image by zenera
after the post on happy questions last friday, i decided to ask some happy questions on twitter and it was a wonderful weekend conversation. you can find most of it by searching for #happyquestion on twitter. one of the questions was inspired by qrystal, one of the first people i ever followed on twitter (it seems so long ago now! a whole 2 ½ years!) qrystal, like i, likes poetry, so after reading one of hers i decided to ask
what poem opens your heart?
i`d like to share with you some of the responses i received:
wallace stevens’s “mozart, 1935”
rainer maria rilke`s duino elegies
w.s. merwin the rain in the trees (he reads a bit of it here in the youtube video)
leonard cohen: love itself
pablo neruda: sonnet xvii
the precious treasury of the basic space of phenomena by lonchen rabjam
clearing in the woods by l.e. sissman
sonnets to orpheus by rainer maria rilke
rudyard kipling`s if
dr. seuss’s lorax (that was mine)
mary oliver`s the journey is the one i`m reprinting here:
one day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“mend my life!”
each voice cried.
but you didn’t stop.
you knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
it was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
but little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
what poem opens your heart?
as you know, questions have a special place in my heart (see this post on encouraging questions, for example.)
as i was preparing for a little workshop i facilitated today on solution focused coaching and counselling, i realized that my first discovery of the power of questions was not back in 1999, when i first really learned about the various delightful forms of brief therapy (solution focused brief therapy being one of them) but back in 1991, when i was studying to become a TRAGER® practitioner. TRAGER® is a form of bodywork that, among other things, asks gentle, curious, open questions about delightful possibilities we carry in our minds, hearts and bodies.
we gently shake out our hands, feel the weight, and ask: what could be lighter?
we let our arms hang down loosely and ask our shoulder joints: what could be freer?
we let our legs dangle from a massage table, allowing the calf muscles to relax and ask: what could be softer?
this shows that meaningful questions can be useful not only in one-on-one therapy, with the therapist posing the questions. they can have an important place even if we ask them of ourselves. in fact, questions like these are designed to bring us joy simply by asking them, without regard to what the reply might be.
other example of such happy questions are
- what puts a smile on my face?
- what feels good on my fingertips?
- what’s the beauty in this?
- what opens my heart?
- how does this delight me?
- what’s the song that makes my heart dance?
- what feels silky/cool/warm [whatever your favourite sensation is]?
- where in my body do i feel god/the creator/the universe right now?
- who do i love with all my heart?
- what does happiness look like?
what happy questions do you have?
(post script on october 19 – there is a fabulous companion post about this topic on joanna young’s blog – coaching questions of the season)
image by soylentgreen
happy new year to all! what more should i say? of course i want you all to be happy. but what does that mean? what does happiness mean? so many different things to different people. “contentment with one’s situation,” i read somewhere today, “is the greatest happiness one can have.” definitely, that is one great happiness. one among many – and a happiness that may seem meaningless to some.
since there seem to be so many ideas around happiness, i thought i’d see what some of our readers say about it. here you have it:
- rivka mentions ayn rand’s question of whether an individual has a right to happiness.
- leprechaun makes a connection between happiness and luck
- christa from giggle on says we’re responsible for our own happiness; similarly, dan says happiness is a choice.
- donna finds joy and happiness difficult to come by after spending years in a cult.
- marja talks about the happiness that washed over her after her garden party that launched her latest book, a firm place to stand, about her experience supporting others and being supported in mental illness (neat tidbit – i was in the middle of writing this sentence when tina, who had originally introduced me to marja, phoned me up out of the blue)
- “joy and purpose is found in living a life looking outward and upward; not inward” says meri ellen
- in the anorexia forum, supportive messages:
- “your body needs food! you are very underweight and your body is probably screaming for nourishment! i know it is soooo hard to eat but you have to. you need more than what you are consuming right now. you want to gain your life back. you want to be healthy and happy! anorexia takes both health and happiness away and you do not want that. you want to enjoy life and live it to the fullest :)”
- “health and happiness is the most important thing in life- not what you look like.”
- the same person talks about overcoming the voice of anorexia, eating a snack, and the happiness that brought being proud of herself for that
- andrew wonders whether there is a connection between income levels and health
- “happiness happens when you’re not worrying about it.” says hibs
- chelle feels she’s found the secret to happiness: live in the moment.; let go of all your grudges; don’t be the judge; accept what happens as a bigger plan in life; want less; help others
- chollie feels that happiness starts with humility
- snow thinks that happiness is elusive, and that people often fake being happy
- and lastly, i just got a message from a friend who said, “i’m so happy i’m not starting a new diet today!”
quite the grab-bag. what’s your take on happiness?
image by carf
“what was the happiest day of your life?” this question comes up, sometimes. until seven years ago, it was “september 11, 1973.”
that was the day my oldest child was born. it was the least pleasant of my three births, what with me an unwed teenage mother in a hopelessly old-fashioned veteran’s hospital in munich, an arch-catholic part of germany, and my poor little infant immediately snatched away in the belief that sterile hospital cradles were the best thing that could happen to a newborn.
never mind any of that.
i was insanely happy.
despite the exhaustion of labour, i couldn’t sleep the whole night. the miracle of the experience kept looping around in my mind and heart. one moment, excruciating pain, the other, a new person emerging into the world, healthy, with a loud voice, 10 fingers, 10 toes, eyes, everything! absolutely mind-boggling.
my other two births were even easier than the first and quite a bit more pleasant, especially the last one, complete with bob marley, miles davis and glenn gould providing accompaniment, and a bunch of friends and family present. but september 11, 1973 – well, it was that special first time.
