I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Happiness and the mind

Lake Padden in sunshine and mist
This time of year, it's so easy to find beauty all around me. It makes me feel good to walk around Lake Padden at any time of the year, but when the brilliant colors begin to come out in the trees and bushes around the lake, I find that just being outdoors in the clear, crisp air makes me happy.

That made me wonder: is happiness a trick of the mind, or is it inherent in all situations? I know when I am feeling happy, the whole world looks better. There is plenty of research on positive psychology, and I find that most of what I've read assures me that it's possible to be happy by simply training my mind. My yoga practice teaches me that "A stable mind is like the hub of a wheel. The world may spin around you, but the mind is steady (BKS Iyengar)." And a quote from that link:
It’s well-documented that negative emotions like anger, anxiety, and sadness can impact our health in negative ways, such as triggering our stress response and contributing to chronic stress, making us more susceptible to disease. But Positive Psychology research has now found that positive emotions can aid health by undoing the physical reactivity that can lead to these problems.
Well, the world has certainly been spinning lately, and I am constantly trying to find my own equilibrium in the turbulent political atmosphere, both here and abroad. I've tried staying away from the news, but that doesn't make me feel any happier, just less informed. So, I'm busy trying to make sense of it all, with the help of my daily routine and activities.

When I am getting ready for a good night's sleep, which always makes me feel better, I have found that not eating too late always helps me get a better night's sleep. After climbing into bed and opening up my Kindle, I read for a few minutes from Light on Life by BKS Iyengar, which I was introduced to during one of my yoga classes. We usually receive a short lesson from the instructor before we begin the asana practice, and I was intrigued enough by this book to download a copy. It's not the sort of thing that grabs you and makes you want to read ahead, so it's perfect for giving me something positive to focus on before I drift into slumber.

Last night I read about the five qualities of mind. They include a dull state, a distracted monkey mind, an alternating or oscillating mind, a single-pointed attentive mind, and finally the the timeless state of absorption called "samadhi." I have experienced all of these except samadhi. Maybe one day I'll experience it, but I have certainly felt the monkey mind state, which certainly keeps me from feeling much happiness. When I'm in that state, I know that if I stop trying to figure everything out and lead my mind to focus on just one thing, like gratitude, reminding myself about what is positive in my life right at the moment, I begin to feel better.

Everyone has much to be grateful for, no matter what your situation might be. Well, most of us, anyway. I just flashed on what it must be like to live in a war zone. Could I find happiness there? Years ago I read Viktor Frankl's book, Man's Search for Meaning, about his experiences in a Nazi death camp. There are scenes from that book that stay with me. He was able to find purpose and meaning during those years, and several times he found real joy and love in such circumstances. Yes, it's possible to find happiness even there. He not only survived, but he has helped many others find our own way to a better life.
With every experience, you alone are painting your own canvas, thought by thought, choice by choice. —Oprah
As I sit here with my laptop perched on my knees, here in the dark, with only the light from the screen illuminating the room, I look around me at what many aspects of my present situation make me feel grateful. First and foremost, it's my dear partner sleeping next to me, making little puffy sounds as he breathes. He's so accustomed to the sounds of my tapping on the keys that it probably makes him feel safe as he subliminally hears it. Looking to the window, I notice it's dark outside, since we are losing more than three minutes of daylight as we move towards the solstice in just a few short months, and I look forward to the march of the seasons. Autumn is my favorite season, although I'm not quite sure why.

Another thing that gives me so much gratitude is the fact that I am not alone in my world. Not only do I have friends and family to be grateful for, but I also have this electronic community of friends, like you, who give me so much to appreciate. Every day I learn something new from my blogging friends, and there is a fertile interaction between us that gives me much satisfaction. I've been blogging for more than a decade now, and not only has the world changed greatly during that time, so has my community as it has grown and flourished. So much to be grateful for!

Today my friend Judy and I will see the new Renee Zellweger movie Judy. From the reviews, I'm pretty sure it will be enjoyable. Everyone is saying that she's perfect in the role of Judy Garland. And the sun should be shining most of the day, which will also be a nice change from all the rain. My tea got cold before I finished it, but I just swigged the last cold remnant and will now begin my day. I've done my first Sunday duty by writing this post. Then it's off to find happiness in the rest of my day. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.


Linda Reeder said...

I'm catching your post hot of the press this morning, as I woke too early and finally had to move. It's just getting light outside and I see that the fog has formed. I'm hopeful that it will clear in the sky and in my head early in the day. I have a busy day ahead of me. I'll start with a hot shower, breakfast and then get in my exercise routine before doing the final prep for dinner later in the day. Then it's off to the light rail, the March to the Match, and the final regular season Sounders match at the stadium at 1:00. After what we hope will be a victory, we'll scoot home to set up for the Tom and Jan family birthday celebration that we are hosting.
The table is set, the food is organized, and now all we need is the sunshine. Going outside always makes me feel better. It's easier to forget about the world of politics when my roof is the sky and the trees are my walls.

