As we wind up our week of classes on the core of the body (for those of you keeping score at home, that’s White Belt Principle 8, thankyouverymuch), I wanted to share a practice that I’ve been playing with for a while now. As someone who has wobbled under the weight of depression and anxiety, I am interested in behaviors and choices that cultivate happiness and I’m always on the prowl for different perspectives on happy-making.
I’m not alone, of course. The pursuit of happiness has been something people have been after, like, forever. Just do a Google search and see what you come up with. A couple of my current favorites are this round-up of positive psychology, and this 30 minute Ted Talk that Shawn Achor delivered in 15 minutes!
In my experience, I’ve found that the whole happiness thing is personal. One person’s Happy Place is someone else’s Corner of Hell. And as we dance with the core this week, I find myself connecting to three things that consistently help me turn my Happiness Volume up to 11:
I find that each of these has a sensation and, for me, each connects to one of the three body weights.
Savoring – Pelvis
When I’m aware of my body and sensation, I’m in the present moment. When I’m in the present, I can actually take in what I’m experiencing. This connection to the present allows me to slow down and savor what I’m doing – whether it’s eating a slice of homemade bread, noticing the pink of a sunrise or laughing at chicken antics. Savoring does not come naturally to me. I’m a guzzler and a gulper. If you’ve ever seen me attack my water bottle after a Nia class, you’ve seen me gobbling water (not particularly elegant, I grant you, and there it is). It’s easy for me to go into auto-pilot, be thinking about the next thing and not truly receive the wonders that are happening right now. And when I take a breath, feel my body, let myself be held in the bowl of my pelvis, that water tastes sweet and clean and amazing.
Gratitude – Chest
The chest is the container of the precious organs of heart and lungs. These organs are all about exchanging energy. For me, the sensation of the chest is that of gratitude and appreciation. I sometimes imagine that I receive gifts – from people, from Nature, from life – like an inhalation of breath. For me, gratitude is the natural exhalation in return. The recognition, the appreciation, the acknowledgement of what I’ve been given. And here’s a little extra credit gratitude experiment: play with expressing gratitude for things you have lots of. Especially things that you might otherwise take for granted: clean air and water, a safe place to live, a full tummy. That, my friends, is graduate level gratitude work.
Service – Head
If I’m having a craptastic day (week, month, prolonged period), one of the quickest ways for me to turn my perspective around is to do something kind for someone else. Acts of service and generosity crank up my Happy Meter like nobody’s business. When I was on my road trip this summer, I simply couldn’t wait to get to a toll booth so I could pay the toll for the car behind me. If I see a stranger wearing an awesome shirt, I tell them. Whenever I can, I make tea for my husband and buy my stepson his favorite pretzels. Something about getting out of my own small-minded, selfishness and direct my energy outside myself feels better than any indulgent treat for me.
I’m always practicing. I forget all the time and wonder why I’m in a funk. It’s easy to forget and sulk and want someone to “make me happy.” And over and over again, I learn that (as Sylvia Boorstein wrote) Happiness is an Inside Job. I might even say that happiness is at our Core.
I bet you have your own practices for turning up your happiness. I’d love to hear about them. And as you dance your core, your three body weights, dance yourself into your own Happy Place.