When I’m happy, I find it difficult to write about happiness.
As teenagers, my writing friends and I justified that the only way to get our “deepest” thoughts on paper was to live a tortured life. To this day, my happiest moments exist in the writing gaps of my journals. I crave pen and paper when all’s not well.
And when all is well? I sometimes forget about practicing yoga daily or recording the happy moments. If I ever have kids, and they have kids, somebody hundreds of years from now is going to think I was such a drama queen.
Here’s the tricky thing about feeling well when you have a history of feeling unwell: You can’t stop doing all the things that got you well to begin with.
Our lives and bodies are an accumulation we’re constantly trying to strip away. “Things” (the word you’re taught in English class to never use) are abundant — just not the “things” we want.
We get disappointment when we hoped it would work out. We convince ourselves it doesn’t hurt to come in second place. We thought we were “over it” until it’s clear we aren’t.
But when we’re happy? It’s easier to live in it than to define it.
When you’ve arrived
There’s a good chance that if you find yourself smiling for no reason and announcing for no reason that you’re happy, then you’re probably happy.
Moments pass slower. You recognize the perfectly planned timing of blooming flowers and how long your hair has grown. The thoughts that used to plague you are no longer practiced, and maybe you pay more attention to eating green leafy salads.
You arrive smack dab in the in-between, the time when you are not elated and not depressed. When somebody asks you how it’s going, you reply, “Everything’s fantastic,” and they think you’re making it up or they’re curious about feeling that way, too.
Here’s advice for staying here, within the gaps of your journals, if you so choose:
- Stop wondering when this pain-free era will be over. The truth is, pain’s still found here, but you’re not latching on or giving it much attention.
- Do not believe that you don’t deserve it. Let’s just stop this self-torture, okay? You deserve it.
- There will always be distractions and things that will fire you up. When you’re triggered, close your eyes. Get clear on owning your portion of the situation and letting the rest go.
- Do not feel guilty for being in this space when others aren’t. Your radiation will lift them up, and if it doesn’t, that’s not your work to do.
- When given a choice between forcing and yielding, always yield.
- You will fall back into old patterns. Plan accordingly.
Own your happy
There’s thrill in the ordinary when you realize you can take control at any time. Until this month, I never gave myself permission to cut my own hair, as if I wasn’t allowed. So I trimmed my bangs yesterday and they don’t look great, but they don’t look bad, and now I’ve got new ownership over this stuff that grows on my head.
Maybe this is where you need to start.
The reason it’s easier to be owned by our problems is because we spend so much time thinking about them. When you’re in-between, that’s why it’s important to practice — even exaggerate — the positive.
When you’re happy and you know it, you still need to do the practice. Bask in your okayness. Set your intention not to be healed but to celebrate the healing.
I’ll never forget the day that I came to my yoga mat and drew a blank for my intention. I usually scanned for something to fix or change about myself, but that day I smiled. I was going to be alright, I knew. So I set an intention to help others feel the same.
As long as one of the “things” you accumulate is a desire to help others, your continued happiness is pretty darn close to assured.
Try it: Ardha Uttanasana, Standing Half Forward Bend
This in-between pose doesn’t get enough credit. It’s often rushed through during Sun Salutations, but this is your chance to slow down and experience whatever your body’s presenting you with now.
Strive for a lengthened spine rather than fingers on the mat. If your upper back rounds or your legs won’t straighten, bend the knees and prop your hands on blocks. We all experience in the in-between differently.
- From Mountain Pose, Tadasana, fold forward to Uttanasana, weight in the balls of the feet, kneecaps lifted, thigh bones moving back and heart low. If your fingers touch the ground, you’ll keep them rooted for the half lift. If not, bring palms to your shins. Relax the back of your neck and let your head hang.
- Inhale and lift through the back of the heart to elongate your spine, straightening the elbows. Exhale, draw your shoulder blades down the back and keep your gaze on the floor to avoid crunching the neck.
- Inhale and again press the thigh bones back as you broaden the upper chest, fingertips planted on shins or the floor. Exhale and, from the hips, fold forward to your toes.
- On your next inhale, lift up halfway to a flat back. Exhale, lead with the chest and fold forward. Take the flow one more time at your pace, reaching the crown of the head forward.
- Bend your knees, drop your belly to your thighs and place your hands on your hips, elbows skyward. Inhale and roll yourself up to standing, one vertebra at a time.
Your turn: How do you stay happy when you know it?