I don’t have a 5-step, 9-step, or 20-step plan to tell you if you follow these certain things on the list, you will reach an epiphany and know happiness like you’ve never experienced it before. Rather, the road to happy and really the road to joy is a process, it’s not something a numbered plan will ever deliver for you as a long-term effect and benefit, but there are some general guidelines that are helpful. Just know that the road to happy is messy, it will rip you apart inside and out, and it will quite literally kick your ass and not just once, probably several times over your life.
Over four years ago, I made the jump from the precipice. I finally made the jump instead of turning back and allowing myself to drudge through more pain and more agony. It felt amazing. It was liberating. It was cathartic. It was scary and painful too. It was the beginning of my spiritual awakening and super ass kicking.
I thought when I decided to leave my marriage over 4 years ago that the biggest darkness I had ever experienced started to settle in, then came the divorce and wow that ripped me apart on the inside and out on a whole new level. That was it right? I learned so much from being in a destructive and abusive marriage and I was finally free emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, and physically…well, sort of. I started to feel joy, happiness, connection, gratitude and compassion in my life again. My son and I were forced into a so many unknowns after my divorce that it somehow made our relationship stronger than before, but not without hard work, determination to fight the good fight, and a lot of courage, love, connection, and compassion.
There isn’t any other way to describe what our path was like, but this – my son and I were thrown into a hell storm at the time of and following my divorce. We endured everything from drama, trauma, emotional and physical abuse, threats, alcoholism, drugs, and violence. I remember hiding it for so many years that my family life was filled with such darkness, but we sure looked good from the outside. I cried, I resisted, I rationalized, and I finally surrendered and took the jump.
The truth is my son and I live a really blessed life now. I’m so grateful for everything that has happened to me/us and everyone that has crossed my/our path. Both have helped me become more aware of the process to connecting to my highest Self. But the road wasn’t easy and it still isn’t. It was messy, painful, and literally kicked my ass into a spiritual awaking. And, occasionally I get reminders of this just to keep me on track.
Some of this darkness still follows us today. Life isn’t all glam, glitz and rainbows no matter how much you mediate, practice yoga, gratitude, forgiveness, etc. There are times when I have a really intense yoga practice and I find new trauma stored in my body and cry incessantly upon its release, and there are times when I am in my meditation area feeling like I want to throw my hands up because I want to crack from how hard it is to stay centered and swim in grace. It’s hard work!
So, when the going gets tough, what helps me stay centered enough to keep walking the path of love, connection, and compassion are some guidelines that Brené Brown, Ph.D., L.M.S.W., so eloquently and succinctly points out from her years of research from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection. I’ve practiced them for a few years now before I knew about this book, and now we have the research to back up that the guidelines do work! This is real stuff folks, from real people, living real authentic and joyful lives. Even though these guidelines have been part of my life since my spiritual ass kicking and awakening, I still fall, but I always get back up with more resilience, strength, love, and courage than before. Brené Brown says in her book that it’s not a list of how-tos, but more of a list to know how to stay centered when thing get in the way. And, they always do! Approach the list as core values to uphold in your everyday life, and to really, really pull from when things in life get tough. Here’s the list from Brown’s book:
– Cultivating Authenticity : Letting Go of What People Think[think conscious choice of how you really want to live];
– Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism[think self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness];
– Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness[think resourceful, seeking help when needed, good coping mechanisms, social support, connected with family and friends; think spirituality – cultivating hope, practicing critical awareness, and letting go of numbing to take edge off vulnerability, discomfort, i.e., any addictions that numb – shopping, alcohol, food, drugs, etc.];
– Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark[think gratitude practice, see joy and gratitude as spiritual practices and belief in human interconnectedness and power greater than us, and understand happiness as an emotion and joy as a spiritual way of engaging with the world];
– Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty[think listening to voice within and sometimes that means we need to investigate more before we make a decision];
– Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison[think let go of conformity and competition as the center of your life];
– Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth[think napping, go with the flow without plans];
– Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle[think yoga and meditation, mindfulness and managing emotions];
– Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”[think the things that you love and inspire you, use your gifts in all you do] ; and
– Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”[think be a kid again, sing out loud with your family, have a dance jam session at home or jam session in car, etc.]
Brown says in order to effect change, “We need resilience and hope and spirit that can carry us through the doubt and fear.” It’s almost modern human nature to want a quick-fix list to get us from point A-B as quickly and pain free as possible. But to live an authentic and joyful life, we must first accept that it’s a process that will have many ups and downs. If you follow the guideposts, I guarantee that you will find some transformations in your life that will start connecting you to your highest Self to live from an authentic place and to experience love, joy and compassion, and to find the worth and courage exactly when you need them. The road to happy will kick your ass, but it will also give you new meaning where a desire to seek wholeness and connection become your prime motivators in life.
Om Shanti Om ~ Athea