Happy Birthday, Happy New Year!

So the school holidays are over, we’re back from our wonderful holiday in Italy and I’m back in blogging-action. Horrah! I missed you all.

This blog is now officially 1 years old! Sing along now:

Happy birthday to you

Squashed tomatoes and stew

You look like a bunch-of-words

And you really are that too.

(You might have to be of Bristish descent to get that!)

I love this time of year because, for me, it’s my New Year – complete with resolutions and fresh new starts. Last year I created this blog out of a commitment to turning around my relationship with happiness and abundance. I feel I’ve come a long way on that journey and by way of completion with my year here’s a list of the top 5 things I’d say I’ve learnt:

1) Writing blogs is fun

2) There’s a whole world of wonderful bloggers out there.

3) Writing about happiness is a great way of staying alert for it

4) Lists in blogs are de-rigueur

5) Summarising a whole years-worth of posts is impossible!

I love to spice things up for myself at this time of year, so from today I’m going to change my tagline from “How happy do I dare to be?” to “How concious do I dare to be?” I’ll talk about this more in my next post – it deserves it’s own platform, megaphone and green room, I feel – but basically my commitment and challenge this year is to have my dream world and my “real” world meet. Being with reality has never been a strong point of mine – in fact I’ve deliberately shied away from it but as I get longer in the tooth I’m realising lasting change and transformation can only happen when I use my dreams to fuel a concious interaction with the “what’s so” of things.

Intrigued? I hope so! As I say, I’ll tell you more in my next blog. In the meantime may I just say how lovely it is to be back.

Now, time for virtual birthday cake – (much fewer calories).

Bring me sunshine

Ahoy, wonderful readers! It’s that time of year when your faithful Happiness Experimenter must away to the sun. England has had more than its fair share of the wet stuff this summer so there’s nothing for it but to seek out some Tuscan sun! I will most likely be away for a couple of weeks (but I do have the ability to publish blogs from my phone so you never know!).

And in the spirit of bringing on the sunshine and the happiness (no matter where you are right now) here’s a wonderful clip from one of the greatest British comedy duos ever – Morecambe and Wise. This is vintage 1970s – the song they sang at the end of every show – with their guest Cilla Black wearing a frightful neck-to-floor monstrosity. Keep with it though – Ernie’s dance at the end is bound to bring a smile to your face.

Bring me sunshine….!

 

The deadly compare-and-contrast bug

It’s 5 O’clock in the morning. I’ve been awake since 3am. Seems little point in going back to sleep now so here I am confessing what’s on my mind.

The deadly compare-and-contrast bug – that’s what.

The reason I woke at 3am was because my mind suddenly went into a panic about the Artist’s Way course I’m running in September. Am I charging too much? Someone yesterday hinted they thought it was expensive. Maybe I’ve got it wrong. But I think it’s worth it. But maybe I’m wrong.

You know how it goes in your mind at this time in the morning?

So then I had the bright idea of scouring the internet for other Artist Way courses. Funny – in 2005 when I last did this search there was no evidence of Artist’s Way courses that I could find – now Google tells me there are loads. And my course is definitely one of the most expensive. Hmmm.

So is it good in this case to go with the gut that says I should value this work for what I believe it’s worth or do I follow what everyone else is doing?

 

Now a ball has started rolling. A ball with a bug in it. The compare and contrast bug.

 

 

And then it happened. In my searching I came across another UK site called thehappinessexperiment.co.uk . And what’s more she talks about the Artist’s Way in there too. What?!

The lady running the site started in May this year – after me. Now, I’m sure this is just a coincidence  – a meeting of like minds – but we all like to think we’re unique don’t we? And the thing that really p’s me off? Her site is GOOD.

Oh, god, the bug has just grown to elephant proportions! I feel like I’ve become a character in a Kafka novel.

I’m not original. I’m not any fun. My blog’s not juicy enough. Everyone out there is doing it better….. blah, boo, aggh, ugh.

OK clearly I need to pull myself together here. This is my happiness experiment after all. So what do I do?

