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3 Ways to Live — Only 1 Leads to Happiness

I have noticed that there are 3 distinct ways in which people (including myself) generally live…

Sometimes it is a mixture of all 3 – but not in a conscious, balanced way – often it just works out that way and people don’t realise fully why they’re happy in some moments and feeling displaced, off-balance or basically unhappy in most other moments. Usually, certainly in western culture, we attribute it to a specific person or event being the “source” of that happiness.

(Incidentally, there’s a whole lot more about this in my book “The Journey Back to Bliss” if you’re interested in delving a little deeper into it, take a look here).

Oddly, as time goes on, we can experience the same person or event in an unhappy way. So what has changed?

Happiness is not intrinsically in an event or person, it’s in our perception of that event or person. It is in the way we see it. It’s about how we “do” life.

There are 3 Ways to Live

  1. The Way of Past/Future
    Always mentally re-living the Past and/or mentally rehearsing for the Future
  2. The Way of Now Negativity
    Being focussed on the present moment but feeling some form of negativity towards it
  3. The Way of Now Neutrality/Positivity
    Being in the present moment and feeling open to the possibility of good within it

Only 1 Leads to Happiness

#3 is clearly the answer here, but the exact reasons why may require a little more consideration. True happiness exists in the present moment, not in the far-off, distant dreamscape of non-reality. It also depends entirely on our perception of life, not on what is “going on” at the time.

Do you think that life is on your side, or do you think you have to “fight” or “work” for happiness and reward?

I have experienced happiness (or some sort of similar feeling) in the midst of complete mayhem, and I have experienced extreme unhappiness in the midst of wonderful occasions with great people. So I know for certain that happiness does not depend on the circumstances, but on how we see those specific circumstances AND (more importantly) how we view life generally.

And I hear many say that “life was better in the past when…”, or “life will be better in the future when…”. But tell me honestly, how long does that feeling of pseudo past/future happiness last? Does it uplift your energy and carry you through the week like genuine happiness does? No. I would say not. Also, if you’re able to really step back an analyze how you feel, ask yourself “what other emotions and thoughts am I experiencing right now?”. If you’re anything like me (e.g. human!), you’ll also feel an equal amount of sadness at the “loss” of the source of that happy memory, or an equal amount of disatisfaction (unhappiness) at not yet “having” that future thing/person/event.

So that leaves us with the present moment

But it’s not as simple as just being “present” focussed. You could be living in the present moment, not paying too much attention to the past or future, but still experiencing life in an unhappy way. I must say though, it’s MUCH more difficult to be unhappy when you’re ignoring the past and future, because there’s simply less to be unhappy about. I would say (from personal experience) that most of our unhappiness comes from the first way of living — in past/future mode.

When you wish for things to be different, you’re creating misery for yourself. So, whether you’re living in the present, or past, or future mainly, as long as you wish your present moment was different, e.g. —

  • somewhere else
  • with someone else
  • doing something else
  • with more or less of something

— then you’re never going to be truly happy (certainly not for any length of time). It’s a mental program that will only lead you to more misery because eventually you’ll find yourself in exactly the same disillusionment about your present, wishing that something would change — falsely imagining that your happiness is depending on getting to some “destination” or attaining some “achievement” etc.

This is the most important key to unlock your happiness:

Happiness comes from the “doing” (present), not the “arriving” (future) or the achievement (past).

Just think about it. A big part of the intial happiness of a new relationship or job is the meeting, learning etc — we lose our “mind” in the process. It’s the process. It’s about expansion and seeing more of life, it’s about the journey moving forward — not forward to a specific goal, but forward in the sense of expansion of your “experience” of life — helping you ascertain what you want more of, and what you want less of, and leading you towards understanding what you’re true purpose in life is.

So it’s not just the “doing” in itself, but it’s “doing” with the conscious knowledge that it’s part of your journey forward that really makes it a life worth living.

A big part of it is trust

Of course, you have to trust that life is on your side (and it is) and that things will work out for the best somehow (and the ‘how’ is not very important!). You can’t experience genuine present moment happiness without some form of belief that you’re tapping in to a greater force of endless happiness. If you think it’s dependent on any finite source (e.g. a person or event or momentary achievement etc), then you won’t be able to experience ongoing happiness.

And that thought alone will bring that equal amount of unhappiness into the picture without you even realising. So trust that there’s an infinite pool of goodness just under the surface of life, and it’s ALWAYS there, and always available to you.

Just let go of your expections, let go of the past and let go of your need for the present or future to be anything other than what it is right now, and just enjoy the process of moving forward.

