Putting the "happy" in the New Year
LETS TALK with Paul Beckow
Goldstream Gazette, January 2010
My sense is that being happy is a skill. Many don’t see it that way. Many see it like if good things are happening or have happened in life then generally we're happy. If not-so-good things are happening in life then of course we're not happy. In this view being happy in the coming year depends on circumstances, the things that happen in your life, or your personal luck.
I dont see it that way. I consider being happy a real skill that we bring to life - a very clear practice that calls for life-long commitment and attention.
What is the practice that will put the happy in the Happy New Year ?
The foundation for happiness begins with the willingness to be cause of our UN-happiness - the dissatisfaction or distress that can appear, from time to time, in our lives.
And I don’t mean that we are to blame or at fault here.
This is a new view. In this view we consider that if we’re unhappy it’s something we’re doing, or something we are not doing. ( not something life is doing )
For many this is a huge leap. Yet, if taken, it is a leap that puts us in the driver’s seat, places our hands on the steering wheel on the road to caring for our own personal well being.
Want a Happy New Year – all year? Begin by considering your happiness is not necessarily caused by the specific conditions or events in your life.
OK. If our circumstances, the events of our life, are not the source of our happiness or unhappiness, then what is?
Look for your self and see. What creates your experience of your life? It certainly looks like it is the things that happen in your life.
Look closer. And you will see your experience of happiness, or unhappiness, is a function of - your talk to yourself – your thoughts, the ongoing chatter that is going on in your head. Your feelings are directly hooked up to what we are saying to ourselves.
And have you noticed, we are talking to ourselves all the time ! We have opinions about almost everything.
Further consider, we believe most everything we say to ourselves.
So it is not our thoughts, but our belief or our attachment to our thoughts that is the mischief maker. Somehow we consider, if we think it, it must be true. We can be very identified with, lost, in our unquestioned thoughts.
And just what is the nature of much of this chattering that goes off inside our head? Much of it is judging, wanting, evaluating, resisting, justifying, blaming. Problems, Problems, problems to solve. We consistently have thoughts about what’s wrong with “how things are,” and “shouldn’t be”. If you watch this chatter, we see it’s producing an ongoing quarrel with reality much of the time. Reactions. Reactions to what is - “ Something’s wrong here!”
Byron Katie, in her best selling book “Loving what is” reminds us: “When we quarrel with reality we suffer” – “But” she adds, “only 100% of the time!”
Many teachers say that our natural state is happiness, satisfaction, curiosity, wholeness. Then as we get inducted into life, we begin to do the “adult-striving, what have you accomplished today, and looking-good thing”. We come to be experts at unhappiness. Nothing really seems to be good enough. Happiness is now “someday… when… I…” ( always in the future )
Have you noticed that in all this chatter we have lost touch with REAL life.
I have a teacher in this matter - my two year old grand-daughter Ava. I love being around Ava. Talk about enthusiastic ! It’s outrageous. She’s so enthusiastic she lights up our entire street! Open. Wide eyed. Playful. Totally engaged in each moment of life. Just there to play. As soon as she hits the door…. “Granpa !” “Granma”
Oh sure there are times she’s unhappy. She bumps her head on the chair leg, she cries. Mom leaves for the store and there’s tears. She wants her bottle and its not there. But it’s over and over quickly. Ava has her upset, it’s done and she’s right back into her life again.
Well, Ava doesn’t make up stories. ( Yet ) She’s doesn’t say to herself, “I knew chairs couldn’t be trusted”. Or “It’s not fair. Mom always leaves for the store”. Notice as adults we make up lots of stories we keep telling ourselves.
Ava’s not busy with unhappy stories. She’s busy and totally engaged, with real life here and now – the only place real life is found.
I think it is this unqualified participation, this “yes” to life, that creates her joy and happiness.
We sure can learn a lot from such a young one !
Paul Beckow is an individual, couple and family marriage therapist in the West Shore and can be reached at email@example.com or Paul Beckow Counselling 250 721 2477.
For personal or couple counselling, for more information, or to register for a course - please contact Paul Beckow at The Victoria Family Institute.