Happiness Tip: Limit TV time

I should start by mentioning that I love TV. To watch a bit of TV in the evening is a great pleasure for me. But that said, we all feel better and happier when we limit our TV time. That’s because watching TV is incredibly draining and dulling.

To fact check this for yourself, sit down and watch TV when you are feeling really upbeat and full of things you want to do. After you have been watching for an hour, check your state of mind and see if you still feel that energy of potential. For most people, after they’ve been watching TV they feel really dull. Not bad, just uninspired and flat. This is not a happy feeling.

So it’s helpful to be aware of TV’s effect, so you can properly manage your consumption by 1) limiting the amount you watch and 2) properly timing when you do watch. You shouldn’t watch TV before you need to do activities that require inspired energy like school work, art work, writing, etc. Get the work of the day done first, then watch TV once no more “brain power” is required for the day.

© 2013-2021 Sara Weston. Excerpted from the book How to Be Happy NOW…Even if Things Aren’t Going Your Way, available on Amazon.com or Amazon UK,  CAFR , ITES and DEA FREE excerpt of the book is available here.

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Crying other people’s tears (If you’re an empath, read this)

When I moved from my sleepy little cottage in southern Connecticut to New York City, I was filled with excitement! A few weeks earlier, when my spiritual teacher had mentioned that some of us should consider moving into the City, I felt a huge rush of kundalini, and knew it would be a good move for me. I’d never considered moving to the City, with its noise and grime, and enormous population, but inwardly I knew it was right when I felt every one of my cells stand up at the suggestion, and say, “Yes!” 

So, in short order, I found an apartment in Manhattan and packed up my little cottage. As my landlady and I wrapped up the final walk-through, she reached over and hugged me goodbye. She was sad for me to leave, as I was a breath of fresh air from suburban Connecticut life—we were, after all, just a few miles from the town that inspired The Stepford Wives. She was more drawn to the conversations we had about spiritual books and meditation than to the Martha Stewart competitions some of the neighbors engaged in. As she hugged me goodbye, I could literally feel her sadness seep into me, and tears sprouted from my eyes and I began to cry. What was funny is I wasn’t sad to go (at all!), but was crying, while she was sad for me to leave, but was dry-eyed. As soon as I got in my car and turned out of the driveway, I could feel her sadness leave my body, and was again all brightness for the new chapter. I’d been crying her tears.

You might be thinking, well, you can be both sad about leaving a place and happy about a new adventure simultaneously, and that’s true. But that isn’t what happened here. I wasn’t sad at all. It was only when I was in the landlady’s bubble of sadness that I began to feel sad. And then when I left the bubble, I no longer felt sad.

If you’re an empath, you recognize this story. You’ve cried other people’s tears, eaten what others are hungry for, basically lived other people’s emotions a million times, and then, when you get some distance from those people, you watch those feelings disappear. 

Does it need to be said that not all tears arise from feeling other people’s emotions? I, of course, cry when something is sad, and like other seekers, cry at things that are high or are true.

Sara is the author of How to Be Happy NOW…Even if Things Aren’t Going Your Way, available on Amazon.com or Amazon UK,  CAFR , ITES and DE© 2013 Sara Weston. A FREE excerpt of the book is available here.

When you move into a house, push the previous occupants’ energy out

When people live in a house their mind states and patterns get embedded in the house. Since you don’t want to take on other people’s thoughts and patterns (especially if they’re negative, angry, alcoholic, overly hungry, etc.), you need to push the previous occupants’ energy out. To do this, clean the house thoroughly, paint the walls, and either replace or steam clean the carpets. This initial investment of time when you first move in really pays off. You’ll feel better the entire time you live there.

© 2013-2019 Sara Weston. Excerpted from the book How to Be Happy NOW…Even if Things Aren’t Going Your Way, available on Amazon.com or Amazon UK,  CAFR , ITES and DEA FREE excerpt of the book is available here.

Download the How to Be Happy NOW app

Download on the App Store

(Some) Dreams are Real

It’s said in some spiritual communities and books that dreams are real, but I’d never believe something just because I was told it’s true. Instead, here’s how I knew.

I spent the summer before my last semester of college in Baltimore with my boyfriend, who had moved out there for grad school. At the end of the summer, I returned to Austin, ready to finish my degree, when I had a very surprising dream. In the dream I was walking down a sidewalk outside my house, and my boyfriend was in front of me, facing me, and skipping backwards to keep pace. He was distraught and told me he’d slept with his friend Susan, but that it didn’t mean anything. He said they were only friends, that she has a boyfriend, and that neither of them knows why they did it. When I woke up, I had the most alarming feeling that it was really him in the dream and what he said was real. Not one bit of the dream felt surreal or “dreamlike.” 

