Written By Daina Lynn
As a kid, I used to watch my mom fall in love every day…
I remember listening to her hum and sway while folding laundry.
I used to love when she’d get home from work… she was always so well-dressed, and she’d always fill the room with her lovely smell and smile. Those were the moments I learned that our presence defines us in ways words never could.
I remember watching joyful tears fill her eyes on the street during our walks any time we’d pass a cute puppy. Those were the moments I learned times of joyful tears are just as good as times of laughter-induced tears.
I can still see her pointing out flowers and plants as we would wander through wooded trails near our house. I remember her having me put my palm up as the wind blew by… And asking me what the wind was saying. Those were the moments I learned the beauty and power of nature.
Everything she did… she fell in love with. She treated each seemingly mundane act as if it held a galaxy of beauty. And it’s the greatest lesson she ever taught me. It’s a big reason why I have chosen the path of yoga and reiki… among many other choices in my life.
That’s because, in life, we can see whatever we’d like to see.
Let me say that again…
We can see WHATEVER we’d like to see.
Do you believe that? The joy I feel when I see a cute puppy stumbling down the street might be the same frustration someone else feels that the neighbor’s new dog might “mess up” their lawn. The same angst someone feels while folding another load of laundry may be the same peace I feel when I get to listen to some music and dance while doing chores for a little while.
Life is nothing more than what we choose to see. People are nothing more than what we choose to see. We become nothing more than what we choose to be.
And today I want to remind you that choice comes from within. The moment we say someone else’s actions caused us to make a decision or feel a certain way, we are giving away the only power we have in life: the power to choose our actions and reactions.
And finding the path of “choice” is an empowering path. But, it is a path… not a destination.
What does that tired old cliché mean, anyways? To me, it simply means that anything we choose to follow in life, be it faith, a workout plan, a new diet choice, or a marriage… is a constant path to be walked. It’s not an ending.
That means we have to wake up every single day and still choose our faith even when it’s being tested… still choose to work out on days we’re tired… and still choose our spouse even though they hurt us the day before.
Look, it’s not easy. And I’m not here to tell you it is. That’s why most people give up on their goals in life. And that’s why you might not like some of the things I have to say...
But, when we make a decision to apply ourselves to something, that’s not where the work stops. It’s actually where the work begins. We could, at any moment, step off of the path we are walking on… sleep in instead of working out… decide to separate from our spouse instead of working through things…
That’s the choice we have at any given time. We can be whoever we want.
Or, we could continue on our path towards our ultimate goal(s) in life. Would I be wrong if I guessed we all just want to be happy? To feel fulfilled? I don’t know anyone who would argue against happiness… despite what they might show on the surface. So, for the sake of this article, let’s focus on the path to love and happiness.
And just like a path towards any goal, this path is endless and full of ups and downs, detours and distractions, and plenty of chances to turn around. But, always remember… you can step back on the path at any time if you’ve lost your way… it’s just going to require discipline.
So, I’d like to offer you three steps to guide you in the right direction: let go of what’s in the way, become what you seek, and leave the heart open. Let’s call it a logical means to achieving an emotion-filled end.
Step One: Letting Go of Suffering
Let me cut right to the chase with step one: Everyone suffers. Everyone has. Everyone will.
I don’t mean to belittle anyone’s situation. Speaking for myself, I’ve had a good life thus far and there are others out there who have been through things I’m not certain I could handle. What I am saying is we all suffer, in some way, shape, or form. It does us no good to compare our suffering as if life were a game.
This is one of the concepts that drew me to study Buddhism. The first of The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism reminds us that suffering, pain, and misery exist in life. They’re unavoidable. They happen to everyone.
It does us no good to dwell on our suffering… just as it does us no good to focus on anything in life that’s unavoidable and, therefore, out of our realm of control (though, a Buddhist might argue that we do have control over our suffering… but that’s a different topic entirely).
What do we have control over? How we view the world. How we treat others. What we choose to see.
What don’t we have control over? Painful things that happen in life. How others view us. How others treat us.
Unfortunately, in times of emotional or spiritual turmoil, we tend to “fall in love” with our suffering instead of our joy. It’s the same reason we tend to play out our childhood traumas in adult relationships. Or the reason we get stuck at the same, dead-end job. Or why we just can’t kick that nasty habit.
