When I was younger, I deliberately got ready for school one body section at a time. First, I got my lower half ready: pants, shoes. Then, my torso: shirts, deodorant, body splash. Then it was time for my head: hair, teeth, face. Finally, I moved on to my stomach. There was something satisfying about parceling out my body this way. Focus and order: I was unconsciously providing myself with a series of steps which no longer merely equaled a scramble to get ready before the bus. Instead, I was puzzle piece after puzzle piece, making up the whole.
In completing my happiness project, I'd like to sneak back into my childhood mind and be a puzzle once more. Conventional wisdom would have us break down big tasks into smaller steps, making seemingly daunting projects manageable. In addition, we understand that creating routine means starting slow, not attempting to change too many variables at once or create unnecessary pressure. For these reasons, I never make new years resolutions beyond resolving to continue the routines I already do. In some ways, I began this process 8 months ago when I began exercising every day. The pain in my knee forced me to again segment my body into sections: knee, hip, ankle. As these strengthened, my categories broadened: exercise, increased water intake, daily vitamins. Now I am ready to change my scope once again.
I'm currently reading Gretchen Rubin's book and was interested in her comment that she felt insecurity over the fact that she spent so much time analyzing and cultivating herself. Was it not a self-centered act, when there is so much else in the world which could benefit from such a level of focused attention? The decision she made, is that studying and bettering yourself is an excellent precursor to truly helping others. With peace and focus in our hearts, don't we feel more compassionate, powerful, and generous? Don't we wish to share our experiences with the hope that someone else will be inspired to change his/her life?
Yes, of course.
I don't want to sound preachy, because I certainly have not got it all figured out. I am at ground level: experimenting, reaching, studying, trying to grow. I keep this quote on on my desktop, to help remind me what's at stake:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
The structure of the happiness project will stem from the values I articulated in the last post. I'm choosing to combine a few of them so that I have 12: one for each month of the year. As they stand:
1. Breathe and cleanse (mind and body); 2. Remain present; 3. Communicate; 4. Take action; 5. Tell the truth; 6. Discover the root of the problem; 7. Forgive; 8. Value the earth; 9. Be grateful; 10. Learn; 11. Love; 12. Embrace the process
Each month I will focus on one of these concepts, starting in December. Are there resources, events, books, conversations, thoughts, and experiences I can utilize which help me to understand how these values integrate into my daily life and subsequently the lives of others? What small action steps can I take which will expand my horizons? While I don't know exactly how this will work yet, my initial goal is to spend a month exploring each value, coming up with small experiments I can try each week. Granted, my life is enormously busy and these experiments will have to be realistic. The initial thinking is that instead of dropping the previous month's value, instead you build upon it by understanding that in order to forgive, for example, you have to discover the root of the problem and so on.
As Thanksgiving approaches and we're traditionally asked to reflect on gratitude, I know that I'm extremely grateful to be in a place in my life where striving to be a more complete person feels manageable and worthwhile. I'm grateful for the people in my life who are always supportive and allow me to support them in return. And finally, I'm grateful for everyone I've met up until this point, especially those with whom I couldn't make it work (friendship-wise or other): I have learned much from you, even if it was painful at the time, and you ultimately helped me to approach situations differently moving into the future. Thank you!