I flew out to visit him several weeks later, and as soon as I saw him, he blurted out that he’d slept with his friend Susan. And as he continued to explain what happened, he used all the same verbiage as in the dream, “It didn’t mean anything. We’re only friends. She has a boyfriend also….neither of us knows why we did it.” It was absolutely stunning. It confirmed that the dream that had felt so real, was real! And, side benefit, I wasn’t even that disturbed by the confession because I’d already heard it in the dream. Even though my logical mind hadn’t initially believed the dream was real, a deeper part of me understood it was and had already begun to deal with it—that relationship had reached its expiration date and inwardly I’d already started to move on.

Sara is the author of How to Be Happy NOW…Even if Things Aren’t Going Your Way, available on Amazon.com or Amazon UK,  CAFR , ITES and DE© 2013 Sara Weston. A FREE excerpt of the book is available here.

Without the story, where is the problem?

I once flew down to Peter Island, and as I arrived at the hotel, the manager received me with a tall, iced rum cocktail and a heavy dose of frustration and annoyance. She shook her head and said, “Didn’t you check the weather? There’s a hurricane coming, and we’re sending all the guests home tomorrow.” She was really embarrassed for me, but I chuckled a bit at her discomfort—I was the one who had to schlep back to New York without having a lovely Caribbean dive trip, not her!

The next day on the ferry ride to the airport, the other hotel guests assumed I’d been down there for several days like they had, and not wanting to deal with their pity or even self-congratulations that at least they’d have 4 or 5 good days, I didn’t mention that’d I’d just arrived the day before.

Several hours later, back at JFK, I made a call while waiting at the baggage claim. I had just started dating a guy and thought we could go to dinner. I’d met him at work, installing a piece of software on his computer. We’d been flirting for a few weeks, and gone on a first date just a few days earlier. It had ended with a kiss that, well, had a lot of fireworks, so I thought seeing him would be a fun consolation prize. This was pre-cellphone days, so I called Information for his number, and then upon calling him, an answering machine picked up. A young woman cheerfully let the caller know that the two of them weren’t home. I don’t recall her words, but it was obvious she was not a flatmate or a relative, they were a couple. I was shocked that he not only had a girlfriend, but that they lived together! Now the evasive way he responded to my assumption that he lived alone made much more sense. I know I’m a glass half-full person, but I thought this revelation alone was worth the trip!

When I returned to work, I didn’t explain to my co-workers why I was back from vacation early. I was new and didn’t know anyone really well yet, but even so, I could see there was still an opportunity to make a big story about my disastrous trip—all the time and money wasted traveling there and back, the disappointment of not getting to scuba dive, and most of all, the idiocy of not knowing to check the weather before flying to the Caribbean during hurricane season. There was even more opportunity to tell the story about that guy over in Accounting I’d gone on a date with who, turns out, has a girlfriend! But instead, I simply didn’t tell any of these stories. I’d been meditating for several years, and the mind simply didn’t have the drive to tell these stories. I just did my job as per normal, and everything was calm. I didn’t tell these stories to my co-workers, and more importantly, I didn’t tell them to myself, and I literally, and happily, forgot about all of it. What I noticed is that without the story of disappointment, there was no disappointment. Without the story of embarrassment, there was no embarrassment. Without the story of frustration, there was no frustration.

It was after this incident that I became acutely aware that we have the option to tell stories or not. And if we don’t tell them, they don’t exist. It was a moment of recognition of how we make our world with our thoughts. The experience existed, the credit card bill existed, but all the drama around it simply wasn’t there, because I didn’t tell the story. It was a really powerful moment of watching no story arise, and observing how silent and blissful that no-story was.

“We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.” Dhammapada, The Sayings of the Buddha, Thomas Byrom translation

Who Has Ever Gone Beyond

The student asked the Buddha: “Why is it that wise women and men in the world—priestesses, rulers, and others—always offer sacrifices to the gods?”

The Buddha answered: “They offer things to the gods because as they get older they want to keep their lives as they are and have no misfortunes.”

“But, Buddha, does it ever make any difference to their old age by making these careful offerings?”

“Their prayers and praises and offerings and hopes are all made on the basis of possessions, rewards, and longings for pleasure. These experts in prayer are longing to continue becoming. But it will make no difference to their old age.”

“Please tell me, Buddha, if all the offerings from these experts don’t get them beyond old age, then who has ever gone beyond?”

The Buddha said: “When a person has thoroughly understood the world, from top to bottom, when there is nothing in the world that agitates them anymore, then they have become somebody who is free from confusion and fears and tremblings and the longings of desire. They have gone beyond getting old and beyond birth and death.”

