I have no idea how the universe talks to anyone else, yet I know the universe talks to me in triples. When the same idea, concept, person, place or thing comes up in my life three times in a row (in a relaxed yet proximal timeframe) then I need to pay closer attention.
Today I got my “third” hint about something… that something is happiness.
What is happiness? According to dictionary.com happiness is a noun and has two definitions:
1. The quality or state of being happy.
2. Good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.
If we look at the second line it is ripe with Yogic terminology! I love realizing how integral happiness is to Yoga!
Good fortune could be translated to karma – our actions and the effects of our actions. A large part of the yoga practice is spent becoming more aware and mindful of our habit patterns (samskaras) and choices (karma) to understand why we do what we do. Once we understand our unconscious reactions, we can shift to become more skillful in our choices and actions. This cultivates more ease in being. It is not about “luck”, it is about choosing our actions mindfully to co-create the life we want to live.
Pleasure, or kama, is something for us to be conscious of in the sense that clinging to pleasure (raga) is one of the primal causes of suffering (Kleisha). However, it is not pleasure that we seek to reduce or eliminate, it is our attachment or craving for pleasure. Enjoying pleasure when it arises in our experience is Yoga! The key is being able to let it go when it ends.
Contentment (santosha) is one of the 5 niyamas, or internal practices. Here we cultivate an attitude of contentment and satisfaction with what is – who we are, where we are, what we are, and what we are doing. This practice connects us with equanimity – being at peace in any circumstance we find ourselves in. Through this practice we develop the ability to learn from every situation, realizing that everything has the potential to foster our growth. Let’s not confuse contentment with complacency. When things become unhealthy or are no longer serving us, we need to take action (karma) to create the required change in our lives. If I’ve learned anything in my time practicing yoga, there is no coasting waiting for the yoga to happen – it is a constant daily practice and commitment (ie: keep continue)!
Joy (ananda) is the layer of being (kosha) closest to the soul… it is part of our true nature! We can experience joy, however let’s not forget that joy is also our nature – it’s who we are! When we are clear in body-mind it is easier to access the joy sheath. As things are confusing, tiring or foggy (remember fog? Fear, Obligation, Guilt) we can lose our connection to our innate joyfulness. Sometimes I get so serious in my life, that I forget that I AM joy! It happens. The key is to find ways to remember and reconnect with the joy inside of us and around us.
In December we were in Jamaica for a week, and during that time I had the opportunity to read Gretchen Rubin’s “The Happiness Project” (thank you for the suggestion Kat – I loved it <3). It a book about a lady who decides she wants more joy and happiness in her life and creates measurable steps to "achieve her goal" of more happiness in her life. I really enjoyed reading about her adventures and was inspired by her plan. I will not be conducting a full on happiness project at this time, however I did take a few things from her book that I've applied in my own life: 1. Reducing stress ups the happiness factor: This oen really resonates with me. When there are little things undone (dishes in the sink, laundry in baskets all over the second floor, litter box to be cleaned, manuals to be written) each of the things left undone creates a touch of stress in my life... the more stress I carry, the less I am able to see, feel, hear and find the happy in things. In her book she had a "rule" that if it can get done in less than 5 minutes, then just do it. I've implemented this one... plus I love the Nike catch phrase. I also do my best to maintain a good relaxation baseline through my yoga asana, meditation and nidra practices. It is up to me to do the best I can to manage my daily stress levels. The more proficient I become at managing my stress, the more stress I can handle, the happier I am overall, and the happier those around me get to be too. 2. Know what makes me happy: One of the triples that came up this week was people sharing with me how hard it is to make other people happy. I found thing interesting because in our home, it's up to each person to make themselves happy. It's not up to me to make my partner happy, nor is it up to him to make me happy. We are responsible for our own happiness - super important. I gave up long ago trying to make anyone else happy because this has simply never worked for me. I definitely work to be kind, loving, generous, compassionate, understanding, reasonable, and so on... However others are responsible for their own happiness, just as I am responsible for my own happiness. What if you don't know what makes you happy? Then your work is to figure this out - meditate, read, explore, ask, try... do whatever it takes to figure out what connects you to your happiness, joy, contentment and bliss. Even if you try something and it doesn't work, then you know what doesn't make you happy and you are one step closer to figuring out what does. Some of the things that make me happy are seeing my friends/family smile, laughing, movies, yoga (I know, you are all very surprised), good tea, tasty food, playing cards with my family, reading yoga books, watching my cat sleep in the sun, being in my garden (anyone's actually), walking in nature, teaching... I look forward to expanding on this list :) 3. Remember that happiness is my birthright: There was a time in my life where I did not feel that I deserved to be happy. This meant that unconsciously sabotaged my happiness efforts. I had the core belief that I was not good enough (at anything or for anyone) and this deeply planted seed influenced my choice of actions. I would enter into relationships with people who treated me poorly, jobs that were below my skill level, and my language was filled with expressions of "not enough-ness". Over the years (and thanks to amazing family, friends, and yoga) I now realize that with joy being our nature, it is natural to be happy - it is everyone's birthright! It's not about deserving it, not deserving, being good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, yogic enough... it's not about that. It is inherent, natural, and available to all of us - if we can simply allow it to shine forth. I find watching my two god-sons (one is almost 4 and the other almost 6 years old) - they simply are joy, happiness and contentment. For your personal inquiry: What are my ideas around happiness? Do I recognize that I get to be happy? How can I bring more happiness, pleasure, joy and contentment into my life? Wishing you and yours a wonderful, healthy, happy and blessing filled 2012! Enjoy the New Year - fill it with your infinite potential!!! Om Shantih and Prema (universal peace & love), m xo Mona L. Warner, ERYT500 Janati Yoga, RYS500