Choosing to Find Happiness in Every Moment

In the true fashion of most Western Millennials I’ve encountered, I’ve spent the better part of my life trying to live one full of meaning and happiness. From the deluge of posts on social media, I see us all calling out to one another, manically searching for this Holy Grail of Happiness. Like I imagine many of those in my generation, I have read my fair share of articles and books, attended many a promising lecture or sermon, and have even times futilely attempted to force an experience that was ‘meaningful’ and could ‘make me’ ‘truly happy’.

The days grow shorter.

The years go by faster.

In the blink of an eye, I am no longer an angsty teen nor a restless young adult.

I see society around me shift. I am now viewed as a full-fledged adult. Not just an adult, but a somewhat wise, responsible adult- worthy of teaching children and having a mortgage. I accept this new role apprehensively and continue on with my ridiculous search for happiness and the meaning of life; knowing I am not alone in this seemingly never ending quest.

 

The A-Ha Moment

So it came as a surprise that the most profound discovery on my quest thus far would come how or when it did.

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Finding Strength and Happiness in the Wake of Harvey (and Life’s Other Disasters)

It’s late summer here in Houston.

I am sitting on our back patio, in my flannel pjs, drinking a cup of hot tea, waiting for my computer to update.

The cat and I are listening to the summer days soundtrack- a mix of rhythmic cicadas and songbirds calling to one another, with a crow of an illegal rooster chiming in every once in awhile. Although I find it soothing, it’s pretty clear my cat finds this joyous song to be taunting.

Meanwhile, the dogs pay no attention to this summer ballad, and, instead, focus all their attention on hunting down one of the many dancing lizards that are peacocking for a mate.

In this moment I almost forget that Hurricane Harvey has just pummeled my city and wreaked havoc across the Gulf Coast.

My husband and I live on a bit of a hill, and were luckily spared much of Harvey’s wrath. Although there is much to be done, we choose to not get too overwhelmed this early on. We do the best we can to help our community, while also making time for ourselves to wring out a bit. We’re making the most of this extended summer, before school starts back up, because, in a way, this little bit of time is like the calm before the oncoming storm that awaits us this school year.  

It is my husband’s first year teaching, and I am inevitably reminded of my first year teaching, when Hurricane Ike devastated my hometown of Galveston.

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Honoring and Celebrating our Imperfect Life Paths this Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice. As the longest day of the year, it is traditionally a celebration of life, light, and the beginning and completion of the cycles of life. Throughout history, people have held rituals and ceremonies to celebrate and honor the Solstice, the Sun’s life-giving force, and our connection to all living things on Earth.

 

In accordance with the spirit of the Solstice, I have spent much time today and leading up to it, reflecting on my life path thus far- as well as considering the direction I wish for my path to take in the future.

 

One of the themes I keep coming back to during this reflection is regret and growth in our imperfect human lives. I have always regretted the many reprehensible actions and misbehaviors of my past- yet I am now finally ready to forgive myself, honor my life path thus far, and move forward.

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A ‘Spirited’ Stance on Peace & Love

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The Dalai Lama said, “When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.”

If you know me at all, you know peace and love is my jam. But, if you’ve met me, you probably also know that I often do not err on the side of ‘behaving peaceful and loving’. Among other things, I have been called ‘spirited’, ‘high strung’, and ‘bitchy’.

This used to bother me quite a bit. Were my worked up thoughts, feelings, and tendencies my true nature, and could I ever be a peaceful and loving individual?

Several years ago, I began a soulful endeavor to find peace and love within myself, with those close to me, and with humanity.

During my journey, I have been blessed with the fellowship of like-minded people, also looking to spread peace, love, and perhaps happiness towards others.

However, throughout the years, I have found my journey has taken me on new paths.  

Although I try to approach all aspects of my life with peace and love, I no longer believe it is enough to send out peaceful and loving vibes, while simply sitting calmly, allowing for life to just happen.

Let me elaborate on this.

