The Ground Floor of Happiness

© Jennifer Stacewicz Edited by permission for susanwithpearls 2013
© Jennifer Stacewicz
Edited by permission for susanwithpearls 2013

When I first wrote the tagline for this website, “living life, discovering how to do that better, sharing it here”, I had so many ideas about what that possibly could mean–health, exercise, personal growth, spiritual growth, getting unstuck, tapping into creativity, learning, creating abundance, cleansing and purifying, financial freedom, being who you are–all of the things I have been learning about and practicing over the years. But in being so broad with what I thought this could be about, I actually limited myself and got stuck in wondering, what is my purpose? Why am I here? What do I have to offer? Through the process of doing what I say this website is about–living, learning, sharing–I am also learning about my purpose and refining my own meaning with each article that I write.

I came to a very simple answer today: I want you to be happy.

That’s all.

My purpose is simple: I. want. YOU. to. be. HAPPY. And so I share my journey, my lessons, and my own “secrets” for happiness. You can laugh at my mishaps (see “My Messy Life”), ponder with me the process (see “The River”), find insight with some of the tools I offer (see “In the Turbulence of Life Listen & Wait”), and hopefully find something useful as you search for and discover your own happiness.

The precursor to this new refinement of the purpose of this website, of my own purpose really, was that I woke up one morning and felt HAPPY. Not only did I feel happy, but I looked back over the past few years of my life and realized that I knew HOW to CREATE happiness for myself.

Let me be clear: this was not just a moment of waking up and just feeling good (although it was also that). It was not a moment of looking at all the good things in my life and being thankful (although it was also that). It was not a just moment of being proud of how far I’ve come and how much I’ve accomplished (although it was even also that). It was a moment of deep, deep, satisfaction that rippled out infinitely as JOY. It was so peaceful and real that I want to share it with everyone. I want you to be happy, so deeply happy that your peace is unshakable, your joy is overflowing, and all you want is for everyone to know the joy you know.

There is an intellectual understanding of this feeling. People can read words and think about what they mean and say, “Yeah, that sounds really nice”. But then, there is the experience, really feeling the experience–feeling it so deeply there is no thought, there is just a KNOWING. That is what I want for you.

That is what I want for me too because I had that moment of experiencing/knowing/feeling that depth of happiness. It lasted maybe 30 minutes and then it was gone. I haven’t felt it again.,  I can feel it waiting; I can feel it there, and I know I have it, I know that I KNOW. I know what it feels like, and I know I can do things to cultivate it.

Happiness is tied to purpose. When I fulfill the goals I have set for myself, and work at doing the things I have chosen as my highest path, my highest purpose, I create my own happiness. Those goals for me are:

1) Accepting and cultivating the divine (the holiness) within myself and others. This is often summed up in the use of the word, “NAMASTE”. It means, “I honor the divine within you”. So I think about that; I work at really seeing “the divine” and I work at learning what it means on deeper and deeper levels.

2) Service to ALL. This is a concept in many faiths and philosophies; the prayer of St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace”, the bodhisattva intention, “may this be for the benefit and enlightenment of all sentient beings”, and the Yurok Indian Brush dance, where being true to yourself is to do your best to help another in need. So, it is one of my morning contemplation/meditation practices to ask/pray that I might be used by the divine to bring peace, benefit, and assistance to others. During the day, I ask frequently, in every situation, “How can I help?”

3) Unity of Will, of Purpose, of Life. Bob Marley said it succinctly, “One Love”. Unity matters. Love matters. Separation keeps us alienated, untrusting, and fearful. I work every day at improving my understanding of the integration of every person, every soul into One Love.

There you have it, my goals. My goals are not your goals. But I am here to encourage your goals, your purpose, and your highest vision of life. I am here to encourage the deepest part of your Self that KNOWS and that knows how you will cultivate your own happiness.

The purpose of goals is happiness–my happiness and your happiness. You are essential for me to achieve my goals, and I am essential for you to achieve yours. Love must extend itself. Joy must extend itself. As love and joy expand, reaching out, rippling, touching others, peace settles in and the quality of happiness becomes so certain and definite that it becomes a goal of itself (but the secret is that happiness is unified with  [not separate from] purpose).

I want you to feel this happiness, to experience it, to Know it. I want you to be deeply happy. My world just opened up. I’ve now entered happiness at the ground floor. Join with me to build our infinite skyscraper.