Trust that it will ALL work out in the end and that THIS present moment (whatever you are facing right now) is just a part of it — it’s a necessary part of your journey, and, as long as you see it as a journey moving forward, you’ll feel the happiness that comes from the Source, not the mixed bag that comes from circumstance or achievement.

So what about you?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this (even if you disagree in some way!) — otherwise I’m just talking to myself, and that’s pretty pointless isn’t it?? Please do share your thoughts below…

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How I Found That Life Is Perfect

Gautama Siddharta said “When you realize how perfect everything is you will tilt your head back and laugh at the sky.” — and I found out that he was right… eventually.

It’s been at least 12 months since I first read that quote. At first I just laughed at the absurdity of the idea… but I just couldn’t put it out of my mind. The idyllic possibility that life is somehow perfect is just too enticing to ignore.

So, over the last 12 months I began to ask better questions and get better answers about how to view life from this perspective. And, over the last 6 months I have put my realisations in writing — culminating in my first book “The Journey Back to Bliss” — about how to live a life you love (right now, not when you’re dead!!).

I’m going to talk about this quote a lot more in future posts, but right now I’d just like to issue you a challenge — to ask yourself, without negativity, the following question everyday…

“How is everything perfect?”

For me, I began to see [a] that everything was in balance (an equal amount of good in every “bad” situation) and [b] that “bad” situations always had a “good” potential outcome.

I began to see that life was on our side.

What about you? When have you seen that “bad” situations bring about “good” outcomes? It’d be awesome if you could share your stories to encourage others on their journey!

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Why We Are Losing Our Jobs

There’s a still fair bit of hoo-haa around at the moment about the GFC — and no, that’s not “Global Fried Chicken”, it’s the Global Financial Crisis … Although, I don’t believe it’s a crisis at all…

Actually, I think it’s a gift.

But there’s something rather shocking about being told that the way you’re viewing life is wrong. So I won’t do that. Mainly because “wrong” is subjective anyway (that means that it depends who you are and what your past experiences and beliefs are as to whether YOU think something is specifically “right” or “wrong”).

So, moving on… Just close your eyes for a moment (after reading this!) and see all your thoughts about money and your job and the GFC as images or objects on a big video screen in your mind. Then reach into your mind with a big remote control and imagine pressing a VERY BIG PAUSE BUTTON (or, better still, press the ‘stop’ button!). 

Now, hopefully you may be able to hear what I’m saying a little more clearly now. The world is undergoing a big shake-up. The GFC (or whatever you want to call it) is just one part and one perception of that shake-up.

As I’m a little short on time today, I’m going to cut to the chase and say this… That, what if there was a Divine Intelligence (yes, you can call it God if that helps) that knew your soul’s desires (which spring from your true purpose in this life) and was helping you to live those true desires? And, following on from that thought, what if part of that “help” meant that you were being hindered from doing things that are NOT aligned with your real purpose in life?

What if the road-blocks were really just “redirects”, pushing you towards something much greater?

So you have to ask yourself:

“If I didn’t have to worry about paying bills and working in the traditional sense of the word, what would I truly LOVE to do?”

And then, once you’ve got an answer or an idea that excites you (that feels like “The Magic” of life), you need to ask yourself two more questions:

1. “How can I do that and still pay my bills?”

2. “What’s the first step towards doing that?”

Then just trust that it’s going to work and take that first step — whatever it is. Of course, if your new plan is going to take some time before it earns you any cash, then don’t give up your day-job just yet!

Okay, so maybe I’ve over-simplified this whole idea and process (which is why I’ve written a whole book about it!), but hopefully this will inspire you to change your view on the “bad” stuff that may be happening in and around your life right now.

Hey, thanks for reading!

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Overcoming Depression by Curing Man’s “Morning Sickness”

First up, I’m NOT talking about pregnancy here. I’m talking about the most important part of the day — morning — and how we often ignore it to our own detriment…

It’s totally overwhelming to think thoughts like “I just need to improve my life to feel happy” (or any similar all-encompassing line of thought). So, as discussed in some of my previous posts, you need to isolate the problem.

The depression/anxiety domino-effect

Actually, it’s usually a cascade of several problems — of varying levels of importance, accumulating as the day goes on — that bring us down. There are many things that can trigger depression (see this post about overcoming depression triggers), but it’s important to remember that “the first triggers are the keys to unravel the rest”. Or, put another way, the way we start something often ends up becoming the way we experience the rest of it.

