I have accepted a challenge with myself in an attempt to stay aware of the present moment and not let my mind wonder off into past or future events. I gave myself this challenge after reading The Untether Soul by Michael Singer. He makes interesting points in his book, and I wanted to try to live through this particular outlook to ultimately be unconditionally happy. That's a hefty sip for an often unhappy, stressed-out, and fearful mama like me. I think that's why I'm taking this experiment - to try to take me from one extreme to the other and see how things turn out. I wouldn't say that I'm extremely unhappy or fearful, although I do occasionally get extremely stressed out. Nevertheless, I’m more on the unhappy and fearful end than the happy and fearless end of the imaginary mood spectrum. While reading his book I naturally began to see the world a little differently, and without really thinking about it I began practicing unconditional happiness.
Unconditional happiness means that I won’t condition myself to be happy. C’mon. You know what I mean. “I’ll be happy once I get raise at work.” Or, “I’ll be happier once my kids are potty trained and I’ve stopped spending money on expensive diapers.” Or, “I’ll be happy once we move out of this dumpy house and into a nicer neighborhood.” And on and on it goes. Those are conditioned thoughts. The truth is I don’t know what the future will look like for us, so why should I worry about it all now? And sure sometimes things suck, but it’s all in the past now and I don’t need to obsess over what’s already happened. To me, these ideas are common sense, but I, like many others, easily get distracted by the everyday noise and forget that it’s all just noise.
Before I go any further, let's breakdown the purported path to unconditional happiness (and ultimately untethering your soul) as I understand it. It’s actually really super simple – probably even simpler than I explain it, but here’s a shot at it:
1.) Decide that you want to be happy.
Ok. Yes, I do. Who doesn't want to be happy?
2.) When something comes up in daily life that you cling emotionally to, relax and release.
Yeah ok. What does it mean to “relax and release”?
3.) To relax and release, imagine sitting yourself down (the You that is deep, deep in there somewhere – the You that isn’t your thoughts or your body), in a little chair inside yourself – your seat of Self. You then realize that you’re being ridiculous for listening to your psyche and clinging to your thoughts and emotions. That’s when you relax, and theoretically release those thoughts up into the air.
Hmm, it’s getting a little too philosophical for me, but I’ll keep reading. What’s the psyche?
4.) Your psyche is the one who does all that talking in your head. Imagine you’re at the Taco Bell drive-thru glazing over the menu when your mind starts saying, “Man I’m starving! Do I want a soft taco or the Nachos Bell Grande with extra cheese and meat? Hmm. I’ll regret the nachos later - soft taco it is.”
Doneskies. If you’re interested in understanding more, I suggest reading the book. This is a blog about happiness – not about The Untethered Soul. However, I must build the planter for which I will bloom, and the book is the seed of change for which I begin my growth toward unconditional happiness. Therefore, I must give nod to it here.
I imagine my psyche to be just like me (confident, yet whiney, and insecure at times) who narrates the world as I see it. When I sit in my seat of Self to relax and release I see an enormous crystal ball of emotion, swirling with a spectacular iridescent light show on a table in front of me. This crystal ball is all the chaos and noise coming at me from the world. Yes, I actually picture all this (I’m a very visual learner…). In my seat of Self I am immune to feeling sad, fearful or stressed. I am simply watching it swirl and dance around before me. I don’t touch the crystal ball. I don’t try to walk past the ball. The ball is everything that I don’t want so I try to stay away from it. I am simply chillin’ in my seat with a glass of merlot watching my whiney, moody psyche react to a stressful situation. I can choose to step forward and touch the ball of chaos and noise, but I choose instead to hang back, pop a squat, and not let myself get wrapped in the crap.
I was able to do this one afternoon when my husband and I decided that I would go to a Zumba class after he got home from work. Zumba has become a time for me to get out of the house by myself for a dance workout at the gym. It’s thrilling and I’m living for it right now. So imagine my mini-panic attack when Brandon tells me that he will be home by 7:10pm so that I can catch a 7:40pm workout – but he’s not home by 7:10pm. By 7:15pm, there’s no sign of him. As I’m watching the clock instead of driving to class I start to feel anxious and irritable. He and I had an arrangement for me to leave at a certain time, and now I would be late for class. Plus, he didn’t say that he would be late. He is freaking awesome about texting on his way home or letting me know he’s going to be late, but on this particular day, for one reason or another, I didn’t hear from him. Finally he pulls into the driveway at 7:20pm and I’m out the door before I can get swept up into any other last minute mama duties.
As I whipped my minivan into reverse I was feeling pretty damn short-tempered. However, once I was on the road driving, I suddenly remembered to relax and release because I didn’t want to feel pretty damn short-tempered. So I did. I remembered that I’m just on a planet spinning around in the Milky Way. I’m here for a while and then I’ll leave. It’s dumb to be short-tempered over my husband being a smidgen later than I had anticipated. The world wasn’t coming to an end. I instantly released the tension up and out. It was really that easy. You should try it. I simply stepped backward away from the noise and decided not to be irritable. Released. Booya. And you know what? I pulled into the gym with five minutes to spare. What’s more, class didn’t even start until 10 minutes past the actual start time because the class ahead of us ran late. I changed my attitude and then danced it all off at Zumba. The night was perfect and dancy and happy after all.
Other times are not as easy to relax and release, however. I do find it incredibly hard for me to stay out of the chaos going down in front of me. Many more times I just forget that I’m trying this unconditional happiness thing. So it got me thinking: Maybe I should try triggering my mind into remembering. So, I started a challenge this week to do just that. Challenge accepted baby.