—Sutta Nipata, from The Pocket Buddha Reader


We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with an impure mind
And trouble will follow you
As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart.

We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world.
Speak or act with a pure mind
And happiness will follow you
As your shadow, unshakable.
Dhammapada, The Sayings of the Buddha, Thomas Byrom translation

Serious Meditator’s Gift Guide for Yourself

Please note I’m not receiving payment for any of these recommendations; these are simply things I like and use.

A Great Cushion Set. I like the ones from DharmaCrafts, and particularly like the zafus filled with buckwheat hulls. If you sit in half-lotus or cross-legged, the cushions with buckwheat hulls are great because they conform to your shape and prevent your legs from falling asleep. They also have a quiz to help you find which kind of cushion or bench is right for you. I love how many fabrics and patterns are available these days.

An iPod or other music player. You may say what the heck, why not just use my phone?! The deal is our phones have so much crap energy with apps, news, emails, texts…yuck! I don’t want any of that noise near my meditation, so I have a specific music player I use just for meditating. A fun extra with the iPod is you can have the back engraved with your favorite mantra, like om mani padme hum, which means the jewel in the lotus, and is a poetic way of saying that enlightenment is inside you, and indeed, inside everyone and everything!

A Great Pair of Headphones (or Earbuds) that you use just for meditation. I personally prefer headphones over earbuds. The sound quality of headphones is superior to earbuds, plus I don’t like having anything in my ears while I meditate. It’s similar to how jewelry you wear throughout the day becomes almost unbearable to have on while you’re meditating. That said, this is definitely an instance of personal preference (see the A-frame story)! Indeed, one of my best friends can’t believe I want those heavy old things on my head while I meditate. You can find extensive recommendations on Wirecutter for all kinds of great headphones and earbuds.

A Bell. My dear friend Ben says that if he walks into another room and forgets what he was about to do, he just walks back to the place where he was thinking the thought and picks it back up. Our thoughts leave impressions, so walking back into his old thought bubble, he picks the thread back up. But what if you don’t want all your old thoughts and dreams around? A bell is a great (and fascinating) way to clear them out of your space and mind. When you first ring a bell in a space, it will warble, but as you continue to clear the space, the ring becomes clearer and clearer until it rings precisely with no warble. At that point, you’ll find your room sparkles, and your mind is emptier and brighter. A good bell won’t make you enlightened, but it will make your life much easier! Check out Karen Kingston to learn more on this topic.

The A-frame Story (or Ditch Self-Righteousness)

Several years ago I was driving in northern New Mexico with a friend and as we passed an A-frame house she exclaimed, “There’s just something *so wrong* with A-frames! The energy of them is all wrong.” And while I didn’t feel as strongly as she did, I did agree. As a kid, I’d spent the night in an A-frame and felt weird the entire time. Something about the roof line felt oppressive and I couldn’t wait for our family to leave. 

Not long thereafter, another friend of mine mentioned how A-frames have such great energy, and that they are *perfect* for people who meditate. I chuckled that people could have such strong feelings about A-frames (who knew?), but what really struck me was that these meditators, both of whom had been on the spiritual path for many years, had such contrasting perceptions. It highlighted that neither was right, rather the feeling created by the architecture worked for one of them, but not the other.  

The value of this story is to not extrapolate that what works for you, works for everyone. There’s not one way to approach the spiritual path, and the truth is you don’t know what is best for others on their journey! So don’t waste your energy inflicting your opinions on others, instead, enjoy the emptiness of not knowing. Right now, as an experiment, say, “I don’t know.” Can you feel the bliss of letting go of ideas and agendas, and not knowing?

We are more alike than unalike

“I’m often asked [a] question, and it always irks me. It starts like this, ‘Coming from two such different cultures–Scotland and Sierra Leone…’ I will often say to the interviewer, ‘Have you ever been to Sierra Leone?’ They’ll say, ‘No.’ So I say, ‘How do you know they’re so different?’ The two countries are actually strikingly similar. Let’s take my grandfathers in my Scottish and Sierra Leonean families: they were both not happy with my parents’ marriage; both are tall, thin, very athletic men; one is Scottish Presbyterian and the other one is Muslim, but both are very religious; both are highly patriarchal; and both had a tendency to indulge me as a child. These two men, from different places in the world, were – to me – almost exactly the same. If you can see that, then you can see that people are the same; but the presumption of difference that arises simply because we are talking about different colors and different continents, is where we start to go wrong.” — the author Aminatta Forna

Then, of course, beneath all bodies, all continents, beneath this physical reality, there’s just light. We are all made of the same light.