I was brought up the eldest in a fairly happy, Catholic, and dysfunctional household with seven siblings and a history of depression and alcoholism in our family tree.
Somehow this grew me into a highly functional, demanding perfectionist with a strong tendency to morph into the Overarching Boss of Everything once I became a Mom.
My journey through midlife has partly cured me of this attitude, by bringing me nose to nose with this miserable character. (Being with my kids helped, too). So I wrote myself this prescription for relaxing into Ease and Enjoyment, after the fact.
Perhaps someone else who is just realizing they are their own worst party pooper will read this and gather some hints about how to relax and enjoy life.
Here are the 10 Ingredients you need for a happy life:
1. Kindness to self and others: No belittlement, bullying or harsh criticism allowed! Not even yelling obscenities at aggressive drivers who cut you off! Send them blessings instead and it will boomerang back to you.
2. Right eating: Finding the balance between the desire for pleasure and fun, and real nourishment, what truly feeds your body. There is no one-size fits all in terms of food – experiment, be curious, don’t follow fads. I have gone from extreme vegan to macrobiotic to carnivore before finding the right food for my body and blood sugar (steak ‘n eggs for breakfast)!
3. Respect for your energy levels: Ask yourself: what drains me and what feeds me? These are the two best questions to finding balance. If you're exhausted and cranky, how can you be of service to others, let alone yourself?
4. Peace: Find the oasis within in stillness, submerse yourself and dive in regularly, every day if not every minute. Life is short. Heaven is now.
5. Ease: Catch up on the sleep deficit induced by all work and no play, take more down time to chill and learn the power of doing nothing: nap often.
6. Friends: Never underestimate the importance of being seen and heard by friends who love and fully support you, accept you as is.
7. Gratitude Attitude: Appreciation is a wonderful antidote to bitterness. Give thanks, give back, pay it forward. It’s a practice that feels forced at first, but grows your bliss.
8. Creative expression: Let your soul out to play: collage, art, doodling, weaving, singing, dancing, bass lessons, tai chi; include your five senses and get a whole body rush, while being in the Flow, lose track of time, rediscover childlike wonder. A powerful game changer.
9. Embrace your shadow: Accept your faults, withdraw projections onto others (the blame and shame game); practice saying I am flawed and fabulous, and I am enough.
10. Emotional Wisdom: Let tears flow, and laughter ring, give hugs aplenty. Feeling is Healing. And PAIN stands for Pay attention inside Now!
OK, I left out something rather important for a blissful life, Sexual Pleasure. This one took me a long time to allow. (Must be all that religion, wanting to be a saint and being celibate for 10 years?) All I can say is, allow, allow, allow.
There are many elements to happiness, of course: where you work and play, how many friends and companions really see you and "get" you; the health of your children, parents, tragedies, but one thing is for sure: the size of your house, car and bank account are way down on the list.
The worst Bliss Busters?
Perfectionism, Extreme-anything, Rigidity of beliefs, Negative thinking – how can you find ways to move into more body ease, more supple enjoyment, more light and laughter? Put on a soothing music CD, light a candle and write about this in your journal right now.
If nothing else works, pray for guidance from your angels and guardian spirits. Our purpose on earth is to enjoy, to be in joy, as much as possible.
Besides, self-flagellation is so passé….