We spend so much of our time trying to figure out what we don’t like, in an attempt to work out what we do.
This is a surefire way to make progress over time, but what if I were to tell you, that, with a little bit of self-awareness and reflection, you can move towards the things that make you blossom more quickly than you could ever realise?
We can all move towards a happier, more fulfilling life by pursuing the hobbies and interests that bring us peace and joy. Here are 5 things you can do today to begin to divine your passions:
1. Meditate on Your Appreciation
This means sitting down, breathing, focusing on the breath and asking yourself, in the second person, ‘what do you appreciate in your life?’. You do not enter into this expecting an answer, but just asking the question of your subconscious and letting the answers come to the surface over time. They may not come straight away, they may not come for weeks, even months, but asking guides our psyche towards what we naturally know to be fulfilling. It’s like using divining rods to find a natural spring. Ask the guiding questions in a meditative state, and eventually your mind will guide you to the source.
2. Accept and Embrace Change
We are organisms that naturally tend towards stability. It stops us from becoming stressed and feeling out of control, but change will come whether we resist it or not, and no matter how we feel about change now, it will be necessary for us to embrace it if we want to pursue our happiness and peace in life, especially if we are not feeling much joy in our present situation. Again, meditation is a wonderful ally. Asking questions when we are in a calm state like ‘What good can change bring for you?’, or even just noticing the fluctuations in feelings, thoughts and sounds around us and internally, can give us a better understanding of change and how it can either benefit us, or, at the very least, become a familiar friend, rather than a strange enemy.
3. Pay Attention to the World Around You
If we suffer from depression or anxiety, we can spend a huge amount of our time inside our own heads. When we spend so much time trying to sort and excavate our inner demons, we can very quickly lose sight of the world around us and the many sensory joys it has to offer. Some of these joys, when observed thoughtfully, reveal hobbies, skills and activities that we would enjoy. You may, for instance, walk through the park and notice the trees and plants, or, it may be the birds that draw your attention. Ask yourself, ‘How can I bring more of this into my life?’. This may mean visiting wildlife parks on the weekend, taking up gardening, or finding a workplace which lets you do more with nature. You may even decide that you need a walk to work in order to be happier, so start searching for jobs that you can do within biking or walking distance. It can make all the difference!
4. Journal It
After meditating, sometimes it can be a good idea to write down all the things we either enjoyed in the day or appreciate in the present. It never has to be categorised or rule based. You want to let anything bubble up to the surface and write it down, no matter how giant or insignificant that thought may seem. Over time, you may begin to pick out themes that can guide you to happier and more fulfilling pursuits, but don’t lay heavy expectations on yourself from the get go. This is a process that takes time and will work best without pressured or forced thinking, which often disrupts our natural flow of ideas and thoughts.
5. Change Your Relationship With Time and Expectations
Many of us feel pressured to be in a certain place in our lives relative to others. We may expect to be married by a certain age, or to have travelled all over the world, or to have climbed to a certain height professionally. Remember that every life is set with different obstacles, some bigger and harder to break through, often coming at different times for different people. Life is not linear and predictable, so we cannot place expectations of linear progression on ourselves. Beginning to accept that we are where we are, and we are doing our best is the best method towards keeping our mind open and limber to new opportunities and our own peace and happiness. Imagine that you have all the time in the world to approach your goals, thus giving your mind the space and potential to accept new ideas, approaches and activities that can bring happiness into our lives.
So, that’s five things that you can do to begin to hone in on your bliss. We want to create awareness, space and receptivity to possibility in the mind. This is a slow process, but very rewarding and will ultimately help you approach your happiness more quickly than elimination does.
It can be difficult to meditate without guidance, so I want to show you a tool that I use. Headspace is an app that can be downloaded for Iphone and some other platforms, which provides a huge number of meditation courses which are short or long, and can be done anywhere. To get the full package, there is a fee, but it is small and I find the value of the app far outweighs the cost. I am in no way paid to endorse this product, I just think it’s a great app and want to share it with everyone.
Happy bliss hunting!
Please follow this blog for future posts searching for greater well-being and happiness,
Earlier, I had ripped through a vortex of pandemic news after drinking three coffees today, my hard limit. I was anxious. So, as I often do when I am highly strung, I meditated.
I meditated for a very long time.
I came to appreciate things that I have not verbalised and perhaps forgotten, but I wish to express them now.
I am so grateful to be alive. To breathe and to enjoy all the sensory experiences life has to offer. I am grateful for my friends, for the laughter and silliness we share every day. I am grateful for my freedom. Not in the sense that I am free to come and go as I please (a circumstantial freedom and one greatly tested in these times), but in that I have my room, with all my things that I love and keep. I am grateful for my job which keeps me fed and clothed and tempers a routine. I am grateful that I can observe change and accept it, rather than fight it.
Who knows how long we have on this planet, but I intend to make everything of the little time each of us spend here, a twinkle in time and space such as we each are.
