This past week I did some personal exploration into what happiness is. First I asked myself; What does it mean to be happy? What I realized is that we have to be unhappy sometimes to appreciate and feel grateful when we are not. As I explored further I found a few other perspectives on happiness that I wanted to share.
As class began, I shared my personal journey to define happiness. Happy Baby Pose and Cat/Cow warm ups began to cultivate happiness in the body as we searched for it in the mind and heart.
With our opening Sun Salutes I shared a perspective from Mahatma Gandhi; “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” This is an incredibly powerful message. If we can create harmony within ourselves then we will find happiness. On our mats there is the opportunity for harmony as well; harmony between the body, the breath and the mind. I tasked them with this practice as we continued to go deeper and explored Parsvokonasana (side angle pose) with a bind.
From there we practiced some balancing poses and played with jumping back and forth from Standing Split to 3 legged Down Dog. I shared another piece of wisdom about happiness from Abraham Lincoln; “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” Happiness is a choice, sometimes a harder one than at other times but always a choice.
Then we went to the wall to play with Forearm stand and Handstand creating different variations and I shared my last piece of inspiration. I don’t know who wrote this statement but the sentiment could not be more true to describe happiness. “Happiness is a direction, not a destination.” The practice of the journey both on our mats and off is all about just that…the process…the journey…the direction; not the destination. The journey is where we find the joy and joy is happiness. So, as the students played in their inversions at the wall I asked them not to worry about the end game, rather to enjoy the journey to get there; to stay focused on the mindful process and let go of the “destination”; achieving the full pose.
Off the mat, it is the same practice. We can take this same exploration. We can work to have our actions, thoughts and words be in harmony with each other. Sometimes we have that first instinct to react to a situation with maliciousness or dishonesty but we get to choose what our ultimate response will be, we get to choose to keep our thoughts, words and actions in harmony with each other and ultimately choose the happy path. Then once on that path we again get to choose… choose to stay present in the moment, to enjoy the journey and be less invested in the destination.
Back on the mat, the students began the transition into Savasana and I asked them to think about what happiness means to them. Is it about creating harmony by aligning their thoughts, speech and actions off the mat and body, breath and mind on the mat? Is it about making the choice however hard it might be to connect to gratitude and find happiness? Or is it the reminder that the joy in this life is the journey, not the destination. They didn’t need to choose just one, the only choice I hoped they would make is the choice to be happy. As we sat together for our final meditation, I was so grateful to feel all of the happy energy in the room. Whatever their own personal journeys were, It felt that they were on their paths. Namaste.