Keep on hand at all times great audio books, podcasts, music, books or magazines. It’s helpful to have something entertaining to do when you are waiting in line at the DMV or at the doctor’s office or when you’re caught in traffic or on the subway. There are so many draining situations that become the opposite when you have something interesting to occupy your mind.
Honesty with yourself is essential to being happy. You have to check that what you are doing in your life is working for you. Sometimes we have such a strong idea of how our life should be and what will make us happy, that we don’t want to face that these ideas aren’t right for us anymore. We may have grown out of them or they may have never been our ideas and dreams in the first place, but instead were imposed by family or society and accepted by us as ours. Other times we have invested so much time and energy to get our life to where it is, that we don’t want to face the fact that it is no longer working. When we honestly recognize that something is no longer working, then from this place of recognition we can begin to change it.
Being honest about what is working applies to all aspects of your life, big and small—whether it’s recognizing that you’re bored with your job and you need to mix it up, or that constantly checking your phone diffuses your focus and you need to dial it down. When you change what is not working in your life, despite past ideas of what you think will make you happy, you will be a happier person.
Note that you don’t have to necessarily share or discuss your internal honesty with others. In fact, if we had to share all our internal insights with others, we’d never be completely honest with ourselves! What matters most is that you are simply honest with yourself.
In the morning, meditate shortly after you wake up. It’s easier to meditate when you feel awake and alert, so take a shower (or at least wash your hands and face) and have a cup of coffee, tea or juice if you need that. A few bites of food are fine, but avoid eating a meal because a full stomach makes meditating more difficult. You will also have an easier time quieting your mind if you meditate before you engage your mind in the things that start it spinning, such as email, TV, Internet, phone calls or other conversations.
In the evening, you can meditate at sunset, when you get home, or before you go to bed. The sunset meditation is especially nice, when you can make it. Again, shower or wash your hands and face before you sit down.
Simplify your life so you have time to do the things you really love and that make you happy. Remove unnecessary and dull activities and relationships from your life. Also, look at the things you do out of obligation that you dislike and realistically assess whether you need to do them or not.
When the cashier at the grocery store is rude to you or someone at work tries to belittle your work, most times their behavior has nothing to do with you, but instead is a reflection of their own state of mind. That cashier is rude to everyone and that coworker tries to make everyone feel small. It helps to know this so we don’t take it personally and let it affect our mood.
Mindfulness is the process of watching what is passing through your mind and stopping the thoughts that are draining or unhealthy. Most things only need to be thought through once. The rest of the thinking, the mulling over and obsessing, is not only draining, it actually makes it harder to objectively see what is best. When you keep your mind quiet and don’t play your worries, schemes and dreams over and over again, you create space for inner knowledge to bubble up and be heard.
Mindfulness isn’t limited to stopping negative or repetitive thoughts, it also includes not holding conversations in your mind with people you know. A lot of people talk to other people in their minds, explaining their beliefs and defending their positions. Not only is this a waste of energy, again it prevents your mind from being still. When your mind is still you can more clearly see the pointers in the universe. The universe gives us all kinds of information, but you have to be still to see it. When your mind is going round and round defending your ego, you miss these pointers, not to mention the relaxation and brightness that comes from being still.
The good news is that after practicing mindfulness for a while it becomes automatic, so as negative or repetitive thoughts and inner conversations arise, you naturally stop them and redirect your mind to higher, calmer thoughts or no thoughts at all.
It’s a personal choice to be happy. Everyone has a high, happy side and a low, bored, angry or depressed side, and which side you live in is determined by the choices you make. The choices that lead to happiness are the ones that challenge us, awaken us, and keep us balanced—they are the choices to meditate and work-out when you’d rather watch TV; to be mindful when you’d rather obsess on something negative; to work on your career when it seems easier to just hang out where you are; and, also the choice to relax and unwind when you know you need that, but want to stay plugged in.
The choices that lead to happiness are the ones that take care of the things that are your responsibility—and just as important, the choices to not take on things that are not your responsibility. On a daily basis, we are presented with numerous choices, both simple and complex, that lead us to either more happiness or less. When you become the person who makes the higher choice by default, you will absolutely feel happier. The good news is that meditation increases your powers of discrimination and will, so it’s easier to both discern the higher choice and follow it.