This quote I found is a good start:

“Why compare yourself with others? No one in the entire world can do a better job of being you than you.”  ~Unknown

 

I’ve lost sight of what makes me, me. The fact that I have become the bug is really an invitation: it’s time to get re-aquainted with myself.

Hello, what’s your name?

Hi, my name is T.

Tell me about you, T.

Well – hmm, let’s see, well, I guess the best way to explain is by showing  you …

And it really helps to know that all this is just an infinitessimally small slice.

So my lesson for today?

If I get the compare and contrast bug take it as a sign that I’ve lost sight of myself. I’m not going to find myself  ‘Out There’. Even if I got all my friends now to say lovely things about me, it’s not where it’s at. The real antidote comes from me tuning again to me and all my complex, quirky, mad, sad, bad, hum-drum, curious, joyous, questing, creative, busy, apologetic, angry, blah, experimental, hopeful, grateful, (I could go on), sides of myself.

Cliche, I know, but – like a snowflake. Unique. Beautiful. One of many who are unique and beautiful. Like you.

When passion seeps out of every pore

We went to a tiny but wonderful festival of folk music over the weekend. Gossington Festival to be precise. Great bands, and so small we could chat to all the great artists and behave like groupies. The hit of the weekend for us though, despite all the big names there, was the drummer of a band called Roto-Trad (he turned up later playing for Seth Lakeman too). His name is Cormac Byrne: a young Irish man who clearly lives, breathes and joyously celebrates drumming.

I’m not a connoisseur of drumming by any stretch of the imagination but Cormac seemed really, really good. But perhaps that was because he was clearly enjoying himself so much. All the time he played he had a huge grin on his face that had you looking past the charismatic lead singer and fixating on that smile. It was the smile of someone utterly connected to his flow – to his purpose in life – and loving absolutely every millisecond of it. That kind of passion is infectious, inspiring and hard to ignore.

We took a little video of him here. Unfortunately it’s a bit dark but I include it here hoping you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about.

It is my wish for us all that we find, treasure and keep this kind of ecstatic communing with our purpose and passion. Surely this is the very definition of happiness?

Sasha and I being Cormac groupies

The surreal and the prosaic

Well what a day.

UK temperatures in the thirties? – Surreal.

Driving to Heathrow? – Prosaic.

Air-conditioning in my car barely able to keep up? – Prosaic.

Standing in arrivals hall and suddenly confronted with the image of a beautiful lady dressed head to foot in orange-sherbet silk being escorted to a grand-piano by a security guard … she sits down and starts playing Chariots of Fire whilst cameras from BBC, and various other Olympic-fuelled media, whir. One tune and then it’s all over – our famous (I assume) vision floats away again on the arm of the black-clad security guy. The airport – having temporarily been suspended in la-la land – returns to the business of people coming and going.

Definitely surreal.

 

 

Julia arrives back from France after a fabulous week away. Priceless!

 

Stuck in traffic jam for an hour in the sweltering heat, my air-conditioning having finally given up the ghost?

Definitely prosaic.

 

 

OK, I admit it, I’m happy!

I’ve said it before, but isn’t it funny that it often feels very difficult to admit that we’re genuinely happy? Especially in front of anyone we might perceive as having a hard time at the moment. There’s a compulsion, I notice, to temper any statement of happiness with at least one thing that’s ‘up’. It seems there’s far more kudos in struggle (and the overcoming of it) than in just ticking along contentedly. Borrr-inggggg!

But this, is what this blog is all about, of course – my journey to having the courage to see and admit just how happy I am!

In the US they talk about Pollyanna-ism – after a children’s book character who was persistently and blindly optimistic. In the UK in particular, I think, we have a deep mistrust of happy people. They must be hiding something. And while it is true in my experience that excessively cheerful people are often using a chipper demeanour to cover up internal hurt, it IS also possible for someone to be deeply and genuinely content and sane at the same time. The difference between the former and the latter is that the deeply content ones don’t feel the need to have their happiness dial on loud.

