“Happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events.”The Dalai Lama
The concept of happiness is a lot like carrying a backpack. We all have something weighing on our shoulders, but our ability to be happy all boils down to how we choose to perceive it.
For three months I backpacked through Central and South America. Depending on my mindset, I felt like I was either lugging around 35 pounds of heavy weight or was light as a feather, grateful to have only what I truly needed. Shifting from a heaviness to a happiness mindset showed me three things –
1. There is immense power in changing one’s perspective.
2. When we don’t have a lot, we don’t need a lot to be happy.
3. Happiness is not found in anyone or anything. It is a state of being.
Have you ever noticed that the more you chase happiness the more unhappy you become? One of the first things we are taught to believe is that the road to happiness is linear. So we go to school to get a degree, to secure a well-paying job, to support a family, to buy a house, to retire and THEN we can be happy. All the while we are accomplishing, attaining, acquiring, and attaching, we are detaching from there here and the now. The truth is that happiness lives not in who we are or what we have, but in how we choose to live our lives.
Caught in the dramatic cycle of consumption, we can easily become disconnected to ourselves and to others. On average, we consume about 34 gigabytes of data per day. Our brain processes this data and develops it as thoughts which then collect in our conscience and manifest as what we call the mind. Just like the brain, the human body also has a consciousness. While the brain perceives, the body processes. This is how emotions are formed. For example, whenever the mind registers a threat, the body sends all sorts of physical stress-signals. This is why when we are faced with uncomfortable content or conversation, we experience tension in our chest, hips, and shoulders – all common repositories for complex emotions.
How much emotional weight we experience in the body ultimately depends on how much power we give to the mind, otherwise known as the ego. The ego feeds off of emotion because all emotions are transient and therefore are not the truth. You see, the ego is so scared of everlasting joy and happiness that it holds onto everything that has made us unhappy so as to trick us into believing that we are not worthy or deserving of it.
Say for example you get into a new relationship. For the first few months you experience an immense rush of pleasure. Then all of a sudden you start to notice that the same person who once jumped your bones now makes you want to crawl out of your skin. You might find yourself asking “Why in the world is this happening? I really like this person.” When you give the ego too much power, you start to believe that because you experienced all this pleasure, something wrong is bound to happen. You then begin to perceive that person as a threat to your happiness rather than a contributor to it.
When we let the ego dictate our life, we fall into the trap of chasing pleasure or avoiding pain. It wasn’t until recently that I recognized how much of my life I spent suppressing my emotions. I found that I would either run away from anyone that reminded me of pain or run towards anything that would bring about a sense of pleasure. What I noticed was that regardless of whether or not I was experiencing pleasure or pain, one thing remained the same – I was not allowing myself to go within and explore unresolved emotions.
Because we are told that showing our emotions is a sign of weakness, we hide from them and hold them inside. These emotions eventually build up like energetic bricks that we carry in our metaphoric backpack of life. Not only does this dim our spirit, but it drags the people around us down. When we take the time to explore our emotions, we create space for new narratives to develop and old stories to die off.
In my yoga practice, I utilize the power of emotional-exploration to encourage the shift from heaviness to happiness. For example, when queuing Lizard Pose (Utthan Pristhasana), I will ask my students to notice the difference between the phrases “sink your weight” and “surrender your weight” in to your hip flexor, or psoas muscle. What I notice is that while the word “sink” leaves a sticky-like energetic residue, the word “surrender” creates a sense of safe, explorative ease.
Becoming mindful of where tension lives inside gives us the opportunity to reverse engineer our emotions and thus to release the energetic charge behind them. When we notice the emotion, we begin to see the story that we have been holding onto and thus chan change the narrative. I’ll share a personal example.
A few weeks ago while stretching in my backyard, I noticed I was holding onto the emotion of helplessness in my hips. As I went deeper somatically, I heard a voice say “You can heal in the same place you were hurt.” This was absolutely profound for me because for nearly two years I told myself “You can’t heal at home because this is where you experienced a lot of hurt.” Since this perspective change and energetic release, I have been experiencing a new-found sense of inner peace because I know that I am here to explore what needs to heal so that I can release the hurt.
Choosing happiness takes courage. It requires an immense amount of trust and transparency with ourselves and with others but the deeper go, the more we develop a sense of exquisite equanimity of body, mind, and soul. By stepping into the seat of the witness, the space where we step outside of the story and into the Self, we no longer remain the victim, but rather the creator of our reality. Shift your weight and see what happens!
May you be safe.
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you be at ease and free from suffering.
Prayer of the Day: May all beings recognize their power to choose a perspective of happiness over heaviness. May they surrender the emotional, physical, and energetic weight to the Divine Mother who holds it with such compassion that she carries it for them. Om. Peace. Amen.