So I am back from my trip and have had a few requests for a blog post on what happened up in the Himalayan Mountains. Many people have joked and asked me if I ‘found’ myself, or if it was an Eat-Pray-Love experience. And although I laugh back and play along with the comments, they have no idea how far from the Eat-Pray-Love story the experience was. They have no idea how hard the 10 days were both physically and mentally as well as what an incredible privilege it was to have received the knowledge that I was given whilst up in the misty mountains of India.
Now this blog could be the length of a book, as I have so much to share. But I thought I would try (it is really hard), to put a few of my major realizations down, along with a few of the teachings that I feel may help you in your life – as they are certainly helping me.
I hope some of the points make you think, reflect and want to change – even if it is just one thought a day.
I learnt about the power of meditation.
The word meditation is synonymous with the word contemplation. It can also be called quiet-time or prayer. So don’t go thinking its anti-religious or airy-fairy. Meditation is a powerful tool in today’s anxious and crazy world. Time to sit and be with yourself and objectively look at your life. In India I meditated for a minimum of 5 hours a day – which I obviously haven’t replicated here at home. But I have dedicated 30 minutes every second day to meditation. I have a quite space in my home and I go there and either meditate, read, write or think – but it is a space for me with no distractions – a place of single-pointed focus.
This time slows me down. It lowers my high cortisol and adrenaline levels and it forces me to just be – something I struggle to do. It forces me to look inwards instead of worrying about what I am eating for dinner tonight, emails, whatsapps and social media. It is the anchor of my self-discovery journey.
I learnt that I have become a slave to my phone, my computer and all the other distractions that go with life as a 32 year old in 2015
I had to hand my phone in for the 10 days that I was in the retreat. I was also not allowed to speak at all. So all I had were my thoughts, the philosophy lectures, the mediations and my surroundings. During the first 2 days, I felt myself thinking about ‘checking’ my phone or wanting to contact my husband. But these feeling slowly subsided as I became more present and grateful for the time away from the real world! When I returned to normal life – I really felt overwhelmed by the 553 whatsapp messages that were waiting for me, the 1093 emails in my inbox and the suffocating pull that these devices had on me. I was actually embarrassed when I admitted this issue to myself. So I decided to set a few cyber rules within my life– to try and ensure that my existence is not ruled by my iPhone, the Internet or my addiction to either of them. I feel like a recovering addict at times - but I am getting there:)
I learnt about why most of us aren’t 100% happy in our lives
Most of us spend our lives trying to attain pleasure, praise, gain or a good reputation from the external world. We also try and avoid the opposite feelings of loss, pain, blame and a bad reputation. I realized that we place a lot of our ‘happiness’ on attaining the first 4 feelings. We think that if we just buy that expensive car then it will make me happy, or if I get that particular salary raise then life will be happier, or if I lose 5kg I will be even happier. We don’t realize that this type of happiness will not last forever. We need to generate happiness in our minds. Ahappy state of mindwill last longer than the pleasure you get from a MacDonald’s burger or a 5 million rand house.
I learnt that the roots of most of our ‘unhappiness’ can be explained using 3 words – Ignorance, Attachment and Anger
Most of us misperceive reality to some point. My reality or how I see the world is not necessarily the same as how you see the world. How then can I expect us to behave the same way in certain situations? I learnt that I am not always right and my way is not the only way – a hard but true reality.
Attachments are things that we see as sources of our happiness. We think that if we get the 2-carat diamond ring, the ring will make us happy. Or if my kids visit me every day then I will be happy. We exaggerate the good qualities of material things and people, and expect them to bring us lasting happiness. Our happiness cannot be sustained long-term by anything or anyone else other than our own minds.
Anger is an issue for most of us. We often have preconceived ideas about people or situations that make us angry. We see these people or situations as the sources of our unhappiness. We then exaggerate the feeling. So a car cuts you off in the traffic, and you get angry. You chose to get angry- that car didn’t cause your anger. The action made your mind choose to get angry – and because we can change our mindsets, we can choose to not allow the rude driver to make us angry. Lets face it; the rude driver doesn’t care if he makes you angry. This was definitely my hardest realization to accept. I like to blame others and not take responsibility for the fact that I choose to get angry. I am working on it!
I learnt that life (and our minds) is in a constant state of change
Nothing ever stays the same. We are different people today to whom we were yesterday. Why? Because we have been exposed to more time, more emotions and more thoughts than we were yesterday. I realized that we can become very stuck in a belief system or in a social construct, where we actually don't have to, if it is not working for us. I realized that over time, my state of mind changes, and that in itself is proof that nothing ever stays the same. Today I may look at my body and feel bloated and heavy, but tomorrow I may do a great yoga class and re-look at my body and see it as strong and agile. Your state of mind plays a big role in how you see the world, and what your experiences are like here on earth. Sounds like the attitude speech hey – well it is. Your state of mind and your attitude are basically the same thing.
I learnt about karma
I wont get into the concept itself – as it is pretty complicated. But karma is the Law of Cause and Effect. So the thoughts and actions that I choose to think and act on today, will either manifest a positive ‘karmic history’ or a negative one. Then as I live my life, that karmic history plays out as the right situations arises. Meaning that if I have done good and had good thoughts, good things will come my way in the future. So in a nut shell, I realized that my thoughts also create karma – not just my actions. This was a tough one to accept too! I realised that I needed to take responsibility for my thoughts and that I had the power to try and change the negative ones.
I learnt about the importance of working on myself
They say that the keys to eliminating all this negative stuff or unhappiness are wisdom and compassion. Now neither of these comes naturally to most of us. Wisdom is generated via readings, teachings and self-realization. And compassion is very different to empathy, love or even understanding. Compassion is a state of mind that looks at all points of view and wishes for oneself and others to be happy. Being compassionate does not mean putting others happiness before your own. This is a skill, as most of us are not searching for wisdom or trying to generate compassion in this life. Most of us are out seeking material wealth or investing in relationships or having children because we think it will make us happy. It won’t. Happiness will only come from growing your mind, putting effort into generating wisdom and compassion and ensuring that you take responsibility for your own happiness.
I think I will stop there. I feel like I have given you something to chew on. These concepts are easy to write about but MUCH harder to implement. I am far far far from implementing them all into my life – but conceptually I think about them, and sometimes once I have reacted out of anger or set an unachievable expectation on a person or a situation, I think about them and hope that next time I will choose to change my mindset and therefore my reaction.
My inner happiness is work in progress…
Keep working at becoming the best version of you – that’s all that we need to do to find true happiness.
10 THOUGHTS ON “What The Himalayas Taught Me About Happiness”