Of course, many of the physical circumstances of our lives are beyond our control, but even in these situations there is a choice to be happy. When you get caught in a major traffic delay, you can bemoan your fate which magnifies the misery of the situation, or you can keep on hand great audio books, podcasts and music to entertain yourself while you are trapped in your car. In more dire situations, like finding out your partner cheated on you or that you have been diagnosed with cancer, there is still an opportunity to be happy. Stick with me for a moment on this one. Sometimes the most painful situations in life can act as a catalyst to finally get us to really stop thought, go into our inner light and experience that we are not who we think we are—to see that we’re made of light and are eternal. This is the happiest of all experiences. When everything is going our way, we tend to not be very introspective. But in truly unpleasant times, in our disillusionment with how we thought our life would go, there is an opening to experience something deeper. So even amidst the crappiest situation, there is a choice to indulge in the difficulties of your life or an option to go deeper into the quiet and deeper into your soul where true happiness resides. True happiness isn’t about everything working out your way. It’s really about being in touch with your inner light.
Recently I was on vacation, and with the exception of a few email checks, I also took a vacation from the Internet. Though I have done this many times before, I was still amazed at the blissfulness of the mind without the energetic push and pull of the Internet. The mind is so much more quiet and unconcerned with the goings-on of the world when released from the tyranny of the Internet :–). I highly recommend you give yourself a vacation from the Internet the next time you go on vacation.
(Reposting as this is one of the funniest and most liked posts. A day in the life, inspired by the use of inversion for illumination. Meant to be humorous—mostly!)
Go to bed late—that way you can use the snooze button excessively when the alarm jolts you awake, have a rushed meditation, and never feel quite refreshed throughout the day.
Eat foods that are convenient and tasty, but make you feel uncomfortable, whether they give you congestion, heartburn, gas, or constipation. (Or, bonus, degrade your health long-term!)
Take the most obvious/congested route to work during peak commute, so you can stew in the impatience and low-grade anger of your fellow commuters.
Check your phone constantly, that way you can receive small injections of bad energy throughout the day (if checking the news), or you can become numb to the true wonder and beauty of the world, like when checking Instagram to see endless photos of beautiful and wonderful things. Bonus: checking your phone constantly keeps you from having solid blocks of concentration that are foundational to meaningful work!
Talk shit about others! Nothing drags you down more than criticizing colleagues, friends and family.
Say yes to everything—projects and work you’re not interested in, so you (seemingly) please the boss; and social events that bore you and keep you from your true interests, so you please your family and acquaintances.
Watch TV instead of exercising, or even better than TV, spend a lot of time on the Internet. Click on every article that sounds scandalous, critical or gossipy. Go down rabbit holes, and for an extra dose of anger and righteousness, read the comments!
Stay indoors a lot—nothing keeps you in the same headspace as staying in the house.
Ignore your “gut” and niggling feelings, and instead squash or cover them with your drug of choice: alcohol, drugs, butterfat, TV, internet, video games, etc.
Play small, and give up easily. Hew to the limited mind set or agenda delivered to you by your family and upbringing. Don’t go for the thing you really want, like a big career move or Enlightenment. But if you do go for it and experience some opposition or impediments, give up quickly and take it as a sign you were never meant to change.
Let your mind wander all over the place and particularly indulge in negative emotions, like hatred, anger and sadness. Pretend that negative emotions have more reality and value than love.
Our incessant internal dialogue—all of the strategizing, defending, regurgitating and worrying that we do—covers our true nature. When you stop thought, you directly experience that you are made of light, Consciousness, God (you choose your favorite word).
Keeping the mind quiet won’t make you unconscious or an idiot. Rather you become wiser as you begin to see the vast wisdom that is at your core. You’ll find that you begin to understand things without having to think them through and that you have access to greater knowledge that isn’t available to you when your mind is a cyclone of thoughts and concerns.
But keeping your mind quiet is hard to do in our digital, socially-networked world, where we are constantly bombarded with information and never out of reach from…anyone! How do you do it? The answer is simple—you meditate. For instruction on how to meditate, download the free eBook on How to Meditate.