Terra said...

Your post and the photo of the lake are beautiful. I will soon be heading to church this morning. For my bedtime reading I read the Bible, from an edition that makes it simple to read the Bible in one year. My doctor told me to not eat anything after 7 p.m. which is advice I follow, as you mention.

Elephant's Child said...

Gratitude is a gift which keeps on giving isn't it? As is beauty (whether it is only in the eye of the beholder or not).
Sadly I spend to much time in monkey mind, and have to step back and remember that we are human beings, not human doings. Taking time to just 'be' and absorb the moment always helps.
Thank you for yet another thought provoking Sunday post. I hope your week is a joy.

William Kendall said...

Well said!

The lake is beautiful.

Rian said...

"I've tried staying away from the news" - I do this too. It does help for a limited amount of time... but I don't stay away too long. Sometimes I need to get away from the realization that there are so many people out there who apparently look at things so differently that it scares me.
But I do believe in the connection of happiness and the mind. Having just gone through my back problems as well as shingles (luckily a mild case), my mantras this week have been.. "I can do this" and "this too will pass". We create our lives by our choices and our attitudes. And you are right, DJan, we have a lot to be grateful for.

Marie Smith said...

The colours around the lake are gorgeous!

In a dark period of my life I started to keep a gratitude journal, looking at what I had to be grateful for each day. It changed my life really. I live that way now, I don’t have to write it any more.

Red said...

I think we are influenced by many things: heredity, environment, family, friends , society, climate, location. With all these things we have to make decisions. Sometimes it's easy. At other time it's impossible.You bring up some excellent points about our happiness.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I avoid most of the news...I have decided that it is not worth my valuable time to watch such shennigans by news networks...who do you trust for the right news anymore?? Happiness...it is fleeting at the moment...I need LESS stress in my life. After this week things will slow down again, this party for my Mom falls mostly on my shoulders. My siblings will help the day of...but it is a work filled week for me and I am not JOYFUL about it at all. :)

Rita said...

Viktor Frankl's book and others by people like himself who have lived through so much horror and yet reatined their love of life, optimism, and humanity--they are the food for my soul.

I hope you enjoyed the movie. Fall is my favorite time of year, too. :)

Arkansas Patti said...

That picture of the lake is suitable for framing or would make a cool jig saw puzzle.
Know what you mean about the news and keeping a positive mind. Sometimes it is a struggle but I tend to be pollyannish and think the best will happen if we stay positive and vote early and often. Well early anyway:)
Let us know how the movie was.

Galen Pearl said...

You said you have never experienced samadhi, but I bet you have. I think most of us have, although we might not have recognized it as such. We think sometimes that if we experience awakening or enlightenment, that we stay in that state forever. Maybe some people do, like the Buddha, but for most of us, we have what Adyashanti calls enlightened moments.

Miss M said...

I am a never before commenting, but daily (when you're there) reader who always enjoys your interesting posts, up until that eeeek! moment when I find you have inserted me, the reader, right there in bed between you and your beloved. Yikes! I'm outta there. Missed your ending comments. Sorry. Miss Modesty can't help feeling embarrassed.

Lorac said...

We have an election coming up very soon so I cant avoid the news but wish I could! Its interesting to think about ones happiness and how it affects your well being and how you perceive life around you. Good thoughts!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I'm going to look for the book you mentioned--see if it's an e-book from the library. And yes, I, too, read "Man's Search for Meaning" many years ago and it helped form my whole attitude toward life. Looking for the good and being grateful for it and for the ability to find it leads, I think, to a contentment that is much more satisfying than happiness. Peace.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I am less able to post and read posts now as eyes get weaker but I feel okay , just miss my online interactions. Like you I am a blogger for more than 10 years and that means also a great cancer survivor because I stared to blog to help my recovery.
Positivity is very important but it takes lots of reminders when media loves to show all the bad. I just watched Nova on the theory of dinosaurs being wiped out globally. It was a 7 mile meteor that hit our planet and caused it to be destroyed by forces worse than many atomic explosions. .while we fear we are killing the planet we forget the planet is vulnerable to space objects that are capable of massive changes and evolution of our planet seems natural.. We are lucky to live in times when science is so able to search and find new ways to read past events. I am only able to,post comment here. On your other blog I just cannot get it to accept my ID. It says Google user but will not show my name. Might email comment instead.
I once saw Judy’s daughter perform live.
We went to see the Downton Abbey movie, a request from hubby who rarely goes to a movie. We see many live performances. Sunday we were at Allegria now performing in Toronto. It was fun.

gigi-hawaii said...

Sorry I missed this post from last Sunday. There is so much to be grateful for. I always tell myself that you don't have to be in perfect health to reach the age of 73. My cousin is 90 although she suffers from diabetes and arthritis and vertigo. Her husband is 90. A good marriage will make you live longer.