when the day after i found out that there had been a military coup in chile, which made it prohibitive for us to move there, i was shocked, but somehow it couldn’t wipe out the overwhelming happiness i felt at having become a mother.
and then september 11, 2001 happened. a day that, in my mind, was dedicated to my son. like so many of us, i remember much of that day – how, for example, i was so shaken by the events that i spilled a big bag full of sushi on the street that i had bought for lunch for a friend and myself.
it’s such a little thing. much bigger things have happened and are still happening that have their roots in september 11, for example people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, as predicted here and then later confirmed in a study here.
and yet, we almost always come back to what is personally most significant for us, don’t we? for me, it’s the irresolvable clash between the memory of the happiest moment of my life and the horror of the most violent moment on U.S. soil.
as i am writing this, i realize that i want to find a way to elevate the beauty of my son’s birth over the horror of 9/11 and the disconnect i feel over holding both in my awareness. not that i want to, in any way, diminish or forget the terrible suffering of those who died and their families, friends and loved ones.
but peace will always be this: holding life up higher than destruction.
image by coast guard BM
a while ago, alex shalman interviewed 34 people on the subject of happiness. following up on this, he created the happiness project, a group writing project where everyone who wishes answers questions about what happiness is for them. these posts then are gathered on his blog, here.
below are my answers. and if you’d like to participate, read on for the guidelines to be part of this.
1. how do you define happiness?
happiness is whatever feels good and right. on a happy day, i go to bed with a feeling of contentment. i don’t regret anything and am resting in the knowledge that i have contributed to the world.
2. on a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your happiness now, versus when you were a child?
that’s hard to say. childhoods are long and often arduous. mine was. on a gut level? my happiness is around an 8 now, and maybe a 5.5 when i was a child.
3. what do you do on a daily basis that brings you happiness? (and how consistent is the feeling of happiness throughout your day)
these are things that i maybe don’t do each and every day but definitely most of the time
- contribute to the good of the world
- spend time with people who i deeply appreciate and who deeply appreciate me – close friends and family
- write, especially poetry
- connect with friends, including spending time on twitter
- hug people
- remember how blessed i am
- relaxing into the moment. experiencing and participating in what is, not what was or what will be.
how consistent is the feeling of happiness throughout the day? oh, that depends. i don’t think it often goes below 6, even when i’m in a depression.
4. what things take away from your happiness? what can be done to lessen their impact or remove them from your life?
they’re not things. they are my thoughts. it’s all in how i frame my experience. even when i’m challenged, for example when i’m overly tired, i know i can relax into the moment.
what can be done to lessen the impact of my unhelpful thoughts? often it just helps to remember that this, too, shall pass and that all in all, my life is pretty darn good. when it gets really uncomfortable – something that doesn’t happen that often anymore, thank god – then i like to remember what pema chodron suggests: go into the feeling, right into it. for example fear. where in my body does it sit? what is it like? go right into it, and it transforms.
by far the biggest problem is that i forget. unless i’m in deep doodoo, i forget that i have all these wonderful tools. of course that’s my mind again – this type of forgetting is self-sabotage.
take away the forgetting and at least half of the barriers against more happiness would be gone.
5. what do you plan on doing in the future that will bring you even more happiness?
the less i plan, the better. and there is nothing that brings me closer to where i need to be – happiness, fulfilment, groundedness, aliveness, whatever you want to call it – than being present, right there with the divinity of the moment.
how to deal with the forgetfulness – right now i am part of a support group that helps each other with frequent phone calls. so: i’m planning to discuss this with them.
most of all i want to keep remembering that it’s not all about my little happiness. my own individual happiness is meaningless without the context of others’ wellbeing. i don’t mean this in a codependent way. i can be perfectly happy walking around vancouver’s downtown eastside, surrounded by the suffering and misery of people deep in the throes of poverty, substance use and survival sex trade.
however, i can only do this with my heart, mind, eyes, arms and hands open. literally. if i’m unwilling to give in to the spontaneous desire to have a little chat with the toothless old native woman who has schizophrenia, and to buy her some smokes if i feel so moved and/or hug are at the end of it, i can’t say i’m truly happy.
so. wanna talk about happiness on your blog?
here’s how alex set it out:
group writing project guidelines
- answer the questions. in a new post answer the questions that you see above, while being as genuine and open as possible. i might not know you very well yet, but believe me, you are awesome, and i want your readers and my readers to be able to see this extraordinary side of you.
- overview and linkback. in the introduction of your post, go ahead and give a brief overview of what the happiness project is and where you happened to hear about it first. this is the part where i would appreciate if you linked back to this post, in order to let people know about the guidelines, and how they can participate. while your doing that, i would love it if you also linked to the main happiness project page, and gave people access to the full list of interviews and participants.
- tag your blog friends. the purpose of this project is to share it with as many people as possible and to spread the awareness about happiness all over the world. the best way you can help us do that, aside from answering the questions on your own blog, is to tag some of your blogging friends (no limit here, the more the merrier), and let them know to participate.
- comment here + i link to you. after you’ve successfully published your happiness project post on your blog, and linked back to this post, go ahead and leave a comment here to let me know you participated. what i will do is add a link to your entry into the main happiness project page as soon as i can. another bonus is that i’ll do periodic updates of where the happiness project is going, in which i’ll link to the newest group of participants. that means you get two links from a page rank 4 blog, and exposure to tens of thousands of people. good deal?
i invite these people – sort of randomly. if you’re not on the list, it’s not because i didn’t think of you, or because you’re not invited, it’s because i was too lazy to dig out your URL 🙂
(image by estherase)