I am grateful that I am pursuing what I love and working on becoming who I always knew I was, but lacked the confidence and conviction to fully appreciate (apathy, it seems, is quite a childish state). Every day, my confidence in my abilities, my values and my direction in life grow exponentially.
Set backs come, and some will be monumentous, seemingly peak-less, but they are not so. Peak-less mountains break to peak on the patter of persistent feet. One step at a time. Minute to minute, hour to hour, day to day, we reach for new heights within ourselves.
So, you see, I am here. I am breathing. I am filled with wonder at my existence. I am unfurling as time intended, as expected, as anticipated. And, I accept this, and, watch eagerly as I and life unfold together.
You may not understand how I feel and I do not expect you to, but I had something to say and so I have said it.
I hope you are all safe, but most importantly, I hope you are living authentically and truthfully, and growing into yourselves every second and at every opportunity.
Life is short, but we can be so tall.
1. Finding love should be easier when you don’t meet societal standards of beauty, but societies standards make you feel that you aren’t worthy of love.
2. Negative comments about weight perpetuate weight gain. I no longer accept malicious comments and will challenge them or turn them into positive affirmations internally.
3. My time is for creative, meaningful experiences and not absurdly weighted towards attaining punishing weight loss goals.
4. Diets always fail and eventually lead to binges. Change habits in small ways to make a global impact.
5. Challenging negative self talk. I deserve better than to project social expectations which have never served me onto myself in a bad way.
I used to be fairly thin, but I was just as unhappy and so much more of my time was spent on dissatisfying activities that stopped me from developing spiritually.
I am beginning to experience a great deal of pain just getting about normally and I need to make room for exercise, but not at the expense of my happiness and progress in life.
I’m glad I’m not conventionally attractive because at least people see me for my personality and not what I look like. That’s a far better starting point for long term happiness than beauty.
I’m not going to sit here and say ‘fat is beautiful, or healthy, or happy’, but I will say, fat teaches you to accept yourself and to challenge your limitations, to become a person people can look to for other reasons than my flesh suit.
Fat is often seen as weakness, but fat can be powerful. A desire to overcome expectation, to become happier in spite of what you look like or who you ought to be. We learn acceptance and forgiveness, both towards society and towards ourselves, so profoundly affected by it before we even have a chance to fight back.
Fat is forgiveness, acceptance and power.
You might be wondering what I mean when I say ‘flashforward’ so let me explain.
You know a flashback? That characteristic, often dramatic plot device, especially prevalent in crime films or thrillers. That device that takes a character back in time to a scene the audience didn’t know about, that now illuminates some feature of the character’s present predicament.
Not just a feature of films, but a very real, often tangible feeling we get as a memory from long ago comes flying into the present.
Triggers. A cat walking across the road. The smells from a bakery on a busy high street. The sounds of a bicycle bell, careering past.
And suddenly, we are back. Transported to a place we had not been to in forever, and a time we had long forgotten.
And sometimes flashbacks are trying to tell us something. They may indicate a desperate need for resolution. They may highlight a spiritual conflict that exists in the present. They may guide us to answers that solve our present predicaments.
But what then of flashforwards? Less thought of, but equally as important to reflect on.
Often the domain of anxiety and existential fear, the flashforward can paint an image of our future selves to us, which, unless we pay attention to, we may in fact inevitably become.
When I fear that I may become old and ill and alone, that I may die with nobody by my side, that is my soul warning me of a future I must work to re-write.
So I may project an image of decrepit isolation into my future, but that is merely a stencil of all of my unresolved fears, pushed forward through time and space.
This is the outline of my pain, the sharp curvature of my shadow-self which aims to rule my present and claim my future.
And like most things that are born out of fear, they have no more power and solidity than we choose to give them. Instead, as I have suggested, we should use this outline to understand our fears better, to address them before we meet that shape in the future and sink into it predictably.
Why do I fear illness?
Because it is painful? Because it is disabling? Because of the lack of control it threatens?
Is pain to be feared if it is inevitable? Is a loss of function really a loss of purpose and agency? Is giving up control always something to be feared?
Thinking about the shape of our flashforwards can guide us to happier futures. This silhouette shows us the edges of ourselves that hem us in in the present and constrain us. Through exploring our projected fears, we learn how to prevent them from becoming our future. We can change our relationship to them and so reshape our reality.
So, though often less mentioned, flashforwards are as important to becoming who we were meant to be, as the flashbacks that define who we are in the present.
It’s a psychic resonance with the future that is a gift, though often it feels terrible. Those of us who are sensitive and thoughtful tend to experience temporal shifts the most and we must embrace it if we are to become the best versions of ourselves. I imagine, like the oracles of old, this is a latent power in many of the more emotionally sensitive and it should not be feared, but nurtured and utilised for good.
Here’s an exercise you can try at home:
Cut out a paper man, just a basic template, a head, two arms and legs.
Write all of your fears around the edges of his/her body, the biggest ones, the ones that really hold you back in the present.
