Finding YOUR Happy
While in grad school, I lived in a studio apartment by the beach. It was a simple place—400 square feet above a garage, with lots of light and formica counter tops. I could hear the waves and smell the ocean. It was a happy time.
On the floor was a red rug with a floral design that radiated out from the center, creating a pattern of concentric circles.
One day, my friend Annabel and I were there, working on a paper and talking about human nature and communication (of course).
I stood in the center of that carpet and I described a “theory” that I had about myself that has since been proven 1000 times over in the fields of emotional intelligence, neurobiology, psychology, communication, theology, and many others… (not a groundbreaking thought, apparently). This is how I described my personal discovery:
There are times in my life when I feel like I am standing in the very center of my own set of concentric circles (I stood in the center of the circles). In my own “center” I feel whole, happy, and complete.
- My mind is clear. I am IN the moment. I can observe my thoughts and discern whether they are helping or harming me or others; I can easily release thoughts that are harming and return to the sense of peace I have when I am present and thinking empowering thoughts. I am open to new ideas. I’m not gripping onto a sense of being right. I can easily listen and consider alternate viewpoints. I have a sense of humor. Laughter comes easily, I feel smiley!
- My heart is open. I feel a sense of acceptance about others; I’m not judgey. I feel empathy for the human experience; I feel love.
- I experience this centered place most often when my body feels good. When I have little to no pain. When I’ve had a good night’s sleep. When my digestion is good and my muscles are a little tired from exercise. This is my happy place of wholeness!
Often, though, I’m NOT here. I’m OFF center, out here (moved one ring out from center) .
- In this place, I’m more critically minded. I want to be right. I’m not really open to the ideas of others, though I can fake it. I’m judging myself and others. I have worries and fears clouding my thoughts. My heart is protected. I start to get strategic about what I will say and how I can get what I want.
- And sometimes (moving to the outermost circle) I’m way out here. Out here, I’m fully protecting myself from others, focusing on how to NOT get hurt instead of how to understand what is happening. My worries have become full-fledged negative narratives, and I am convinced that I’m right and that my stories are an “accurate and complete” representation of the world.
- Out here, I might behave badly. I might yell or harm others with my words. I will try to control people, events and outcomes. I will rehearse things to say that reinforce my view of the world. I don’t feel good or make good choices when I am out here.
As our conversation continued, I decided that my primary responsibility in every relationship would be to try to keep myself (as often as possible) in my own center circle. My job would be to pay attention to the feelings of drifting from center, and try to steer back. My commitment to myself and others would be to notice signs of moving off center, and engage strategies for returning to it.
I remember that day like it was yesterday.
I have dedicated a large portion of my life energy to figuring out the core practices and strategies that can help me keep myself (and others) in that centered place to experience a flexible mind, open heart, and healthy relationships.
Does this resonate for you? Do you know YOUR happy place? Are you committed to living there? What strategies do you use to “return to center” when you get off balance?