Winter Peace
Originally uploaded by ancientartizen

This month, Alex Shalman started the Happiness Project. He’s interviewing notable bloggers, asking them all the same wonderful 5 questions. He’s also asked other bloggers to answer the questions on their own blogs. I was taken by the simplicity of the questions and the deep thinking they inspired in me. Here are my answers:

1. How do you define happiness? Happiness is… Hmm. Not the same thing as happy. No, happy is an adjective, it describes something else. Happiness is a noun–it’s a about being. So this is the key, for me. Happiness is rooted in being. Since I can’t “be” anything other than what I am, happiness is merely a full expression of my being. I believe we are all here on the planet with unique fingerprints (physically and spiritually) to make our presence here sing with uniqueness…i.e. happiness? Is happiness the same as uniqueness? No, no. Happiness is the same as being in a state of deep resonance with one’s unique fingerprint. This body that we have, in which we live–it’s a tool. A temple of a tool, to be sure, but still just a tool. The measure of any tool is what you do with it. Happiness is living your life in harmony with your ‘spiritual fingerprint.’

2. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your happiness now, versus when you were a child? Interesting question. I think as a young child I was more enveloped in exploring the world than I am now–which was a happy experience. Learning was so accelerated. Have you watched a baby watching dust particles floating on a stream of sunshine? It’s an amazing time of exploration, finding the boundaries between self and non-self. But then childhood, for me, as for many, was also the time in which I came face to face (heart to heart) with the shock of loss, grief, and fear. Not happy experiences. As an adult I have integrated my experiences (happy and not happy ones) into a place of peace in which happiness grows daily. Therefore, I’d say that on a scale of 1-10, I have moved from a childhood 4 to a mid-life 6. While that might not seem like a big spread, I think each increment is a quantum one. I love my life now, in progress, and I’m optimistic that my happiness quotient continues to grow.

3. What do you do on a daily basis that brings you happiness? (and how consistent is the feeling of happiness throughout your day)? I kiss and hug my kids and my husband, and tell them I love them. I write. I eat healthy, delicious food (healthy yumminess is a kin to happiness). I stretch. On most days I exercise. On “work” days I have the distinct pleasure of serving the health of our planet, one hurting human at a time. My happiness is not absolute; So, if I were to give a number to it, I’d say that I’m aware of inner happiness for about 25-50% of my day. Reflections like this will ultimately help me to increase that percentage of time in which I’m in the happiness “zone.”

4. What things take away from your happiness? What can be done to lessen their impact or remove them from your life? I don’t usually clean the bathroom or vacuum with a feeling of happiness, nor do spats with my husband, tantrums from the kids, or tax time come and go with my happiness intact. To counter the potential loss of connection to happiness, I try to detach (lovingly) from the emotional ups and downs of others, (the trick is to detach from the emotions but not from the person). As far as chores go, I try to change my outlook on them, and to take them lightly. I may not be able to do them joyfully, but I can take them lightly, as if they were as natural and organic a part of my day as breathing. I also can’t ingest much mass media– poverty, cruelty, war, and environmental degradation tends to lodge in my body like a sickness. To counter the latter, I do two things: first, I regularly engage in media fasts. When not fasting, I strictly limit my intake. I can still stay abreast of world events by discussing them with trusted family and friends who are less beaten down by the news, and by limited use of google and other on-line sources; second, equally important to controlling the influx of bad news, I have to seek out good news, and invest in the good things happening in the world. For instance, check out Working Villages International. Their’s is a story of food, economic sustainability, hope and empowerment in the face of poverty, hunger and war. Supporting “good news” projects like this one helps me to lessen the impact of “bad news” on my consciousness.

5. What do you plan on doing in the future that will bring you even more happiness? It is important to increase the time in my day in which I am experiencing happiness, but I think I’m on track with that. This is a long term project to bring my awareness and consciousness into more and more moments in my day. Living by the principles I’ve described–loving my family, taking care of my health (right food, right exercise), doing the “chores” I have to do with a lightness of heart, detaching from roller-coaster emotions of others (maintaining loving connections with them, ideally), limiting how much I “eat” at the feast of depression offered by the mass media, and sharing my energy (monetary or otherwise) with groups that offer feasts of hope and empowerment instead–is a practice. I’m not good at all of them yet, and as I practice, I’ll get better, and as a result, my happiness will expand. The other thing to keep in mind is that not only will happiness expand (fill up more of my day), living by my values (as I’ve described) will also deepen my happiness. In other words, I look forward to an evolving, deepening understanding of the first question: what is happiness?