The Secret to Happiness
By Valerie Stuart
Do you remember doing something dangerous, like running into the street? Maybe your parents yelled at you and feelings of deep shame were instilled in you. If you were given the message hundreds of times that you were wrong or that your natural impulses were bad, these messages still play inside of you. Most people suffer from thoughts that erroneously make them feel inferior or defective.
The secret to happiness is realizing that a lot of our suffering comes from believing that our thoughts and emotions are telling us what is true. These messages we heard from our parents and teachers, repeat like a tape recorder in our head, often making us feel miserable about ourselves.
Much of our pain comes from running away from feelings. A powerful practice is to sit with an emotion without thinking about the story. Maybe someone is worried their relationship is going to end and they go into their thoughts trying to prepare for heartbreak. If we sit with the feeling of a broken heart and really let that feeling be there, something powerful happens. The feeling moves all by itself.
After feeling the feeling for one to three minutes, when it feels complete, ask the question, “what lies at the heart of this feeling or underneath this feeling?” Then wait quietly and see what happens. Usually another emotion will present itself. The most frequent course the emotions take are anger, sadness, despair, grief, and then breaking thru to love, equanimity, peace, and sometimes into self-realization and freedom.
When we learn we can be with emotions and nothing devastating happens, we are on the way to liberation from pain. If you watch closely, you will see that what causes pain is continuing to think a thought or a story about what is happening. All we have to do is hold gentle presence for that emotion, like a mother holds a crying baby, and just let that emotion do what it needs to and it will release into peace.
It has been said that the difference between successful people and average people is what they pay attention to. Remember, what causes pain is often the story we are telling ourselves about a situation or a person. Most of the thoughts running through our heads aren't true. The secret to happiness is putting your attention on that which is looking out of your eyes, that sense of "you" that has stayed the same since you were a young child. Connect with the essence of your being and letting that run your life. Thoughts are not our enemy, but we are miserable when they are our master. If you want the truth, look for anything outside of your thoughts. Feel your heart, let yourself do what brings you joy, and connect with that larger being that you are which knows best how to run your life and happiness will be a frequent companion.
Valerie Stuart offers sessions in Presence, a direct connection to the truth of who you are. Go beyond problem-solving into living from your true being. She specializes in healing, lifework, relationship, spiritual issues and working with diet to heal disease. More info at the Private Sessions tab at www.livingninpresence.com
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We were also trained to worry about any negative possibility that might happen in our life. We can worry and make ourselves miserable over some concern that never comes to pass. We were taught that worrying means we are working hard to solve the problem. This isn’t true. Worrying is draining and makes it very hard to stay open enough to receive higher understandings and creative solutions. Robert Downey, Jr. is credited with saying, “worrying is like praying for what you don’t want to have happen.”
Eckhart Tolle, the author of the Power of Now, states we have pain bodies that are addicted to feeling bad and worrying. The pain body will get us thinking negative thoughts so it can live on the emotions of our misery. Whether this is true or not, it is a metaphor that can be useful. When our mind starts riding the thought-train to misery land, we can put the brakes on by asking, "is it really true?"
That question comes from an arsenal of misery-busting questions created by Byron Katie, the author of Loving What Is. She discovered that asking these questions dissolves the negative power of our thoughts.
Let’s use the thought: If I don’t find work, I’ll become a miserable and homeless.
Let’s try the first question from Katie’s arsenal:
Q1: Is that true? Can I know for absolute certainty that if I don’t find work, I’ll be homeless, miserable and worthless?
A: Well no, I can’t say for certain.
The other questions are:
Q2: How do I feel when I think that thought? How do I treat others and myself?
A: I feel bad and don’t go out to activities that I would enjoy. Because I feel bad about myself, I don't interact with others, cutting off my chances to meet people who could help me find a job. I treat people badly because I feel too depressed and inferior to relate to them.
Q3: Now imagine yourself going through life without that original thought, how would you feel? How would you treat yourself and others?
A: Wow, I would enjoy myself! I'd feel lighter and happier without whipping myself with that thought. I'd feel worthy enough to open up and interact with other people. I would enjoy simple moments, like watching the birds on my patio. I'd put more work into looking for a job because I’d have more energy and hope.
Now turn the original thought around as many ways as you can. See if you can find thoughts that feel as true as or truer than the original thought.
- I won't become a homeless person because I will find a job.
- I am a worthwhile person even without a job.
- I could be happier being homeless than having the stress of my usual kind of job.
- Maybe if I stop trying to find my usual kind of work that makes me miserable, I could become a caretaker for an inn, a fruit tree grove, or find an amazing house sitting situation.
The quickest way to happiness is to stop believing untrue thoughts and their accompanying feelings. They are just messages handed down from our ancestors who were trying to keep us safe. The minute you notice your emotional state is crashing, immediately challenge whatever thought just went through your mind.
Some of our chronic emotional loops happen so fast, it’s hard to catch the thought. If you can’t find the thought, then notice what the feeling is. It might be a general feeling of being inappropriate or free floating anxiety that something bad is going to happen. Find the thought that would fit that emotion and work with the thought.
Another avenue is to remember a time you were happy and then focus on generating that feeling of happiness. Force yourself to smile or jump up and down saying “ha ha ha.” It will disrupt the negative emotional loop and change the neuronal pathways in your brain so you actually start feeling happy. You can also look around your surroundings and say out loud what you are grateful for. This helps break the negative trance and see what is actually true in the moment. Look around you and notice the good things:
- I have a nice home to live in.
- I have enough food to eat.
- It is wonderful to see that mother being so good to her child.
- I am so happy I have my (pet, friend, child, spouse).
Create misery-busting mantras to say to yourself that work for you:
- I am OK In this moment.
- I have everything I truly need right now.
- I am a good person who is doing the best I can.
- I’m enjoying this cup of coffee.
- I can feel some peace looking at those flowers.
- Many times, I made myself miserable worrying about a horrible future that never came to pass. I won’t let imaginary thoughts take away my chance to be happy right now.