A suitable quote for this very topic is from author Najwa Zebian... “These mountains that you are carrying, you were only supposed to climb.”
The suffering you carry… you were only supposed to overcome.
That’s the beauty within the suffering… once we see that our suffering has a purpose, that’s when we can really let it go. I liken it to when I’m out for a long run… and I’m pushing my pace… and I only have a mile left. I want to slow down. I want to end it early, and just walk it in.
But, I know I have just one mile left, and all this discomfort that I feel will soon be over. Now, emotional battles in life don’t have “just one mile left” signs posted on every corner… but it’s a reminder that everything passes and everything comes to an end, be it good or bad.
If you’re not a runner, think about that job you were laid off from, that person who broke your heart, or that opportunity that never came through… those are all simply other mountains to climb, or opportunities to grow. And in hindsight, they probably led you to some of your greatest triumphs.
Every person, every situation, every struggle, every failure, every triumph… is a teacher.
So, the start of living a happier life becomes letting go of what we don’t have control over and rerouting our energy to focus on what we do have control over. This is the first step in the right direction towards finding our path: letting go of what’s in the way or just simply cleaning off our foggy glasses. It’s a shift of perspective.
We will get to that “shift” during step two.
Before we do, we must first remember that this “letting go” requires quite a bit of discipline. Like I hinted at in my previous article, A Lesson In Self Love: Finding it Through Your Craft, dedication and consistency coupled with discipline aren’t rigid attributes… they’re crucial.
I would even go as far as to argue having discipline (mental, physical, spiritual, you name it) is essential to living a healthier and happier life.
The Dalai Lama touches on this point in his famous book, The Art of Happiness, when he says...
“Whether our action is wholesome or unwholesome depends on whether that action or deed arises from a disciplined or undisciplined state of mind. It is felt that a disciplined mind leads to happiness and an undisciplined mind leads to suffering, and in fact it is said that bringing about discipline within one's mind is the essence of the Buddha's teaching.”
Now, I cannot pretend to know the exact context the Dalia Lama was speaking to here. It probably wasn’t in reference to the guy who broke my heart (just a guess). But, here’s how I apply it...
Discipline is simply choosing to “show up” no matter what we face. “Fake it till you make it” is a very real ideology. You won’t be thrilled about keeping up with your work regimen every single day, or maintaining a healthy diet when all you want to do is binge, or even being kind to your partner when you’re upset. But that’s discipline… accepting that anything worth having requires a little nose-to-the-dirt energy.
It’s showing yourself, and the Universe (or God, the gods, or whatever dogma you adhere to) that just because circumstances may change, just as each day brings different energy, you stay true to who you are and what you want.
Remember… all you can control is how you act and react to any given situation. Take back the control of your choices, now.
And that’s where step two comes in… continuing to choose happiness… until you become it.
Step Two: Becoming Happiness
Whether you’re talking to a quantum physicist, a psychologist, or an energy healer (this sounds like the start of a bad joke)... they’ll all likely give you a similar answer to the question: How do I get what I want?
You live it. You breathe it. You study it. You become it... We ultimately attract what we are.
After the previous section, I want to make something clear: I’m not simply suggesting we stop feeling or deny things like anger and frustration. Sometimes, it’s called for to stand up for ourselves and be assertive. But what’s wrong with doing it from a place of love? Of compassion?
(HINT: This is that shift in perspective… )
The guy who cuts you off in traffic… maybe he’s rushing home to be with his kids after work.
The chef who messes up the meal you ordered… maybe her mind is on her ill mother.
The truth is, we will never know why people do the things they do… or even why certain things happen to us in life. And perhaps it’s best that we don’t. But what if we chose to see these events that would normally bother us, or alter our energy negatively, with loving eyes?
I firmly believe that all we can do in life is give it our all and come from the heart. That’s it. That’s all that is required of us.
But, how is it that one “becomes happiness”? It starts with that oh-so-tricky, disciplined mind we brought up during step one… How does it become disciplined? Let’s look at it in terms of attaining happiness...
Essentially, you first have to believe two things: a. Happiness exists and b. You deserve happiness.
And that starts with the health of your mind and your self talk. Your subconscious mind is a powerful, powerful tool… that could either help you reach all of your wildest dreams, or hold you back from ever getting anything you want out of life.