The Peaceful Warrior Dilemma

"Peaceful Warrior" Copyright Tam Black 2013 Edited for susanwithpearls.com April 2013 by permission
“Peaceful Warrior”
Copyright Tam Black 2013
Edited for susanwithpearls.com April 2013 by permission

I was recently introduced to a quote about courage that I had never heard before: “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear.” I had heard quotes like “Courage is not the absence of fear, but feeling the fear and doing it anyway” and such but this quote is different. While other quotes seem watered down, “…oh, yeah, just do it”, this one smacks of personal priorities, inner decisions, and moving forward in a decided direction regardless of barriers like fear. I pictured the man who wrote this as having a solid sense of himself and great inner fortitude.

My fascination got the best of me, and I had to find out more about this quote. Here it is, in context:

From the article “No Peaceful Warriors!” by Ambrose Redmoon, published in the magazine Gnosis in 1991.

“As a real, live, initiated, trained, experienced, traditional, hereditary warrior with thirty-seven body scars and a trophy or two on my belt, I find such expressions as “peaceful warrior” offensive, trivializing, and insulting. “Peaceful warrior” is far more than a contradiction in terms. The function of a warrior is to eliminate an exterior enemy presence. Cowardice is a serious vice. Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than one’s fear. The timid presume it is lack of fear that allows the brave to act when the timid do not. But to take action when one is not afraid is easy. To refrain when afraid is also easy. To take action regardless of fear is brave.”

The full article was published in 1991, but was most certainly a response to Dan Milkman’s book The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, which was published in 1980.

The first line is about “scars and a trophy” is intense. It immediately brought to mind my friend who aids marines with re-acclimating when they come home from combat. Through her, I have come to understand, in a very small way, our modern-day warriors; their training, their harsh experiences, their duty in eliminating an exterior enemy presence, and thus their need for courage. They have judged that something else is more important than fear: Their duty, their country, their brothers, all take precedence over their fear. They made this decision when they enlisted, before they trained out fear and trained in courage—the decision about their priorities was premeditated and the decision incorporated the potential loss of their own life. These warriors embody the quote in its shortened form, as (in my opinion) is the intention of the author.

Yet, I wonder, how did “peaceful” become equated with “cowardice” for Redmoon? He says, “’Peaceful warrior’ is far more than a contradiction in terms. The function of a warrior is to eliminate an exterior enemy presence. Cowardice is a serious vice.” Peaceful in the first sentence becomes cowardice in the third sentence.

Doesn’t working toward being peaceful require the same pre-meditated decision that there is something more important than fear? Doesn’t peace require training—learning to behave in a certain way, regardless of emotions or external happenings? Does this decision and subsequent behavior not require strategic and committed discipline to be able to act on the conviction?

The clue lies in Redmoon’s definition of warrior: “the function of a warrior is to eliminate an exterior enemy presence.” Cowardice is a serious vice but the enemy is not always external. Perhaps a warrior is a warrior whether the “enemy” is external or internal.

Sometimes the enemy is fear of the future, fear of loss, grief, depression, lack of self-confidence, feeling stuck or immobilized, not knowing which way to turn, or feeling alone; anything that disrupts peace becomes an internal enemy. In the midst of such emotions and their corresponding behaviors (oversleeping, over-eating, self-medicating, doing nothing, etc.), it takes a judgment about what is important and an inner choice to act on it: it takes courage. “To take action when one is not afraid is easy. To refrain when afraid is also easy.” Pulling oneself up from any depth of emotion, making a decision about moving forward, and acting on it is hard. It is courageous.

As I said, I picture Ambrose Redmoon as a man with a solid sense of himself and great inner fortitude. I picture a man with both inner and outer courage. I then learned he had been in a car accident in his thirties which left him wheelchair bound for three decades; it only strengthened that imagining. I wonder now how fiercely he fought his inner enemies, if he saw himself as an inner-warrior, fighting for his own peace, fighting his battles alone, without military brothers at his side. I wonder if he gave himself enough credit, in recognizing his inner warrior.

I know I do.

In Vulnerability Lies Strength

1stPOW4.11.13The internet offers a fine façade.

With computer programs, stock photos, air brushing, and editing anyone—and everyone—can have a professional profile; a clean website, an image of their choosing. I am striving for that too. I have spent innumerable hours researching other people’s websites, looking to see what I like, what I don’t like, how I perceive this or that person through their virtual presence. Very rarely is there an unprofessional or chaotic website. Internet tools are far too advanced now; anyone can create a professional presence. If there is a problem in this, it is that people present themselves too professionally– some websites seem (to me) to be too glossy, too overdone, too much like the person is trying too hard to sell themselves.