Happiness isn’t a popularity contest, it’s a question of “do I feel aligned with my truth?” That makes it a very personal thing – not something we can really explain. And nor should we. (Yes, I do see the irony!). If you are truly content it will radiate from you – communicating energetically.

Anyway, I’m saying all this because, I admit it, I am very happy right now and have been for quite a few weeks now.

“What? Weeks?”

“Yes, weeks!”

Now my internal voices are saying – “Oh god, they’re going to think I’m smug, in denial or plain batty!” Wow – those voices really are an automatic reflex!

Oh well. It’s fine. I’m loving it. Quite apart from anything else I notice I’m expending far less energy because I’m not in any state of resistance. And the advantage, I know, is that when my energy is ‘clean’ like this I’m far more open to and concious of all the riches the Universe wants to send my way.

Long may it last. But let’s hope my posts don’t lose any of their ‘juiciness’ because of it. (Whoops, was that my internal voice again?!)

 

“We are same”

Wonderful video using the Dalai Lama’s words. We’re all equal in our search for happiness and our humanity. Simple. Lovely. Touching.

 

 

If anyone’s in London on Tuesday 19 June at 2:00pm you can also go and see him at the Royal Albert Hall. Let me know if you do!

 

 

When the Universe answers

Of course the Universe always answers. The only impediment to us knowing this, is our listening (or lack of).

There are days though when it feels like: “I ask and it is given”. Today for instance… This morning I was bemoaning the fact that there are no woods within walking distance of our home. Resigned to my normal semi-urban route I set off just now to enjoy a beautiful moment of sunshine. Something told me to turn left and then right – off the beaten track, and, you’ve guessed it, voila! Woods. Hoorah!

Trees ground me. I love their company.

A whole new ball-game

On Saturday my daughter becomes a teenager and today, as if in anticipation of that great event, we had to have our first ever serious heart-to-heart.

It’s a humbling thing watching your children grow and blossom into their own people, and not without its own sadness too. Once upon a time this young lady was my “little girl”, so cute, so delightful and, I hate to say it, but… so amenable. Gone are the days when she will take me at my word and obey without too much of a fuss!

It turns out Julia has had her own idea about how things should go with her life for a few weeks now and that’s led to the need for our heart-to-heart today. Julia is making a break for her independance and although my first instinct was to mete out punishment for her misdemeanours I’m glad to say I checked myself and decided to get advice from my oldest sister who’s been here before. Good move. Thanks Caroline!

With Caroline’s help I saw that I had created the situation somewhat by holding on too tightly to Julia – so much so that she resorted to cloak-and-dagger behaviour under the assumption that I wouldn’t listen to her needs. Hmmm. I talked to Julia about this, this afternoon and it went very well. She has accepted (even welcomed) the consequences of her actions (pocket money taken away etc.) but I have also promised her that I will make myself more available to listen in future so that she doesn’t feel she has to go behind my back.

Gosh, that was scary there for a minute! I realised that I’d found myself in a different room in Julia’s castle and I wasn’t prepared for the change of scene at all. Teenage-hood. A whole different game! I welcome it, but I’m clear I’ve got a lot to learn and I really couldn’t have a better teacher than my wonderful daughter, Julia.

Pyjama Day

A rainy Sunday is a great opportunity for a ‘pyjama day’ – thick wooly socks, track pants, fluffy cardigan, slippers.

Other vital requirements for a pyjama day are:

  • a lie-in until 10am (minimum)
  • little to no effort on personal grooming – definitely no make-up
  • minimal underwear
  • close contact with soft furnishings
  • random snoozing
  • Sunday newspaper reading (not the news sections)
  • lots of cups of tea (preferably made by someone else)
  • guilt-free book-reading
  • guilt-free marshmallow eating (really! They’re becoming a bit of a theme aren’t they?!)
  • an afternoon movie
  • a vague feeling that perhaps you should have got more fresh air than the bit you got between the front door, the wheely-bin and back

Ways to improve on a pyjama day? Hmmm – I’ll let you know after I’ve …. after I’ve…

……