Red Suit in a Sea of Black
It was an early October evening and I found myself walking down a busy street in a densely populated area around the time work lets out. I was on a mission to get food in my belly before hitting yoga class with my favorite instructor. Already smiling because I was pleased with myself for effortlessly passing a fellow foot soldier nearly three meters taller than me.
A thing dressed in bright red from head to toe emerged in my peripheral tearing me from my own self righteous thoughts. I glanced quickly because walking at my pace, with my head turned could be detrimental to getting to yoga on time.That red thing wasn’t just a thing but it was a massively tall man dressed in a full blown santa suit…in October.
Our eyes met as I slowed my pace, allowing the loser from earlier to pass me, but I didn’t care. I mouthed, “Santa??” to myself with curious eyebrows. Santa returned a look and I knew I was the only person who had noticed him stand out in the sea of black suits in that moment. Perhaps the only person who noticed him all day. Santa pointed at me and shouted, “You go girl!”
I smiled a smile so deep it appeared on the face of my psyche, wherever that was, and it warmed me from the inside out. After relishing in the warm smile I messaged my best friend, “An angel disguised as santa just pointed at me and yelled, you go girl. I don’t understand how anyone can be unhappy.”
Summon the Sweetness
Knowing these gems of moments envelope us every moment of every day but we don’t let them tear ourselves from our own (self righteous or not) thoughts long enough to notice them. I was surprised by the amount of people who missed the tall santa suit wearing citizen who instantly made my day. You might be hearing yourself say, “if I saw a man wearing a santa suit in CBD it would make my day but if he pointed me out of the crowd and yelled, you go girl, it would make my week.”
The problem is if you don’t train yourself to notice and appreciate and welcome such instances then you’ll never see them. Being a good person and feeling good is about noticing the subtle things in life we usually take for granted. Others of you might be saying, “What’s the big deal? A man wearing a Santa Suit in the CBD in early October is stupid not worthy of being happy.” And I would say, there lies your problem.
Summoning these little things out of the woodwork and acknowledging them is key. Thanking the universe for the reminder to smile. Thankful for having eyes that we can see an unusual sighting, thankful for our ears so we can hear encouragement. Thankful for our tiny legs that move freakishly fast so we can walk past 6’4 men. Even though the only way we’ll ever beat them is if they’re unaware of the race.
Sometimes we raise our happiness bar so high and wait for special moments to give our happiness to but…guess what? We’ll likely be unimpressed if moments worthy of our happiness come along. Why? Because we haven’t exercised our appreciation muscles. Have you ever heard the saying, “how you do one thing is how you do everything.” Well if you can’t be better or happier in the small moments, what makes you think you’re going to be happy when it “counts”? You won’t. Until you realize it all counts. So how do you begin to acknowledge and open yourself to receive these experiences? Practice.
Here’s a simple daily routine that makes the sweetness of life rain on you accompanied by explanations as to why it will open you up to receiving.
Observe without action
Ask for what you need
The best time to do these exercises is in the morning because they’ll set you off on the right track for the day. It’ll be easier to keep the habits going all day if you start in the morning too. But don’t think you have to do them all day, if you do them every morning they’ll naturally bleed into your day.
Gratitude to Become Happier
Gratitude primes your mind for the receiving mode. When I started doing a morning gratitude practice, I had never done gratitude before. I considered myself a grateful person because I had manners. After practicing gratitude deliberately, I realized I was minimally grateful with high expectations and demands for bigger and greater things.
Most of the time I was unimpressed and ungrateful for things unless they were grand. Even the grandest things left me empty and wanting more. The bar for grandness kept raising. That’s called spoiled. When you’re spoiled and unappreciative you’re closer to depression. Gratitude has taken my happiness to a new level.
I wrote 50 lines of gratitude every morning for three months to start because I was determined to see results quickly. Don’t think you have to do it this way. Do it in a way that’s sustainable and best for you. Everyone is different. If you don’t know what your style is, try different ways until you find one that works for you before giving up. You could just write 3-10 lines of gratitude every day and I guarantee you’ll see a positive difference. You can be grateful for anything but I found the smaller the things, the greater the effect.
Gratitude practice looks like:
Thank you for the…
bed I woke up in this morning because I slept comfortably.
air I breath because it keeps me alive.
tree outside my window because I love waking up greenery it in the morning.
friends because they always make me laugh.
money I had to buy lunch yesterday because I could eat with my coworkers.
