maybe happiness?

being happy takes a lot of work for someone like me.

suffering makes sense to me, the world is hard and unfair and oppressive and dangerous. finding the narrative of despair is our focus as a species, hence what we call news (terror, shame, controversy, immaturity), what we slow down to ogle at in traffic (hint: not the flowers). we make each other miserable, unnecessarily. many people, including me, can make meaning of our lives by how much we suffer, how extensive and heavy the baggage is that we bring forward.

also, i am a virgo. scorpio moon. i pay attention, i look for the inconsistencies, i can see the worst case scenarios fanned out before me, a million lonely paths. since i was young, i have been drawn to what i thought of as “real life”, the hard stuff; the addictions, heartbreaks, and the places where humans were failing at perfection.

i have had to learn to cultivate joy, to generate and extend trust, to be still, to focus my attention on what brings me ease, to give myself permission to experience beauty and love. that shouldn’t be past tense, as it’s all daily practice. i am learning. i am learning that being happy is, at least initially, not about external circumstances, but about internal perspective and attention liberation.

two years ago i wrote: when i feel hopeless, it usually means my attention is on things I can’t touch. when I bring my attention to the people and places I can touch, can shape and be shaped by, my life fills with meaning, connection, joy and transformation. #attentionliberation #attentionreparations #emergentstrategy #interdependence.

i have been practicing. here are some further aspects of bringing our attention to, and experiencing, happiness.

acknowledge suffering
if you deny that suffering is real, is happening, is part of human life, then you cut off a massive part of your awareness. you move out of balance with reality. happiness lives in the connections between us, the tether that joins us to the living world.

we have to acknowledge grief, longing, anxiety, oppression, depression, despair, loneliness. khalil gibran taught us that our sorrow carves out the space for our joy, and vice versa. they are inextricably linked – to deny suffering, especially the suffering of others, is to stay in false joy, joy that takes but does not give.

acknowledge suffering.

acknowledge doubt
doubt is a sign that you are paying attention.

there is a random wild energy moving through the universe, that is what makes it interesting, what brings us the unexpected. life has patterns, but is still not predictable.

doubt is that proof of chaos that distorts the blank surface of perfection. doubt is that small cut at the foundation of a lie, which eventually fells it. doubt keeps us from staying in stupid systems forever, from believing misguided leaders when they tell stories about god, power and change. doubt helps us escape false paradigms in which joy in the present moment is impossible.

acknowledge doubt.

be smaller
start small. be small.

i am happiest when i let my life be contained within my body, listening to my needs, and letting myself follow the impulses of care and connection.

current life requires such projection, such a massive scale of oversharing and trying to change strangers through the internet and attend to massive crises. we can live our whole lives as minds, worried, thinking, untethered.

large scale sometimes still happens when you’re being small, but it’s more deeply sourced, and doesn’t create the same level of attachment. when you’re small, your discernment is about the authenticity of the care, the real person you can be and feel in each connection.

be smaller.

let it go
my papa used to say this all the time. when someone was complaining, building a case for their misery, building a case against a loved one, he’d say ‘let it go.’ he gave it to god.

i didn’t understand it then as the profound key to happiness that i now find it to be, the ability to let go of things. when i can’t change something, when it isn’t working, when we don’t know how to apologize, when they didn’t mean to hurt me, i let it go. i give it to earth – that which is larger than myself.

i also think of this as clearing the channel. one of the first ways i understood healing was that i could feel the open channel of connection between myself and others, and/or sense blockages there. i would focus on clearing the channel so that my love, care, tenderness, forgiveness or other kinds of nourishing attention could reach them. i now use this technology to let things go, to keep myself from holding grudges, becoming a sad barnacle on a wreckage of my life. i don’t stagnate in any narrative that denies my power. i let it go, i stay in sacred motion.

as often as possible, if it doesn’t serve the miracle of life, let it go.

revel in the present
the present is so precious. sometimes when i drop out of the grip of memory, when i pull myself back from forecasting into the unknown, i find myself shocked at how incredible the present is.

in the present is where love makes its offer. i look back at how often i have missed love because i had my attention elsewhere while it was happening. i have a visceral memory of the first time i felt present-time love, holding another’s hand and walking across a field, needing nothing. it was so mundane, but every blade of grass caught the light, and still does.

when i am present, i relax, bringing my attention to the gift of the moment. i am feeling. i can choose connection, or solitude (connection with others or self). i can move or be still. i can intentionally focus on what brings me awe, even while getting a flu shot or blood drawn or a speculum inserted. when the present is grief, i can remember it is gratitude, i can bring love into me.

when i am present, i understand that time is not linear, but fully available to me. in my healing work, i can relegate the past to the past, notice my own survival. i can humble myself to the futures, and listen for which ones want to use my sacred life, partner with my heartbeat to shift the potential. i can release my need to know that which i cannot know. in the present, everything is possible, except the clearly impossible. that clarity, that light on everything inside me, is a sign of right direction.

revel in the present.

when i do these things, acknowledge suffering and doubt – past present and future; when i get small, and let go of what isn’t connection, i find that the only thing left is to revel in the present. a brief car ride becomes a celebration. love becomes an option that doesn’t require contortion or obsession, just honesty. a truth spoken becomes a liberation. our species is not failing, but learning.

