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“If you know how to live daily life, it all becomes a liberating experience. But first you have to approach life properly, or it can be very confusing. To begin with, you have to realize that you really only have one choice in this life, and it’s not about your career, whom you want to marry, or whether you want to seek God. People tend to burden themselves with so many choices. But, in the end, you can throw it all away and just make one basic, underlying decision: Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear.” —The Untethered Soul: The journey beyond yourself by Michael A. Singer
Michael Singer reminds in his international bestselling book it is easy to be happy when everything is going well. If the past 15-16 months have taught us anything, this time has taught us each a tremendous amount about ourselves and how we navigate through unwanted events.
Why? Because, to state the obvious, things were not going well, or as planned or as expected or desired, or [fill in the blank for how it shifted your plans moving forward on that life changing day in March 2020]. The question is, how did you navigate through that time? If you were able to find something to savor, something invaluable regarding a life lesson, or a deeper awareness about yourself or the greater world, you demonstrated that you indeed chose to be happy, to respond to the singular choice Singer presented in the quote above – Do you want to be happy?
However, if you saw only negative, if you still cannot find a benefit, a positive, an aha to enrich the days you lived during that time, you still have work to do on the path to living a life of contentment, to use the title of today’s post, to create a Happy Place. But I have good news, today’s post will help you do just that. And if you, as I know many TSLL readers did, find the good amongst the pain and loss, then today’s post will be a great refresher, a strengthening of what will ensure each day, you can live in your Happy Place.
Today’s post is the final post of a four-part series inspired by this time we find ourselves in the collective history of the global pandemic. Transitioning.
- The Importance of Minding Everyday Transitions (and 4 Ways to Create Healthy Ones)
- How to Transition into a Better (more fulfilling) ‘Normal’
- How to Step into Your Fullest True Self , the Way of Integrity as taught by Martha Beck, episode #307
In my own journey, simply observing the culture around me and the cultures I long to visit, signs of positive progress are occurring: from my local grocer permitting vaccinated shoppers to no longer wear a mask, France opening itself to foreign travelers on a color-coded bases with the proof of vaccination and negative testing, to enjoying our first and only whole staff gathering in a large open place without masks.
Gradually, improvements of everyday life are seen and experienced. An exuberance permeates through seemingly each face-to-face interaction that had previously required a mask. Even in the fashion industry, Justine De Young, a professor of art and fashion history at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan shares, “Post-calamity, there’s often a turn to a celebration of exuberance. Deprivation and loss pushes you to want to celebrate life.” So why wouldn’t we want to create a happy place?
While the focus of today’s post is not solely on sartorial choices, it doesn’t exclude them. For more than one year, we have had this everyday choice largely, if not entirely removed from our lives. How did it feel to not express yourself with what you wore? How did it feel to slip back into your clothes that you thought you loved or were told you had to wear?
While many trends have presented themselves, very few are lasting longer than the blink of an eye, because, to put it bluntly, we don’t want to follow the ‘should’s anymore. We each became acutely aware of our own mortality and those we love and dressing to fit in seems a waste of energy, a waste of something better used to live a more fulfilling life. Applicable to more than just our fashion choices, most significantly, our life choices received much more reflection, and at the core, the question guiding you through finding your answer likely had something to do with your happiness, or in the context Singer presents, I equate the question to, Are you content? Have you found what makes you feel full of true contentment? And if your answer is no, what is standing in your way that is within your power to change?
Before you immediately say, I have taken control over everything in my power, but I am still not content, look more closely, and be willing to while taking action, be patient as the path unfolds.
Below I would like to share with you ideas shared in The Untethered Soul to help you navigate to your Happy Place. Beginning with what to let go of and then moving on to what to do or How to Do It, let’s take a look at the two lists.
Let go of . . .
. . . wanting life to be a melodrama.
Singer explains, in order to let go of melodrama you have to let go of the part you’ve been conditioned to believe is true regarding ‘thinking there’s a reason not to be happy’. In other words, make the moments you are given into something that work well for your journey – whether it be a lesson to grow, a deepening awareness of what needs or can be improved, to strengthen our courage, or even to free us to celebrate fully the awesomeness that is our life – simply being alive.
. . . qualifying what must happen in order to be happy.
“Any condition you create will limit your happiness.” Enlightenment arrives in our lives when we don’t place conditions on what it means to be happy. So the life path you had mapped out for yourself (or your family or your community had mapped out) isn’t happening no matter how hard you try to force it into being (or maybe it is materializing but you are miserable), what are you to do? Let go and seek what makes you happy. Now, immediately, some may argue this is selfish thinking, but the truth is happy people, to use the term used on TSLL, contented people are not miserable people. Quite the contrary, they are at peace, and what guides them to that peace is not following what others advise if it doesn’t align with what they innately know to be true about themselves. In other words, know thyself, listen and then courageously journey toward what piques your curiosity.