Then, in the middle, write all the ways you can begin to address these fears. You may want an A3 sheet so you have lots of space.
Sometimes, just getting your fears down on paper and creating a physical shape with them, can give you the perspective you need to begin to tackle them.
Or you can journal about them, writing down your most potent anxieties, especially the ones that enter your imagination and project a version of yourself in the future which you desperately wish to avoid.
It’s proven that writing down your fears actually decreases their hold over you. As if the transference from pen to paper offloads some of the burden on your mind. Think of Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Constantly he visits the pensieve to empty his memories into it using his wand. You are doing the same thing when you write down your anxieties.
When you begin to perceive flashforwards as nothing more than the shadow of who you are right now, you can begin to push at the edges and open up your future to brighter possibilities.
If you’ve developed an illness that is now invading your every day life in a way you can no longer ignore, it can begin to gnaw away at our sense of justice.
You’re a good person, you work hard and try to get by in a difficult world. People can treat you badly and not bat an eye, but you’re not like that, and if you are, your awareness ignites you to apologise or make peace with your victim.
And yet, even so, you’ve been stricken with bad karmic juju. You’re suffering, but you feel that suffering is unjustified.
Our health is so important to our quality of life that we often get wrapped up in the ‘why?’. ‘Why is this happening to me?’ ‘What did I do to deserve this?’ ‘Why couldn’t I be someone else?’.
The ‘why’ is fine when we are dealing with the things that we can change. There are so many good ‘why’ questions that can really change the world. To some extent, a little ‘why’ can be good even in exploring chronic health problems. After all, a better understanding of our ailments can mean we can better address them and find some balance.
I’ve even written on the ‘why’ myself, exploring how a largely vegan or plant based diet can reduce inflammation in the body and improve overall health and wellness for those with chronic illness.
But, the ‘why?’ only goes so far. At some point, it yields less and less, becoming an exhausting obsession of diminishing returns. When we personalise our why’s and make them existential, we lose more and more energy, time, and happiness, to an unanswerable set of questions. When we reach this stage, we need to consider how we will accept the things which we cannot change and work on making our realities manageable, even joyful.
Acceptance is vital to living with chronic illness. We cannot continuously snarl at our illness, hoping that eventually it will subside or diminish. We cannot keep it in a box away from visitors, a morbid little secret out of the public eye. Our illness will live with us and we must accept that it continues, as do we.
Illness is unpleasant. It makes our lives hard, sometimes unbearably painful, both mentally and physically. It can be isolating, desperate and cold when so few understand how painful it is. But acceptance is part of changing that story. Don’t try to push it under the rug or pummel it into submission, but try to accept it as a part of you, aim to no longer fight with yourself.
In some respects, accepting chronic illness can make it easier to live with and tolerate. It can even contribute to recovery or partial recovery. The stress we cause ourselves when we are fighting our illness can inevitably strengthen it. The more you fight a thought, idea or perception of reality, the more power it gains over you and the more fear, panic and despair it generates.
Your reality needn’t be one of fear or aggression directed at disturbance and chaos. When you choose to allow or accept chronic illness to exist with you, rather than against you, you can begin to change your relationship to it. You can begin to be happier and lead a more fulfilling life.
We all want that, right?
I was having a deep discussion with my father a few days ago, a man filled with wisdom and silliness, a receptacle of obscure but interesting knowledge and possessing a remarkable long-term memory, much to my envy.
He said to me ‘I remember a quote from someone, I cannot remember his name (unusual, so that was for him), but he said: ‘People climb ladders, but often, when they get to the top, they realise they were somewhere they didn’t want to be.”
This seemed very profound to me and I thought about it a bit.
We seem to build ladders in the world, whether it be working up through a job, or getting married and having children, doing what is socially acceptable for us. We build our sense of progress in the world around us and showcase it to everyone saying .Hey, look at me! Look how high I am!’.
The trouble is, when we focus only on what we are to other people, we lose our ability to focus on who we are to ourselves. What authenticity can I have when I spend my life showing people what they want to see?
My father also said this: ‘When you walk out the door in the morning, somebody will hate you or resent you, even if you’re doing everything right’.
So who are we trying to be? Why do we try so hard to be loved by those who don’t even know who we are? Even still, there are those who will hate us independent of which mask we present, or even when we represent ourselves authentically.
So, I’m thinking hard about where my ladders are and what I should do with them. At the end, when all is said and done, the only thing I should be climbing is the effigy of my past selves. Up and up, I count forward from what I was yesterday and how I can become better today.
I want to climb a ladder to the best version of myself. Not the version of me people expect or want, but the version of me that allows me to be myself in a world filled with expectations about who somebody should be.
Whenever you feel that pit in your stomach or a darkness looming over your head, consider, ‘what wall am I facing and should I be climbing?’. Search for rooftops eclipsed in a halo of sunshine, warmth and bliss.
Put down your ladder down, and climb.