Case-in-point; your entire life to-date… Many of us live out our whole lives based on the belief systems our parents and early peers instilled in us. Our first 7 years are very formative, and if we’re not conscious of those inner “programs” we were given during that time, we can keep experiencing the same type of life that our parents and peers experienced.  This totally sucks if your parents or peers gave you a set of beliefs that were limiting or depressing!

But there is hope. As soon as we are aware of the idea of “inner programs”, we can start to become aware of exactly what they are, and then we can set about changing them! There are lots of simple ideas for personal transformation in my book if you’re interested in discovering more.

“How do you eat an elephant? … One bite at a time”
—Anon.

The realisation

So, working backwards from the end of many long and unhappy days, I gradually saw one thing in common. And likewise, working backwards from the end of many fun and fruitful days, I could see the opposite commonality. Almost ALL of the miserable days started badly, and almost ALL of the great days started well.

Go frame yourself!

There’s something magic about a picture frame isn’t there? … You can put a crazy pencil scribble in an expensive black frame with a wide white border and it looks like modern art on your wall… Hell, they’ve probably got some similar stuff at MoMA! … But you can stick it on your fridge without a frame, and it looks just like a crazy pencil scribble — nothing more.

“The frame creates the perception,
and the perception creates the experience.”

Life’s just like that too. It’s one of the key reasons why some people have good self-esteem and others don’t — they’ve framed themselves (or been framed by their parents/peers) in a way that creates either a good, neutral or poor self-perception… And this in turn creates the experience of life for those people.

A very simple start to re-framing your world

There are some areas of life that take a fair bit of work to re-frame. There are some deep, emotional reasons why people suffer anxiety and depression… and then there are other reasons that are dead-easy to fix. And what I’ve found is that, often just fixing the easy bits first stops the hard bits from even being a serious issue anymore — because they just don’t show up in your mind when you’ve started that day with a positive frame.

“…what I’ve found is that, often just fixing the easy bits first stops the hard bits from even being a serious issue anymore…”

Simply put; your life is the sum of your days. So, it makes sense that the start of each day is the most important bit to change — because it can “frame” the rest of your day… and then, accumulatively, it can change the remainder of your whole life.

Here are some quick scenarios I’ve personally experienced to help you clearly see what I’m getting at here….

  • DAY 1: I slept in, was late for work (again), risked losing my job (again) and framed my day in a stressful way that re-affirmed the depressing idea that I’m unreliable. That day sucked.
  • DAY 2: I had a crap breakfast (some cheap cereal with zero nutrition and LOTS of sugar), I had a brief sugar high, then hit with a major sugar low, had a strong coffee (high, then back to low again), then couldn’t concentrate all day, felt physically sluggish (which often transmutes to “depressed” in my mind because it’s hard to tell the difference). That day sucked.
  • DAY 3: I woke up early, had a relaxed morning before work and everything felt pretty normal. That day was neutral.
  • DAY 4: I started the day with a nutritious breakfast of organic grains, nuts and fruit. I had good focus and energy all day. Work went well. That day felt good.
  • DAY 5: I woke early, had a healthy breakfast, meditated, and the rest of the day felt close-to-perfect — even when things went wrong at work. I sailed through. That day was calm and happy.

Start well, end well.

Curing our “morning sickness” — the habits that hinder our happy days — is obviously just one piece of the puzzle… But it’s a very important one. So get to it! 😉
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How to Overcome Depression by the Power of Isolation

Why is it that we’re smart enough to say “that cheese smells bad” (rather than “my life smells bad”), but when it comes to emotional content, we easily get overwhelmed and say “my life sucks”, rather than “my *insert specific problem here* sucks”?

Depression is partly a case of poor mental habits.

Sadly, our education system (and perhaps our whole western society) is geared towards improving IQ (intellectual intelligence), but terrible at EQ (emotional intelligence). And it’s often something that is sadly lacking at home too.

I’m a parent, and so I can understand why… It’s very frustrating (and, at the time, seemingly pointless) trying to teach a toddler about emotional intelligence and being specific — partly because they often don’t have the vocabulary to speak in such specifics, but also because the concepts are difficult to simplify.

Pretty soon, the kids are off to school and we (parents) sometimes wrongly assume the teachers now have the responsibility of teaching our children everything else they need to know. And so our children never learn about emotional intelligence… I certainly didn’t learn about EQ in my childhood.

I think I was about 28 before I started learning emotional intelligence. And I was learning the hard way — because everything was going very, very badly for me emotionally and I felt I had no choice except to either find out why and change it, or just put an end to my miserable mess of a life.

