What obstacles do you put between yourself and your happiness?
Some wise lessons take a lot of repeating to sink in, and a lot of teachers with a lot of different delivery methods — for me anyway.
I learned this lesson about happiness twice recently: in tai chi class and then again two weeks later from Molly Gordon in her Art of Living class. (Just in case Molly’s class page is down, you can meet her and her beautiful work here.)
The tai chi lesson
The latest in a long line of ego smackdowns that come with studying an internal martial art.
This happens a lot. I’ve been a tai chi student since 1974. So many opportunities to see (and be shown, in case I’m missing it) my ego in all its sad glory.
There I am, in class, soaking up the too-infrequent feedback and instruction I get from my friend and teacher Greg (who visits twice a year from NYC, who’s known me pretty much this whole time — over four decades) and then I get frustrated and say something like: “Why do I bother even trying to do push hands? My body (and its musculo-skeletal challenges) — I just can’t. I’m too old, too damaged, too sick.”
Greg’s response to me: “You always have some reason that keeps you from fully engaging with what you have, who you’re with, what you’re doing.” I’m paraphrasing the exact words a bit (not the sentiment). I got so mad at him when he said this, and in the time between being angry and realizing just how right he was, I managed to forget exactly how he put it.
Then I realized he was right; I can be so skillful at finding an external circumstance to blame for…anything!
And every story I tell myself gets in the way of my ability to experience happiness now.
- Losing my balance in tai chi push hands? I must be too old and too injured.
- Not getting enough attention? I must be an unlovable loser.
- Still dealing with that persistent digestive issue? I am clearly not trying hard enough.
- My rebranded, upleveled new website isn’t completed yet? I’m moving too slowly; I’ll never get it all done!
- Finances are in a shambles? My business revenue is down? I’d better not go to the beach, or the movies, or pretty much anywhere.
You know the kinds of thoughts that come right on the heels of these stories:
- Resignation: Why bother?
- Self-pity: Why doesn’t anyone call me?
- Fear: I seriously don’t think I’ll What’s wrong with me?
The Art of Living lesson
The assignment from the first Art of Living class was to “make a list of all the stories you’ve been living out.” Watching myself write these down as they occurred to me, I realized in a new and deeper way that the content of my stories is just that — content. I realized we all have stories, and while the content is different for each of us at different times, the pain and unhappiness they bring are universal.
- The content and circumstances of my stories are not what cause me to feel blocked from happiness. That comes from what I end up believing because a story is present.
- If the stories aren’t telling me “too old, too broken” or “unlovable” or “too lazy” they would be telling me something else. In fact, if I don’t take them too personally, each story is a transformation and growth opportunity.
- When I can choose to love what is, unconditionally, and let go of the belief that I have to change circumstances, I can be free.
Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy. — Guillaume Apollinaire
What about you? How do you deal with the stories that dance around inside of you and get between you and your happiness? I’d love to know; let’s talk in the comments.
On another note…
How are you doing with the Retrograde madness?
Mercury just began another retrograde (until May 22), Mars is retrograde (until June 29), and every other planet except Venus is retrograde (or approaching) right now. Are you feeling sped up? Slowed down? Stuck? More problems than usual? I know I’m moving slower than I’d like to. I’m hoping that when Jupiter stations direct next week, things will begin to ease up. I’m hoping. How’s it going for you?