We use time as an excuse as to why we don’t do things. Why we don’t exercise, read more books, take up that pet project, do more with our children etc. I often joke my free time is between 3 and 4am! I squeeze as much as I can into my days but like most of us, I do not have much free time available. We live in a world where everything has been designed to give us more time (from pre-washed and cut veggies to microwaves, email and faster cars) yet we somehow find ourselves with less time and energy! (Anyway that is another post) What I have come to realize and now say is that there is no such thing as having enough time, you never will, so forget that old moan and get on with it!
You don’t have time…You MAKE TIME.
It comes down to priorities and planning.
Both Eastern and Western Spiritual teachers, from Thich Nhat Hanh to Eckhart Tolle, are known for their teachings of experiencing mindfulness being fully present in the moment. A famous quote I love is that we are human ‘beings’ and not human ‘doings’. To be aware of each magnificent moment of our existence and to be fully present for our lives is the answer to peace, happiness and success. What these great teachers fail to fully get across to us is that as few of us live like monks in the Himalayas and instead live very hectic lives, even the act of being present requires 1) Time and 2)Action (the doing).
All worthwhile things require effort – Even reminding yourself to be present in the moment. The constant action of bringing your mind back to the moment and whatever you may be doing in that moment and the continual re-focusing on the breath, requires effort and discipline. We can BE so to speak, only if we DO.
Next on the agenda is the topic of happiness. (I am taking the long way round here to get to my point, but hopefully you are still with me here!) It always amazes me just how many people tell me they are not happy and ask what they can do to be happy with their lives. I wish I had a happy pill, if so I would have millions of in the bank and it would make me happy! Bottom line is we have to take the time/make the effort to be happy. It does not hit us in the face boom and there we go, happy forever.
No, happiness is much more subtle, it sneaks up on you and gives you a glimpse of something intrinsically beautiful for just long enough for you to take a few breaths of appreciation before it leaves.
( Long enough too, I guess for you to also have a sense of what you are missing, when you don’t experience it!) Happiness is not a destination, not an emotional state where you arrive and are forever changed and content. Most happy moments do not last, which is why we actually note them as happy and need to hold on to them. While out there looking for the big sign about how to be happy you are missing out on the stranger who smiles at you while sitting in your car in the traffic, the unexpected hug from your child, the beautiful sunset over your city that evening. Happiness comes in all forms. Find it in the offer by your husband to make dinner that night, the fluid movement of your body as it exercises, the 30 minutes extra to cuddle under the blankets on the weekend, the smell of a new paperback as you open it for the first time, the traffic lights all turning green on your way to work, baking something yummy on a Sunday afternoon, finding a top that looks good on you at the shop, getting a call from a friend that cares. If you appreciate the little things, you will find the bigger ones come more easily.
I think when life feels mundane (and a bit like living in the movie groundhog day) it becomes more of a challenge to take note of the good things and appreciate all that actually is healthy/functional/good/fortunate in our lives. Do we need to win the lotto or have an exotic trip around the world booked in order to feel excited and alive and happy? Do we need to have the perfect job paying the high salary, be married to the perfect spouse and have 2.5 perfect kids to be happy? If that is the case, we will always come up short, as what we look for does not exist. Within each opportunity and experience in our lives is the possibility for happiness or disappointment and the choice to choose which we experience. Which emotion do you feed? Which do you put effort into experiencing?
One of the most profound spiritual practices you can have is the daily act of being grateful.
I try and focus each day on this powerful practice. There are those things that are consistent that I am grateful for like having a roof over my head, my family's health and wellbeing and having food to eat and then each day I try and come up with something extra unique to the experiences of that day. Yes, there are some days when I really have to think about it, but if you forget the mind-blowing amazing expectations of what we should be grateful for, you find that there really always is something to note. A powerful daily practice is to keep a gratitude journal. Or if you are not that keen on writing, you can do this exercise in your mind.
Every day note 5 things that you are grateful for.
It creates awareness, appreciation, humbleness, awe and love for this beautiful thing called life. Another amazing aspect of keeping a gratitude journal is that, it brings more of what you are grateful for, into your life. Being grateful allows the energy of your life to flow and creates a state of abundance. By focusing on the good and what is right in your life, you get more of it. It is a basic universal law, but we are often so focused on what we are lacking, that we forget to take note of what is good and what we do have. In that scenario, we end up getting more of what we lack. So turn the tables on this negative mindset trap and at the bottom of your list of 5 daily things you are grateful for, make another list of things that you desire, but write them in a way of being grateful for them, as if you already have them in your life. In other words you trust that the universe/God is not holding anything from you - that you lack nothing. What you desire, is already taken care of, it is already yours. Eg. I am grateful for all the money flowing in to me, I am grateful for the healthy baby safely growing inside my belly, I am grateful for loving relationships in my life.
Writing in your journal each day takes discipline and time and we all fall off the discipline treadmill now and then. Get back on. Make the time. Take action. Be in the moment and be grateful for what you have. It will change your life, it will.