more.

You should experience as much as you can and in every way possible. Have a bad relationship then move onto another one. Take your time if you need. Feel heartbroken or happy or sad but don’t stop feeling. Please don’t stop.

After meeting some of the coolest people in my life in these past 18 months, I can say that life is brief. Some of my closest friends are with people I’ve only known in person for less than a month. Although I don’t see them regularly, their effects have rippled through me and changed me. Their impact is so much greater the amount of time that I spent with them.

I can’t promise anyone time, there isn’t anything I can really give. I don’t know how long we’ll know each other or if I’ll still be here in 3 months. Life swirls in odd directions. I can, however, promise that I’ll give you a unique experience, one-of-a-kind, and maybe it’ll carry on through your life. Maybe we’ll be close for a long time, maybe we’ll move in different directions. I don’t know. I guess I’m walking down a path in life and sometimes that means walking alongside someone else, other times, if the trails separates, that means we’ll walk different ways. I don’t know what lies ahead for either of us but as the saying goes, I think “it’s better to have had and lost than to never of had at all”. Who knows? Life is a bizarre thing.

322/365

17/31 Blogtober

Advice and Idleness

Lately I’ve been thinking about life decisions. I find myself reflecting back to when I first arrived here. On the flight between Atlanta and Charleston, I had a long conversation with another passenger. As our conversation ended, I asked for an opinion. I said, “if you could give advice to a younger person, or younger version of yourself, what would you tell them?”. She said:

“…it’s best to keep many opportunities open when you’re younger. Try to keep many possibilities in your life. She also said that even if you’ve gone a long way in your journey, sometimes you find that you’re on the wrong path. It’s okay to restart or go a different direction. […]

The last words roll around in my head, “it’s okay to restart or go a different direction”. She spoke with regret for cornering herself, and although she didn’t specify what it was, I knew that didn’t want to feel the same way.

Those thoughts have returned and I question if I’m taking the right path. Maura O’Halloran gave up her life in Boston to move to a monastery in Japan. She did this back in the 1980s when her only communication with family or friends was through snail mail or brief long-distance calls. I cannot imagine the amount of courage it took for her to leave everything she knew.

David (AWOL) Miller quit his stable job as an engineer to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. The hike is 2,100 miles long and takes between 4-6 months. While this journey happened in 2003, he didn’t carry a cell phone or have regular connection with his family. It was his first major hike and he didn’t know what would happen. He had faith that it was something he wanted to do and that it would bring him happiness.

Robert M. Pirsig took his motorcycle across the country from Minnesota into California in the 1970s. Hunter S. Thompson hitchhiked through South America in the 1950s. Twyla Tharp moved across the country to escape her family and to eventually start choreography. Bryan Benson and his girlfriend rode their bikes between the Midwest and the West Coast. How can I see these figures sacrificing so much for a dream, while I sit here and idle?

Internally I return to the advice I received on the plane… “it’s okay to restart or go a different direction”… Maybe this path wasn’t the correct one. Perhaps now is the only time to change it. I read letters from last year when I had the same thoughts. So is it time to cut the line and change paths?

282/365

P.S. The Danish song “Tomgang” by Shaka Loveless is stuck in my head. Why isn’t this genre popular here?!