Today I choose happiness. Now I choose happiness. In this very moment I choose happiness. But first we need to learn, to experience what happiness is, even if for a moment. The classic loving-kindness practices ask you to choose someone who has really shown you love, typically your mother. However, it needn’t be your mother and could be someone that has evoked a sense of joy and love in your heart; someone who has been really present with you, if even for a moment; someone that has seen you and your beauty. Remember that moment fondly, let the emotions of joy and love infuse you with a sense of worthiness – you are lovable; you are worthy. If you need to, bring in other experiences of other people or animals that have warmed your heart with their kindness. Like a tiny flame, billow it with the winds of memory, infusing your mind and heart with expansive warmth, joy and relief. Let the energy of this build. If tears come, really let them come but if they don’t then all is well – it is a practice and like running, cycling and any other endeavour and can take repetition.
Naturally you experience gratitude towards the person who has shown you love (and why not practice this now as you read?) Feel this gratitude flow out and connect you with them – how wonderful! Then you can think of someone else who has shown you a little kindness. Like you and your kind friend, they too seek happiness and wish to avoid suffering. Then you can think of a stranger, maybe the service station attendant or the person an the check-out. They too wish for happiness and to avoid suffering and, in reality, they could just as easily be a friend to you as the last person you were acquainted with. They too, in fact, were a complete stranger only moments before you met.
Lastly, you can apply this practice towards someone with whom you find it difficult to communicate. Ironically, they too may once have been a friend but things changed. They too wish to be happy and avoid suffering. Maybe they, like so many others, don’t have the skill or wisdom to actually know what it take or to be able to be happy. In their suffering and lack of awareness, they may have harmed others, including yourself, and are harming themselves. They, most of all, need our love, even if only from afar.
Feel your way into this practice, feel how your heart feels. Does it feel open and spacious or is it closing a little, maybe a little tight? When you feel tightness you can go back to those kind people who have shown you so much warmth and cared for you. Stoke the fire of warmth and gratitude in your heart – that is the key. Build it so that the flames can radiate to those with whom you find it most difficult to extend kind thoughts.
And, most importantly, don’t forget yourself. With a feeling of love imagine yourself in front of you and embrace yourself with this love. See that you ARE worthy and that you ARE good enough and that you DO deserve happiness, just like everybody else. As the Buddha said, ‘you can search throughout the entire universe for someone more deserving of your love and affection than yourself, and that person is not to be found anywhere. You yourself, as much as anybody else in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.’
Lastly just drop the practice and rest the mind in the feeling of warmth and spaciousness that you have generated. Simply rest there as long as you can, without effort or strain. Then rejoice in a sense of accomplishment that you have taken this time to do something so precious for yourself and all those with whom you are connected – how wonderful!
This practice is amazing. The key is to apply it as soon as you are feeling a bit low, hard on yourself, frustrated or angry. I have been working with this a lot recently and it has changed me and been vital is keeping my heart open after Kalachakra (see post 23). I was feeling a bit anxious about my relationship with some people recently with whom I have regular contact with and could feel that the relationship had the potential to become problematic so I started including them in this practice and the shift was immediate. Not only has our relationship improved but I have had a glimpse of how powerful our mind’s are at being able to transform a situation without physically doing anything, simply by changing our mind and our attitude. What potential? How amazing! Where else can this be applied?
Of course, the key really IS in doing it. How easy it can be to procrastinate, get stuck and stagnate.Having been living my life in a state of semi-stagnation for the past who knows how long, it is truly liberating to have this insight into how I can take charge of my situation and actually choose to be happy. It really is a choice. If we allow the mood to stay and don’t apply an antidote to transform it into a more positive state of mind then we stagnate and we choose unhappiness. However, if we just make that decision that ‘I am NOT going to stay is this state. I choose to be happy. I choose to let go’ then this rapidly dissolves and we find (maybe not immediately) that something has shifted and our mood has risen. Every time we notice we’re feeling not quite right, we can do this. At least make the choice. Even better, apply the practice.
Another simple and transformative practice is to rejoice. Think of at least 21 things that you are happy about. For example, ‘I rejoice in these beautiful flowers. How wonderful that someone took the time to plant these and care for them. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone were able to experience beauty in their lives.’ Another could be ‘how wonderful it is that I can easily and quickly buy this delicious coffee. What kindness that this is available to us. May everyone have easy access to delicious drinks.’ Or ‘how wonderful that I have a job that isn’t too hard that provided me with the resources to do the things I like. May everyone have the resources to do the things they like.’ This practice can feel a bit contrived at first but if you rejoice over at least 15 things (the exact number will vary from person to person) in this way you will begin to experience a change and the more you do it, the easier it becomes. This IS what it means to be happy; to train our minds in thinking thoughts that bring a sense of well-being, kindness and spaciousness and to avoid thoughts that are heavy, limiting and unnecessary.
All my love.