I had a paradigm shift a few weeks after our latest presidential election- upon approaching my 31st birthday.

After a year of deciding many times a day whether to take part in or avoid increasingly heated conversations- I decided I had to make a decision and stick to it. I had to decide exactly how I felt, assess why I felt that way, and decide how I was going to act and react.

It was at this point I concluded that I must stick to my values and principles- at all costs; and just because I happen to be passionate or ‘easily riled up’ about something I value, I am no less peaceful or loving. Likewise, I must keep reminding myself that those who are more calm and serene are not necessarily more peaceful and loving individuals.

It has been exceedingly frustrating, because, although all these characteristics are mutually exclusive, they are often seen as interchangeable.

Now, like all humans, I am nowhere near perfect, but I can still make an effort to be a better human being and live with the best intention.

I think that should be the key here- intention.

I think that most of us can agree that it is not peaceful nor loving to kick puppies, beat up old ladies, or set houses on fire. The intent there is clearly one of malice. I think we could also agree that if you were to come across someone behaving in this manner, you would probably be very vocal and action-oriented about stopping it. The intent there is clearly one to not just promote peace, but to stop actions of hate. It’s not a calm reaction, it’s visceral, and that’s okay.

There are some actions, however, that many overlook, because the intention does not seem malicious… or, even worse, the intent of the action is clearly malicious and harms others, but people do not want to speak or act out against it, for fear of appearing too impolite, high strung, or bitchy about it.

Many times we overlook malice because these actions are done by sweet, calm, kind people. People who go to church, love their families, and are good to their friends. But making decisions that knowingly fuck over others, this is never okay.

So how should we approach these actions?

Speak and act with the intent of love.

Seeing someone choose to act in hate, especially due to ignorance, is worthy of a meaningful dialogue. Dialogue is how many learn to empathize and see others as humans worthy of love. But, remember that sometimes the dialogue simply cannot be calm. Sometimes it’s not polite. Sometimes you have to be firm and you cannot stand idly by, for fear of how others will perceive you.

All religious texts are full of this dialogue, to help inspire us to become better people.

But even Jesus, one of the most understanding and compassionate characters in religious texts, lost his cool on occasion when he needed to be more passionate to prove a point. Whether it was with the assholes at the temple or his own followers, his passion showed us two things. One: that sometimes it requires being loud, angry, and passionate to get the the point across. Two: having the intention of hate, and being an asshole to others just ain’t cool, and should not be tolerated.

Whether it is the Bible, Quran, Talmud, or Torah- no matter the religion- the most important teaching, the common thread, is love. Not necessarily being calm, or polite- but showing love and peace, and not allowing hate.

No matter your age, religion, nationality… whatever background… it doesn’t matter, this message applies to all of you.

If you focus on anything else, you’re missing the point.

Although I hope we all grow more kind and patient, and continue to strive for conversation and dialogue, let’s be sure to get one thing straight: being peaceful and loving means you don’t allow others to totally shit all over everything just because they’re polite about it. We must stop confusing passion with hate, and calmness with peace.

“The time is always right, to do what’s right.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We must choose to act and speak out of love, not hate or fear.

Humans have such an amazing capacity for love and growth. Consider it and help make the world a better place.

“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”-Mother Teresa

Women’s March for Peace & Justice

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Women’s March on Washington, Photo by Chang Lee, The New York Times

Yesterday, all over the world, women and their supporters banded together to give a resounding message of peace.

Although there are many who claim this political dissent as an unwarranted act of antagonism and disrespect, I believe that for far too long, too many of us, including myself, have mistaken neutrality for peace.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
-Archbishop Desmond Tutu

We must not forget that peace does not mean simply sending kind thoughts out into the universe, with a calm, serene smile on your face. This is not about religion or politics, it’s about being a decent human being, and watching out for your fellow human beings.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Peace means peace for everyone- and if there is too be peace for everyone, then we must be OK with sometimes stepping outside of our comfort zones and making others uncomfortable when we stand up and speak out against these injustices.