It’s been a really rough 9 months. Suffice it to say, I am in the dead center of incredible uncertainty and change. Maybe you are coping with something similar and it’s difficult not to just get stuck and wallow in the misery. Like being sucked in by quicksand. Pick your poison: joblessness, addiction, abandonment, illness, loss. It.Can.Seem.Insurmountable. As I vacillated between vindictiveness, paranoia and helplessness, I decided to look for something to center me. I found a meet up group called “Secrets of the Breath and Happiness.” It was a 75-minute drive, but it was free and on a Sunday.
I signed up and now it has opened a door of enlightenment and profoundly changed my state of mind.
It wasn’t just the one class. The one-hour class taught me how to clear my head. A head that has been a twirling mess of rehearsing vitriolic arguments and should-ing myself into helplessness. I finally had a mind that was at rest, even if it was for just 5 minutes. I was hooked. At the end of class, they mentioned The Happiness Program, which was going to start in about a week and a half. I noodled it over and decided that, for my own sanity, I needed to sign up. Thank goodness I did.
The heart of the program is learning a meditation with very prescribed breathing techniques and timing. I can’t describe it here and I’m not qualified to teach it but I can give you five of the tenets from the program, which are based on the teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and are taught worldwide at The Art of Living.
Five of Sri Sri’s important things to always remember:
- Present moment is inevitable. Seems obvious but how much of your time do you spend anticipating or dreading the future? Or rehashing and reliving the past? It’s like you are carrying along a huge burden and blocking your ability to be present in this moment right now. Instead of listening to the birds chirping or tasting your chicken salad, you start planning your next vacation or your grocery list. Appreciate the moment. Be in the moment. It is inevitable.
- Live in the present. How much of your time do you spend staring at a screen or device to escape the present moment or (God forbid) be bored? Be here right now. Screen time has become, in my opinion, the new smoking. I can remember going to the movies when I lived in New York City and standing in line. At the time, I was a smoker, so my first instinct when I was bored was to light up a cigarette (back when you could smoke anywhere and be able to afford a pack of cigarettes). Walk into any restaurant or bar and everyone is engaged with their device, instead of the people that surround them. Live now.
- Do your 100%. I think about this a lot when I do my daily meditation that I learned in The Happiness Program. I remember our teacher Ravi saying, “Are you giving 100%?” I think about that when I start to get sloppy with the practice. I think about the Gallup statistics that only about 35% of employees are actively engaged at work. So they are giving 100% when they show up for work. But what about the others? Think about how much better everything would be if we all gave 100%. Do your 100%.
- Don’t see intentions in other people’s mistakes. Boy did this hit home. This was the basis of all my paranoia. I also think about Brene Browns assertion: “What if they are just doing their best?” It helps me keep a compassionate space for those who have injured me or not. I can remember trying to hit a baseball as a kid. I swung and swung and swung. I never hit a ball. Ever. I was not trying to miss the ball. I had every intention of hitting it. I was trying my best. So is everyone else.
- Opposite values are complimentary – every hardship makes you a better and stronger person. This seems counter-intuitive. If you think about it, every struggle has a gift. It’s teaching you something. In my case, I know a lot more about electrical, plumbing and flooring than I ever did before my home was flooded. Heck, I know a lot about FEMA, SBA, insurance and mortgages. I also know that I am so much more resilient and wiser than I had been giving myself credit for. I also have a lot more support than I ever realized and it’s OK to ask for help. It’s a four letter word but there are so many generous people out there. It’s all here to teach us something.
I highly recommend the course. I am now into my 14th day of using the meditation and I am feeling more optimistic, more equilibrium and, slowly but surely, letting go of my resentment and anger towards others. Which of these resonates for you?