Ok so I have completely devoured the Happiness Trap by Russ Harris now... and I am going back for a second round because I found it so useful.
Check out my previous post here, regarding maintaining mindfulness during chaos. The next part that I really, really like is ...
Living your life in line with your values.
So beyond the noticing of thoughts or feelings that make you uncomfortable and breathing around them, not trying to stop them, then practising diffusion and expansion techniques... this part is about then directing your actions. After all we have no control over our thoughts or feelings, what we do have control of is our actions.
The book discusses not living life by a dead persons goal -- which means living life by goals that can be ticked off the list -- 'oh but I love ticking off my list!' I hear you say... yeah me too, there is that sense of accomplishment and reward, but alas its short lived and the continued joy, delight and contentment that so many of us are striving for, wont be found in to do lists.
"A value is a direction we desire to keep moving in, an ongoing process that never reaches an end."
What the author discusses is spending some time with identifying your core values. He describes doing this by evaluating the four key areas of your life -- love/relationships, leisure, work/education and personal growth/health. Or you can break it down further if you wish into family, intimate relationships, friendships, employment, education/personal development, recreation/fun/leisure, spirituality, community life, environment/nature and health/body.
Its surprisingly hard to nail a value. I spent some time pondering it and not really knowing which way to turn. So one strategy used, as described in the book, is to imagine you could listen in on your own funeral -- the people you most care about were there, what sort of things would you love them to say about you? What would you like them to think about the role you played in their lives?
Then once you write down a few things its starts to get easier, you will probably find your mind kicks in and rubbishes the process, argues that you are no good or that your values are not good enough. But stick with it and its beautiful to see what you have at the end.
Of course values may change, these aren't meant to be static, however the writing down part is simply to allow you to see them and realise what areas in your life you are not living to your values.
Once you can see it in the black and white, it then gives a place to begin to grow and make simple steps towards living the life that you want for yourself. Being the human being that you want to be. And doing this is what brings the most extraordinary sense of happiness and contentment, inspiration and passion.
I spoke previously about the frustration of not having enough time to do the projects I want, however this process uncovered that one of my top values was that I wanted to be a loving, engaged and sincere mother, therefore I was feeling so much discontent with trying to do it all because I was pushing against a core value. Since I have realised this I have simply stopped pushing, breathed a whole lot, made room for the uncomfortable feeling and now I am finding that the pain and frustration has eased.
I know that these years are important to my children and that when I am old and I reflect on this time, I wont regret spending my days playing and nurturing their little souls. It will also give me the space to do the best job I can now, then when the time is right, connect 1000% with my projects and professional goals.
The author tells a story about two children who are being driven to Disneyland. One child is impatient and keeps asking; "how much longer?" They shift around uncomfortably in the car, whine and moan and struggle with the wait. The other child looks out of the window, they know they will reach Disneyland eventually and they stop to enjoy watching the scenery move past outside and notice animals and people and houses and trees, they see the beautiful landscapes and time moves quickly. Half way there they find out the Disneyland is closed and turn around to come home. Who do you think go the most out of the journey?
The journey is a metaphor for life, we can struggle and whinge and whine and hope for things to be different and fight against ourselves, or we can slow down and notice the journey, live with presence, live by our values -- kindness, loving, energetic, thoughtful, sincere -- what ever they are. Having this state of mind, means we will still be on the same path, but my oh my it will look different!
Love, J x