In pursuit of happiness, I’ve almost always been afraid of change, yet been more afraid of standing still; something inside driving me forwards. Moving to another country, then to the other side of the world, leaving relationships, leaving jobs, leaving the corporate realm altogether, having a family, reconciling family relationships, the list goes on.
There are no regrets in any of that but when everything else has been stripped away, there comes a point you have to look in the mirror. I could continue to chew my way through excuses and point to certain people and circumstances as my source of dissatisfaction, but I have too much awareness to do that anymore.
While it is true that I am happier than I’ve ever been, I think it’s fair to say I still wouldn’t describe my underlying state as happy. It’s not that I expect butterflies and rainbows 24/7 but, in this journey to me, my awareness of what I think and feel is now so acute that the gap (between indoctrinated-by-the-world-me and unadulterated me) is more painful and more obvious than it was before I got rid of all the distractions.
My underlying state is too often at dis-ease with ‘what is’. It’s this melancholy that blocks me on so many levels, but certainly from an overall state of happiness.
For anyone undertaking a spiritual journey, this will seem really obvious, yet our internal thought patterns do not generally disappear in a moment of grace never to return. Unless we suffer some catastrophic event, most of us have some hard yards to do.
That has never been so obvious to me as it is now.
Yesterday I had a migraine, fairly mild with visual disturbance and a vice-like feeling around my head. It was a school-day so the temptation to take the kids to school while I had a rest was strong, but neither of them were on top form either. So instead I decided to bite the bullet and we all stayed home.
I spent most of the day in a state of observation, since I lacked the energy for much of anything else. There were many moments in the day I wished for the peace and solitude I’d normally have on a school day, but there were also some beautiful moments watching the kids embroiled in their creative endeavours.
Later in the day when my partner arrived home early, we all took a short walk in a nearby wooded area and the kids had fun in the mud at the stream while we took in the sounds of nature all around and enjoyed some sunshine. We had a nice time, something more to appreciate.
So today, once I had dropped the kids off at school, I sat and thought “okay Shona, here is the peace you were wanting, the peace that you bemoaned yesterday. Now what?”
And I realised just how bad I still felt.
Now I can point to lots of things that might explain that away, and anyone who knows me would likely be kind enough to help, especially since my mum passed away recently. However, the only person who is inside my head is me. And I have full awareness of the garbage going on in there. That spew train has years and years of momentum.
Delving into anything on board the spew train will only give it more energy. I’ve done it to death, enough of it is documented in my articles to give you the gist (see What Are Negative Thought Patterns Doing for Us as a recent example). It’s probably not that different to your own spew train.
I recognise it for what it is, just old patterns, old imagery that is chugging along on new fuel. Yet there will never be a shortage of fuel because we are wired for growth, and experiencing dissatisfaction is part of our propulsion system. But if I only use that energy to fuel the old thought patterns the dissatisfaction just worsens.
So what to do about it, this default habit that most of us find ourselves in? How do I use the fuel to get a different, more healthy, train out of the station? Appreciation feels much better than dissatisfaction.
But I have no mental template for that, the switch to living in a state of appreciation rather than a state of dissatisfaction. That train isn’t anywhere near built yet. There have been fleeting trips upon such a train in my life, so I know what it feels like. You too can likely recall memories of riding high in a new relationship, or a new job, or the attainment of some goal you’d been focusing on.
But how do we make that our way of being rather than it feel like a fleeting ride at some Disneyland Park? How do we create an appreciation train and get it out the station?
I suspect there are as many answers as there are people asking the question. I know that what calls me is words. While limited, words are our most focused way of thinking, and thinking is the tool of our creation. So I have started to write out my future as if it was today, I am writing in a way that depicts not just my circumstances as I want them to be, but also my thoughts as I want them to be. I am writing my future and rewiring my brain, so it can help rather than hinder.
It’s said it takes 21 days to form a habit, but I suspect I will have to go on rewriting and rewiring my thought patterns by focusing daily on my life through these appreciation lenses. I have already noticed thoughts in my head making excuses about why I can’t write about that today.
But you know, I suspect once I get some momentum going on the appreciation train it won’t seem that hard at all, and I will have changed my underlying state to one that makes me feel happier a lot more of the time. And who doesn’t want that?
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