When we let go of trying to strangle life, we not only free ourselves, we free others as well, and more peace is able to be experienced.
. . . conditioning your happiness on what other people do – their behavior
Discussed in-depth in episode #301, The Courage to Be Disliked is a book that would be a wonderful companion to The Untethered Soul. The concept of tasks – those that are ours and those that are others reveals when we tend to our tasks, activities, choices we have control over, we can make the changes to live a more fulfilling life; however, when we tend to others’ tasks, we hinder our ability to experience contentment in our own lives. Why? Because we have no control over other people, in so much that even if someone did as we wanted, if it not what they wish or desire, our happiness is conditioned on someone else’s unhappiness.
Instead, live a life that has the potential to inspire others, but pay no mind to wondering what they do with the inspiration. It doesn’t matter. What matters is tending to your own contentment, doing the homework to better understand yourself, and rather than having expectations, celebrate when magical moments occur. To do so can only come when we keep an open mind . . . which leads me to the next list . . .
How to be content in every day of your life?
1.Keep an open-mind
Let go of expectations. Let go of ticking every box. Let go of trying to impress others. Let go of prescriptive thinking. Embrace critical thinking and delight in what each day brings when you put yourself in the moment fully.
2. Keep a disciplined mind
It will be human nature, or should I say, conditioned nature, for the mind to fall back into its unhealthy patterns and ruts. To complain, to refrain from sharing glee, to assume the negative, to worry, to defend, to be contentious. Strengthen your mind to be able to notice when you revert to your old ways, bring it back to remaining open-minded, and if you need to improve this skill (we can all learn it), step up your meditation game.
3. Remain present and consciously aware at all times
In January I shared a post titled Awareness + Being Present = Deep Contentment and Peace of Mind, which shares an abundance of specific strategies and ideas for remaining present and the benefits to your everyday life. The ability to remain present wherever we are – to choose to not be staring at our phone but to instead fully listen, when we are on our own, to take the world around in through each of our senses, to appreciate the moment we find ourselves, find something that is going well, and revel in the gift – is the practice of remaining open-minded. The more often we are present, the easier it is to be open-minded, and the more often we practice and experience both, not only is it easier to do, but it becomes a healthy habit because we see the benefits in the quality of our days, our experiences and our interactions.
4. Learn to be joyful
A couple of years ago, episode #162 focused on the shifting of our awareness to what lies within us rather than what is just out of our reach. As Americans, its citizens have unconsciously been acclimated to the normalization of pursuing something we don’t quite have yet, instead of realizing we have all that we need to be full of joy, full of contentment.
Experiencing joy can happen at any moment, any day of your life because all of the ingredients exist within you – “no outside ingredients necessary”. As shared in a post in 2013, “Joy, on the other hand, is a pursuit that requires that we dive deep within ourselves. It is something that cannot be taken away and is something that builds like interest once we become better in tune with ourselves as we learn to discover it within our thoughts, being and existence in this world.” Read the full post to read a detailed list of how to learn to be joyful.
5. Choose to enjoy every experience even if it didn’t go as you had hoped
I appreciate Singer’s question when he writes about unwanted experiences, “What good came from letting it ruin your day?” He continues with a handful of everyday examples – one being cut-off in traffic – to more deeply heart-breaking, the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship – and implores, don’t give away your happiness. He isn’t saying to not let yourself feel the sadness that inevitably will rise, but he is saying, shift it so that you are remaining open to seeing something that is positive. The lesson of learning to not take any moment with our loved ones for granted in the case of the heavier unwanted moments to learning better to prioritize and edit our lives so we aren’t rushing and thus projecting our stressful life onto others who have done nothing intentional except drive at their own imperfect pace and imperfect style.
So what will our happy place be? How will you live your ‘happy’ rather than pursuing it? How will you build a life of contentment applying all of the lessons we have each learned about our one and only life and what matters, what is important and what will be let go?
I hope these past four Monday posts – whether in written or, in the case of episode #307, in podcast form – have offered ideas and inspiration for designing a life you love living even more than you may have thought possible just over a year ago. Many historians and economists are calling our current period The Great Reshuffling, and while on the surface, the real estate market may be the topic, it is what prompts people to move that dives much deeper into living lives we truly want to live. From shifting our definition of success, acknowledging what we missed and never want to take for granted again, to daring to dream and courageously stepping toward something we may never have tried pre-pandemic, our lives are meant for living, so why not create a life you love to live each and every day?