Happiness & Gratitude

If you’re looking to boost your personal happiness by 40 percent, this series of posts, taken from tips researched at UC Berkeley, just might do the trick. I’m only on #4, gratitude, but have already noticed a general uptick in my mood. Gratitude is a habit that can only help. Begin every day with a big thank you list, maybe even before you open your eyes. I’ve been taking note of gratitude for many years, and one thing I’ve figured out is that the less happy you feel on any particular day, the more you need to find something to be grateful for.

What we are grateful for is such an individual thing, so personal, But it’s universal, too. We in the USA have a couple of precious things to be grateful for this week. Our courts have saved Obamacare (again) and made marriage legal for everybody. Decent health coverage and the right to love. Most of us are grateful our corner of the world is changing in positive ways.

So thanks America, because frankly, I have not been feeling super-grateful these days. It’s been tough going with the knee and the shingles and the pain and the crutches. Yet somehow gratitude wedged in to every corner of my despair, making space for happy. Maybe because I have permission to walk in the world again (without crutches) come July 1. That’s only a couple of days from now. Then a few days after that my Seattle family is coming to visit. See heart overflow with gratitude like a geyser.

The highly individual thing I’m really grateful for this week is the current book-in-progress. I wasn’t sure until yesterday I could manage what I wanted to do. Change setting. Change genre. Change tone. Change a character who has been with me for a few books now. Huge ask but I wanted to do it, really had that on fire desire to create this new thing that has been in my head for over a year now, have been aching to start the new story but the thing was just not flowing.

The problem was Paxton, an important character who would not let me in. Not even an inch. I thought, I stewed, I brainstormed. I simmered, I researched, I assembled a collage. Finally got a big hit of that feeling I’m chasing. The collage is pretty. I can’t stop looking at it. It makes me feel so good and this is even before words:) Somehow pictures help me draw out the words. It’s a mysterious process. I look through dozens of magazines and tear out imagines that call my name. I don’t know why a watch from Shinola called my name, but it did and into the stack of images it went.

I’m so grateful to that collage because yesterday I wrote pages and pages and felt that on fire inspired feeling that is the true reason I write. For me, it’s all in the process. Cracking Paxton’s code. Now I think I can write this book. Another good feeling. Happy, part four.

The fifth happiness booster on the list is Keep Friends Close which has not been a thing I’ve been doing lately. When I’m in pain, I isolate. So…the pain is leaving (thanks and goodbye!) and the peeps are gonna be hearing from me in the next couple of weeks. A lot.

Looking Anew at Desire

Danielle LaPorte knows how to work the word desire. Yes, the Buddhists are right: if we desire someone or something we cannot have, we will suffer. In another entirely different way, desire leads to liberation, fulfillment and happiness. LaPorte’s Desire Map project, with workshops and books, clarifies desire done right.

It has been 21 days life-changing days since my Desire Map workshop with Laura Zera. I’ve done a lot of writing, thinking, and desire mapping. Getting clear with what I want the rest of my life to look like. Before I took this workshop, I was lost. I knew it. I’d been working my way up from hell for several months, but was still stuck in so many places.

Enter Desire Mapping. Even the word “desire” freaked me out. Whatever I desired would automatically be denied, would lead to suffering, would hurt me by its utter absence from my life. Or so I believed. LaPorte does a different thing with desire. She keeps the luscious word but mixes it up with a few others to focus her idea about how to get happy, how to let go, how to feel free.

main-desire-book

I love the story at the beginning of the Desire Map book telling how LaPorte discovered this method of living life its highest potential. One New Year’s Eve, she was, as usual, making a list of goals. She had gotten good at this and had goals for several areas of her life: work, love, play. Somehow she didn’t feel so great as she filled out this goal worksheet. She had the feeling those goals would just get lost.

She contemplated her feelings around goals. What if she just gave up setting goals? Her energy shot up. She felt lighter. Happier. She wanted to keep those feelings, but how to make them about her goals? She began to scribble down words on her worksheet, not goals but feeling words. She was on fire inspired about how she wanted to feel. Just reading, I got that fired up inspired, too.

I knew joy and I knew sorrow and for sure preferred joy.  I did not live in joy. Not most of the time. My feelings more often than not bossed me around, dictated I do what I did not want to do, rained on my parade, criticized and diminished me. I wanted to figure out how to stay in joy longer, and drop the despair. Could I put joy in charge of every action I took? Maybe I needed to give myself permission to desire again, to feel good, to dig deep for understanding about what I wanted and needed.

It’s going to take more than 21 days, but I am well on my way, amazed that I am clear on how I want to feel, focused on doing the things that I know will get me there, letting everything else go. If you’d like to see your life sparkle again, the Desire Map might just be your way out of darkness, too.