Joseph Murphy explains it well in his book The Power of Your Subconscious Mind (emphasis added is mine)…
“Your subconscious mind may be likened to the soil which will grow all kinds of seeds, good or bad [...] Every thought is, therefore, a cause, and every condition is an effect. For this reason, it is essential that you take charge of your thoughts so as to bring forth only desirable conditions. [...] it is your world within, namely, your thoughts, feelings, and imagery that makes your world without. It is, therefore, the only creative power, and everything which you find in your world of expression has been created by you in the inner world of your mind consciously or unconsciously.”
Put simply: Discipline → taking control of your mind → taking control of your life.
That means (you might not like this) paying attention to the music you listen to… the TV shows/movies you watch… the people you associate with… the place you work… It means taking inventory of your entire life.
Just as Murphy argues in his book, your subconscious mind (the driving force behind who you are) takes everything it’s given at face value. It doesn’t understand the satire of a joke. It doesn’t understand that you “just like this song for the beat, not the lyrics.”
It’s simple: If you want to become a great painter, you surround yourself with everything that is artistry and cut out anything that doesn’t support that goal. It’s the same for happiness… love… peace… anything you could desire from the heart.
What are the lyrics to your favorite songs saying? What is the premise of your favorite TV show arguing? What do the people whom you surround yourself with stand for?
What do you stand for? (Yes, you can answer that question.)
You didn’t know I was such a buzz kill, did you? But, these are real questions you have to ask yourself if you want a happier and healthier life. And these are real things you have to look into changing if you’re serious about it.
Let’s bring this all back, full circle. To find happiness and love in life, it’s essential to let go of what’s in our way… our suffering. And to do that, we must take control of our mind. And when we take control of our mind through discipline while feeding it kindness and love, we become the very thing we seek.
And once we allow ourselves to remain open enough to become what it is we seek, we get to enjoy life a little more…
Step Three: Always in Love
I really want to dovetail this whole thing back with my mom because, at the end of the day, she instilled so much happiness into my heart… this path is the only one I could ever choose to walk. And that’s the power of the path of love and happiness… our choice to walk the path (like my mother’s) can have a profound impact on other people.
I asked her once, when I was young, “What is happiness? How do you know you feel it?”
Gosh, I must have been in kindergarten…. Maybe first grade at the oldest. I was fascinated with love and happiness. The two things that seem to be the crux of our existence and yet, all we do as humans is slowly build walls around ourselves to keep either from entering.
I’m still fascinated with this.
I think back about it often, because I can still remember her answer to that question. It was such a profound “light-bulb” moment for me… at such a young age.
“Happiness is watching the sunset… or smiling at a cute puppy with floppy ears. It’s all the little things… that happen every day. You just have to open your eyes to them,” she said.
I reminded her recently of this conversation, and she laughed… she couldn’t place it. But I thanked her for not saying anything but what she said.
She could have told me money makes people happy… or a husband makes you happy… or status… or anything else. I am so fortunate she told me what she did. Because those are the moments I’ve always associated with happiness… and love.
I was thinking about it the other night, as I was watching the beautiful Florida sunset from my patio… There are three things in life that could pull me out of any pain I might feel, even if just for a moment…
Ice cream… sunsets or sunrises… and jazz music.
Okay, so technically it’s four. But, how fortunate I am that those things do it for me. Maybe not the first one, that’s in moderation of course. But the last two… so easy.
What are your “things”? The things that you “fall in love” with every day?
The path of love and happiness is the most beautiful, rewarding path. It has lots of ups and downs… but the longer I’ve been on it, the longer I’ve stayed up than down. And that’s all I could ask for.
And now, I find myself dancing in the kitchen while cooking for myself.
Or touching all of the flowers and plants I see during my walks.
Or almost crying when I see two people embrace (yes, I almost cried the other day when I saw a young mother and daughter hug. That happens more than I’d like to admit.)
And swaying while folding laundry.
Step three is simply “always being in love”... it’s reaping what you’ve sown. It’s enjoying what you’ve worked hard to receive. It’s leaving your heart open for lightning to strike.
This all reminds me of one of my favorite books, The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. There’s a part where one character is asking another about his values… and he responds with the most beautiful line that sums up my entire motivation for writing this article...