But that mess could have all been avoided if I had known what I know now…

Here’s the key issue: I was never told how important it is to ISOLATE the problem.

We can’t expect to feel good about our life when we make statements (either internally or out loud) about how “life sucks” and “I can’t cope with life” etc. This may actually be how we feel — it may actually feel like the “truth” — but that’s only because we haven’t isolated the problem.

To overcome depression, we have to make our problems seem like a drop in the ocean of personal content.

Initially this may seem difficult. But that’s because we’re too “close” to the problem. We’ve used the magnifying glass of our mental focus upon the problem and blown it up to giant size in our minds until we can’t see or think about anything else. Whatever we focus on will grow in our minds (and therefore in our experience) — particularly when it’s something that has an emotional element to it.

For some of us it’s money issues that get blown out of proportion, for others it’s relationships, or our body weight/type etc. There are many areas of life that can evoke a strong emotional reaction in us.

Unfortunately we tend to use the wrong “labels” for things…

We often use labels that generalise our issues and make it completely ambiguous. For example, we might say that we have poor self-esteem. What the hell does that mean? Seriously! We have to break it down to what is the real cause of these generalized feelings… Often, when we do this, we find that the solution is something very simple (and even non-emotional in many cases), like [a] exercise more to lose weight and feel healthier, or [b] get a tutor to catch up on the maths lessons you didn’t understand, or [c] find a new friend that likes what you like so you don’t feel so “different”, or [d] work out a savings plan to pay off your credit card … etc.

There’s no solution to “my life sucks”. But there are many solutions to something like “I’m earning less than I spend”. There’s no real hope in “I’m depressed and hate my life”. But there is plenty of hope in “I seem to have no energy but everything else is basically okay”… Those specifics give you the starting point to look for solutions.

How to overcome depression:
Get pedantic with your semantics.

Simply put: when we get specific, we get solutions!

Good luck!

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Dear Bono, I Think I HAVE Found What I’m Looking For

Striving, striving, striving… But what are we striving for? What are we really looking for?

We work ourselves into the ground, we party hard, we study hard, we’re always moving, yearning, striving, pushing, pulling, trying, seeking…. But most of us don’t even know why.

And yet it’s really very simple.

We’re looking for a feeling. Not just ANY feeling though…. We’re looking for the original feeling. We want to come “home” inside ourselves to the place of peace and contentment. Home is that place where we feel complete, whole and simply happy (regardless of what is going on around us).

This feeling is not the ecstacy and euphoria of drugs, love-making, high-danger sports or all-night dance raves. It’s not the achievement of global fame, incredible goals or millions of dollars. It’s not MOST of the things we seek and esteem highly in this western culture.

We can “have” everything, but feel nothing.

As I discussed in my last post, many people have material success, but a poverty of genuine fulfillment… Sadly, most think they just need MORE of what they’ve been striving for. But there’s never enough “stuff” in this world to truly satisfy anyone.

The hard part is letting go… Eastern culture calls this “detachment”. Christian culture says to be “in the world, but not of it” — in other words, find your substance outside the world we live in. Ironically, the substance that’s not of this world is found within.

To get out, you must go in.

To get out of the striving, pushing and “needing” world we live in, we have to go inside ourselves. Underneath the many layers of culture and society and parental instruction and teacher’s “wisdom”, we have our original self. This is the part of us that is connected to the eternal… This is where we find the “feeling” we’re really looking for. Once you get a conscious glimpse of it, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

The reason I say “conscious” glimpse, is because some people find a little of it (e.g. in religion or other spiritual practices, or even on the golf course if they’re lucky) but don’t consciously realise that this is what they’re seeking in every area of life. They get a taste once a week, then go back to striving and stressing about the rest of their life.

I’m not saying that you should stop doing what you’re doing. I’m just saying that we all should stop seeing our jobs, lovers, drugs, money (etc) as the thing we’re searching for. The feeling we’re seeking is not found in any of those things — it’s found within.

We already have it.

We can uncover it by asking better questions (see my last post) such as “what does my original self FEEL like?”, “what does real fulfillment FEEL like?” and so on. Remember to ask with curiosity, like you’re asking your mother what ice-cream tastes like, knowing she can’t resist giving you some to see that incredible look of joy on your face as you experience it for the first time.

. . .

This week I’ve been watching “The Legend of The Seeker”. And it reminded me that we are ALL seekers of truth. We came into this world to experience the completeness and contrast of life, but ultimately to return to the truth within. 

I truly hope you feel a glimpse of it today.