Gratitude is the first step in transforming everything into good. When you practice gratitude in the morning you’re building the muscle of transmutation of energy. Which is one of the most important tools to learn in your lifetime. Have you ever heard the phrase, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade? The process of transmutation is the process of making lemonade from lemons.
You can’t just make lemonade though. First you have to know what lemonade is and that it’s made from lemons. Then you have to know how to extract juice from the lemons. Did you make delicious lemonade the first time you tried making it? Probably not. So with practice you eventually perfect the art of lemonade making.
The first step to all of that is being thankful for the lemons. Without lemons you can’t make lemonade. You may be thinking what’s the benefit of having a bunch of lemonade? I’m here to tell you making lemonade out of lemons means living a frictionless life. Friction causes suffering. If you could remove suffering from life, you’ll be a happier person. And happy people are better people.
Observe without action to become Happier
I do this by meditating but there are many different ways to do it. You could do it by practicing self control (maybe holding your tongue when you desperately want to speak), focusing on one object for as long as you can, you can decide on a your behavior before putting yourself in a difficult situation and observe what goes on inside.
Here’s an example of that last one: maybe you have a challenging relationship with your brother. To observe without action you decide you’re going to remain agreeable and non argumentative when you see him. Then, throw yourself into the fire by forcing yourself to be around him. The entire time you’re focused on being agreeable and non argumentative. Meaning, you have to fight your inner self against repeating your usual argument pattern. If that sounds unpleasant it is.
There are also many different ways to meditate. If your goal is bringing the sweetness into your life then meditate with the intent to observe. When you notice the subtle things going on within you, you’ll notice more external subtleties. Why does noticing subtleties matter you ask? Remember the santa story at the beginnin g of the story? It’s the little things in life that will make you most happy. Train yourself to be happy about the little things and you’ll no doubt be happy when the bigger things come. Observing the little things is a starting point, a building block.
Ask for what you need and Become Happier
We’re all pretty bad at communicating our needs. I think it’s because we’re never taught how to identify and communicate what we want effectively. Sometimes it’s because we’re afraid of not getting what we want or we’re afraid people will reject us and that can be painful. Other times it’s because we’re too prideful. For this exercise you don’t have to communicate what you want and need to anyone, you just have to communicate it out to the ether or say it in your head.
Gratitude and observing without action will help you identify your wants and needs. Identifying your wants and needs will help you communicate them. There are bigger picture things we want like: more time to read, more meaningful interactions with people, a partner who’s a team player, a suitable place to live, taking your business to the next level.
Then there are situational needs like: strength to have a difficult conversation, patience with someone irritating, kindness to someone who you think might not deserve it, an open heart to love and courage to take a leap of faith.
When I first started this practice of asking for my needs being met I asked for the larger things. Now, I find myself asking for the situational things every day. “Please give me the focus to write this article.” Remember, building blocks.
Real life example:
My work has me traveling lots of days out of the year, mostly to foreign countries where I’m in different time zones than my friends and family. It’s Friday and the man I see often disconnects from me without reason. I’m feeling lonely and disconnected myself today. My internal world (lonely, disconnected) matches my external (physically disconnected) equating to the perfect storm.
I observe without reacting when, normally I’d downward spiral and become unproductive. Letting my thoughts and feelings get the best of me. Then I would use my bad mood as an excuse for more self destructive behavior. What would you do? Would you go through all the numbers in your phone? Eat to gain instant gratification? Find comfort in the bottle?
What I decided to do was take this loneliness as a blessing. It’s the perfect opportunity to hustle and get the writing for this article done. The universe must have known I needed some quiet time alone and perhaps some fuel (inspiration) for writing. This is my gratitude practice: “Thank you for an afternoon without distractions to write.”
Guess what happened next? The most attractive, fittest guy in the room just walked by and his eyes met mine as I looked up from my screen to watch (as I often do when beautiful people walk by) . His caribbean ocean blue eyes smiled and his hand lifted to wave as I intensely kept my gaze and dangerously smirked before he rounded the corner. That’s some lemonade if I ever tasted it.
Commit to Trying It, What do you have to Lose?
Say thank you for what you’re given. Life’s gifts don’t come to us directly, they appear in mysterious ways. Open yourself to receiving those gifts by practicing gratitude. Train yourself to notice the gifts when they come along by observation without action. You don’t have to believe these pieces of advice work in order for them to work, you just have to do them. Commit to a week or a month and spend 10 minutes a day practicing. When something “bad” happens to you (or something outside of your expected plan) all you have to do is say, “thank you for allowing me to see the good in this situation.” Eventually you will.