and i can have a moment of happiness.

that’s what all this brightness is, pouring out of me as i do my life’s work, heading towards rest, connected deeply and honestly to those who see me whole and still choose me, letting praise and critique simply be signs that others exist and feel. when i am present, i am doing my best without effort, relaxing into what is, right now.

and because it’s taken so much work, i want to claim it, here in my exhausted and overextended life, even though i need the sabbatical coming and more quiet and more vegetables…i am also full of this chaotic, tender, real time brightness. in this moment, awake again before dawn to listen to now, i feel so much life flowing through me.

i feel satisfaction.

and maybe, maybe, happiness.

birthday reflection: the joy precipice

‘It’s warm, and the sun is out
It’s like my heart’s restored…
And I’m thankful for seeing
Another spring…’
Nina Simone

actually it’s dark, the stars are out, the milky way is massive over me and there are shooting stars. it’s the end of summer and I’m 35.

And thankful.

I get reflective around my birthday, and this year my thoughts are all about how unbelievable my current life is, how I couldn’t have imagined or believed it a decade ago, or two decades ago.

I’m not looking back with longing for any younger time. And I’m not looking into the future to see something good out ahead of me.

I have faith.

I’m standing on a precipice, leaning out and trusting the wind. and everything I can feel and sense is vast, true, impersonal and miraculous.

it occurs to me from my doula work that the most shared experience on the planet is miracle. it’s how we come here.

on a daily basis I am experiencing the fire of the miraculous, fed with my attention. it feels like love, connection, inspiration, choice, health, beauty, and a sense of being alive and awake in the present.

I write, a lot…words that feel familiar to me, words that terrify me, words that come through me looking for release and home. words inspired by the people who surround me, the dreamers and organizers and believers.

I love a lot of people who are emotionally rigorous and unafraid of my love, and babies who teach me how to love while being myself, friends who see my whole messy beauty and come closer, family who watch each other grow with wonder and patience and tenderness on their faces.

my family is healthy, everyone starting new phases of life, grateful to still be here in this journey with each other, to have four generations on the planet together, special and normal and tuning in to the sweet cycles of birth, death, celebration and the blessing of having love through it all, from the mundane daily rhythms to the thrilling transformations.

I have teachers. for this I am so grateful – I am not alone in the world trying to find my way. there is wisdom all around me, and my life gets easier as I realize how little I know, how much I love to learn, and the kind of teachers I need – those who live in vulnerability and honesty and beginner’s mind.

I’m loving myself openly, as a life force…not a genius or a perfection or an observation. I’m loving my own aliveness, my breath, my body, my resilience, my naivete and my lessons.

and now, in this summer of joy, in this miraculous convergence, I can look at the milky way and remember how fleeting it all is, how many things actually don’t matter, how life is on a long arc, but our time here so far is short, a minutia of love and evolution.

in that insignificance, I’m on a precipice of joy, cognizant of the suffering that created this moment. I’m aware of the cycles that teach me resilience, the guarantee of pain, and the gift of feeling anything, and feeling so much.

I’m feeling so much.

And it’s all imbued with gratitude.

Thank you.

something wonderful

‘i have now a little secret, and it is all mine.
im not sure i’ll keep it, and if it’s free, it is all fine’

i am so happy.

i don’t know what it feels like to realize you are pregnant, but i think it might feel something like i feel right now. i feel really happy, really aligned, really centered, really loved and loving.

there’s a song called “decompose” by op swamp 81 which sounds kind of like it feels inside me. like the letting go of all that isn’t joyful and sacred and balanced in life.

when i go around the world lately, people smile at me and eventually realize that at least for the moment they could be happy, they could smile.

this has distinctly increased since i decided to opt out of the negative-news cycle. it’s not just news, its a whole way of approaching the world. now, i was slipping by the end of this last 12 day facilitation/event period, not enough sleep and meditation to maintain my perspective. its not like some happy go lucky thing. the world is real, its TRAGIC, and i am in it. there are tragic-tragic things happening, and where i can contribute to them i do so. there are tragic-funny things happening like skip gates getting arrested in his house and reminding folks that racism is measured by what is happening to the LEAST privileged, not the MOST privileged…there are tragic things happening that cannot be changed. and then there is everything else, which i feel absolutely in charge of my perspective on, and completely free from trying to control.

but then there’s something else guiding me right now. i don’t think we were put on this planet to react to the behavior, or scandals, or limitations, or evil, or unbearable pain of others. even if we react with wit and cleverness! i think we were put on this planet to create something magnificent, something we yearn for and can’t comprehend. in each moment.

now i feel all this yearning in me, and all this direction, and i don’t feel the doubts i have felt so often in my life. i want to move forward in my life, act and think in a forward direction, stand in ‘forward-stance’.

i think this has to do with being around my nephew and seeing how learning should look.

finn on the economy
finn on the economy

it’s like that – the economy, and the world, falling down and standing up, moving forward and tripping back and then leaping up up up. i don’t think of movement as being politically right at one moment when everything is constantly changing. i think of movement as learning to MOVE with each other, flow like the water that we are, do Love with each other, spiral upwards beyond our own imagining.