I don’t think of myself as a naturally giddy person. I actually grew up feeling a little sad about the state of the world: my 6-year old brain told me that adults did not know they were pieces of a whole, in my magical view of he world, we had all been broken into pieces but somehow were still connected.
I had to really learn about happiness. My yoga teachers taught me how to find it, and now I’m always discovering ways to deepen it, lengthen the periods I’m feeling it, and how to find happiness whatever other feelings or states of mind may be present.
I think of Ma Yoga as simply a compilation of the happiness practices we teachers have learned over our years of study and practice. What makes us feel happy? Here’s what many yoga teaches, myself included, have experienced leads to happiness:
– connecting breathing to moving
– connecting to our desire
– connecting action to meaning
– connecting to others with like desires
Our on-the-mat as well as off-the-mat practices help us do all of the above, but only help us achieve happiness if we know one thing.
As I look back on my 18 years of practicing yoga, I realize the main thing I learned from yoga about happiness IS…
That happiness is my responsibility.
This might sound obvious to some in this day and age, or possibly offensive to others. I am not saying we have to love or even like everyone, or be ok with everything that happened to us. I am simply saying, if we are to be happy, most of the time we will need to choose it. In each moment of our day. No matter what happens.
That means when we sit around letting our thoughts take us to a dark place and then hang out there just out of habit, it’s up to us to choose to do something else, to reach out, or to turn a light on in some way.
It means when we worry about something we can’t do anything about, we are practicing being unhappy. Most of us are pretty good at that by now.
And conversely, when we choose NOT to do the things we know will make us happy (the above list or your own version), we are practicing unhappiness.
We can wait for the universe to give us what we dream of, or until we have more time, or for people to do and say what they should, or to look and be what we know we could – but chances are, even when these things happen, we won’t know how to be happy.
If we haven’t been busy choosing happiness, chances are by then we’ll be REALLY good at unhappiness and we’ll choose it anyway, out of habit.
If we are waiting for happiness, we’re not waiting for the Thing we think we are: we are waiting for our Self to choose happiness. To choose to do the things that make us happy. Connecting breath to movement (running/ tennis/ dancing).
Connecting to our desire (I want to live on a houseboat/ I want a pet/ I want time to do a Kickstarter campaign).
Connect action to meaning (Giving to someone we love/ gardening/ writing).
Connect to others who have similar desires (Mom groups/ old friends/ online learning).
I used to find that in the afternoons I’d feel low and uninspired. Usually it was a break I needed. I’d forget that I get up at 5:30 and work and exercise and didn’t even stop working to eat.
Exhaustion and stress take away our ability to choose clearly. It’s so hard to stop what we’re doing, lie down and close our eyes for 20 minutes. But it is so effective. And when there’s a baby around, it’s essential.
So do it today, mama, don’t wait. Choose it, whatever it is that you know will make you happy. Not instant gratification happy, but long term, feel good and connected and proud-of-yourself happiness.
Nap, take a walk, write in your journal, meet up with someone, or work on a project.
If you know me, you know I love eating food that the earth has prepared for me. Lately I am enjoying my green smoothies in the morning and a huge meal in the mid-day – so big that I can avoid snacking for the rest of the day (I just drink lots of tea)!
Now I don’t experience a low in the afternoon, and my brain doesn’t even shut off at 8. This is one of the fundamental daily rhythms that MAyurveda teaches us: to eat a big meal in the middle of the day and that dinner (“supper”, from “supplement”) should be light.
Try it and see what works for you. If you’re going to have “once in a while foods”, as we call them around here, have them with lunch.
I try to follow this rhythm because I feel better in the afternoon, I sleep better at night, my body keeps off extra weight, and most of all – it just makes me happy!