As a scholar, an educator, and  leadership mentor, I certainly want to project a virtual image that is intelligent, confident, and trustworthy. But authenticity and being a real human is important to me too, and being human can be messy, undignified, and vulnerable. How do I balance these so it comes to you, my friend, as a unified package? As “this is who I am” –all of it: messy, stumbling, faltering, questioning, rising, shining, and brilliant all rolled up into one little package?

I once read a story written by the friend of a woman with cancer. The friend watched as the woman with cancer went through bouts of doubt, depression, anxiety, courage, optimism, and power.  She described her friend as simultaneously the most vulnerable and the strongest person she has ever known. This is the paradox of humanity: people are everything all at the same time and the opposites within us must find peace and balance.

It seems to me the people who I want to follow, the people who I trust, the people who I learn from are the people who experience obstacles, challenges, and doubt and learn to get through it. Those people are climbing, reaching back with a helping hand over this or that block, telling me where there are holes or branches in the way. They may just be a few steps ahead of me but they just stepped in the hole or got hit in the face with the branch; they can tell me about it and make my journey that much easier.

Here I am…human, stumbling, falling, reaching back, and telling you about it…hoping to make your journey easier.

In our vulnerability lies our strength.

Perhaps we never quite find our real strength if we do not allow ourselves to be vulnerable. If you prefer the glossy side, visit my purely professional website http://susanbillmaier.com/ .

My Messy Life

I rarely make bad decisions…really.

How do I know this? Easy answer: because I am, and have been, happy with my life. Not “materially-because-I-have-succeeded-and-‘acquired-things’-that-people-are-‘supposed-to-get’-happy”. But just really deeply satisfied with how my life has gone. My life is good. I am happy. Things are going pretty smoothly. Sure, there are things I am working on, things I want to change, things I am evolving in myself. But overall, life is just good.

I like to think this is because I pay attention to the little decisions.  At the micro level, I make good decisions so when those particular decisions grow up and pollinate bigger decisions…the bigger decisions bear the fruit of the seeds I have planted at the smallest level.

Yesterday at lunch, I walked out to my car and saw oil dripping in large quantities out of the front end of my car. I immediately “traced” my decision making process to see how I arrived at this mess.

1. This oil-filled moment started over a month ago. My car reached the mileage where it needed its next oil change. I was going out of town; I had a lot to do. I thought to myself, “I’ll get this done when I get back.”

2. When I got back, I really never wanted to take the time to go get an oil change…so I hadn’t… yet.

3. But I knew that my car needed oil. It’s an old car; it goes through oil…so I bought one of those gallon jugs of oil and topped off my oil.

4. I did this several times over the past few weeks, and as I did, I kept thinking, “This will extend the need for an oil change a bit…”

But underlying these thoughts, I was also aware I was being both cheap and lazy. I didn’t want to spend the money on an oil change and I didn’t want to take the time or effort necessary to go to an oil change place. But I ignored these aspects of the thoughts (more laziness).

5. The day before yesterday (the day before the “mess”), I went through the exercise of topping off my oil in the parking lot of work when I arrived.

6. That evening as I was driving home I heard a noise in my engine; heard something fall and hit the road.  I immediately “knew” I had forgotten to put the oil cap back on my tank when I topped off the oil that morning. You would think I would remember to check this when I stopped and even go to the parts store to replace the cap…but noooooo. I was too busy, too distracted. I literally did not give it a second thought…until I saw the oil-mess.

These six moments flashed in an instant in my mind, in all their fullness, to how they all contributed to the mess I was seeing when I walked out to my car at lunch yesterday. I put them together, and “saw” how when I drove to work that morning the oil heated up then “exploded” under the hood when I turned off the engine.

It’s really difficult to get angry, to feel frustrated, and to feel helpless with the facts of my own creation of that moment, messy though it may be, glaring in my face.  And the good news was it was not a problem with the engine. It was just a mess that needed to be fixed.

The irony (AKA “karma”) in this case, is the key factors to this messy-oily-moment were the ignored “cheap” and “lazy” thoughts. The outcome was I had to take extra time and effort and spend more money (or money I would not otherwise have spent) in the end. If I had just gotten the darn oil change…this would not have happened. I have to laugh.

I am fortunate—and I continue to be fortunate—in that I *mostly* pay attention to the details of my thoughts, actions, and feelings at the micro level. The lessons that come my way, the effects of my own decision making go like this example: The “problems” that arise are generally not much more than messes (some bigger than others, some not quite so literal). I can trace how I have participated in making this mess and I learn from the lesson which, I believe, minimizes the need for other “bigger” lessons.

Life is good; messy sometimes, but good.