With my background in Buddhist meditation and training as a coach I am often asked The Big Questions of Life – particularly about how to be happy and cultivate a good mental state.
I am always happy to share friendly thoughts on such subjects as best I can and this blog is one of those friendly times.
It has taken me a long time to realise that to be born as a human is a hugely wonderful thing. It took me a lot of living and to begin to gain this perspective.
Starting with a good dollop of self-deprecation, an internal critic (which I didn’t even know how to name as one!) and the usual pressures of exams, jobs, ‘does he like me - does he not like me’ were not the best ingredients for instant self confidence and a calm mind! For much of my life experience a habit of doubt niggled away at the idea of looking at myself and my situation positively.
It has only been later that I have learnt how to reflect on all the possibilities of a human existence. Sometimes this happened in a quiet moment - whilst sitting on a patch of grass watching a beetle walk over soil or a bee buzzing tirelessly from flower to flower searching for pollen.
Moments like this which began to help me reflect more deeply on my own situation. Looking at these small insects and pondering on how I had been given the chance for a much longer life with the chance to learn and debate, to make friends and change the world for the better. All of these coming with the possibility of a human life. As I often remind my students you don’t see many worms reading books or doing podcasts!
It has become more common now to write gratitude lists. These lists are perhaps an informal way of creating this same perspective – one which brings with it the chance to stand back from a situation and appreciate it more clearly.
In examining the possibilities of a human life much energy and joy can be found. Such an examination can be divided into clear elements; gratitude for the human body and all it enables, gratitude for the human mind which is extraordinary and capable of incredible invention and problem solving, gratitude for the human heart – the capacity to love others and be loved – and finally gratitude for the shelter and support of material things and the environment which sustains us. Each of these elements - when looked at closely - can lead to a profound state of appreciation which leaves the heart lighter and more joyful.
But it does not end there.
Beyond the writing of a gratitude list and the happier state which comes from it there could be a further question which goes something like this; ‘Right now I have the perspective of gratitude in my heart what am I going to change, to do?’
It’s all very well feeling gratitude but what does this feeling lead to in your lives and in the lives of others? I would encourage you to explore how to take this feeling and spread its benefits outwards in your daily life. How would you like to do this? What ways might work best for you?
I encourage you to try as you may find that the connectedness and joy which returns back to you will begin a circle of daily happiness that tastes as sweet as any honey made from summer pollen.
The Happiness Debate
Growing up in a Western culture I was of course gently lulled into the basic idea that doing more is good and getting more is the way to go. I notice this basic conditioning when I review the debates and advice about ‘getting’ happiness.
If we begin from the premise that, in addition to all the great attributes of a human life listed and examined above, the deepest and the most wonderful aspect of a human being is the fact that they have within them the essence of happiness already I wonder how that changes this debate?
From the teachings of yoga and Buddhism and also from some schools of Western psychology used in coaching this is indeed the point from which to begin. Again and again.
From it the question becomes not ‘what do we need to get?’ but ‘what do we need to let go of or free ourselves from in order to reveal this essence of happiness which is already sitting there?’ A common analogy is that of clearing the clouds to reveal the presence of the shining sun waiting behind them.
Perhaps the quest for happiness is a little more like the process of someone who washes away years of varnish in an old painting to finally reveal its original state which had been sitting there all along.
If you begin like this then a process of reflection on what is it that you would wish to let go of can begin.
What do you think? Where is it you wish to begin?
By Emma Slade - Executive Coach, Bhuddist Nun, Author and Charity Founder
As an Executive coach, Emma brings a unique skillset. She combines the analytical curiosity honed within her years in Fund Management with the skills of deep inquiry into Human values and the Nature of the Mind from a Western and Eastern perspective, Emma has been described an inspirational coach capable of deep listening which brings out insight and courage in her clients. She is particularly skilled coaching on purpose, leadership, authenticity and emotional intelligence.