Episode 1: How to Be Happy

Most of us want to feel happy. But we hold onto limiting beliefs that tell us happiness is for other people. Or we think we need more money, more friends, a better love life, or other external things in order to be happy. There is always the “next thing” to crave!

What would happen if we broke this pattern and found a new way to live where we experienced more happiness? I’m not talking about the kind of airy-fairy happiness that denies the dark times we all go through, nor am I asking you to pretend your troubles don’t exist. To truly practice happiness means to practice equanimity; to acknowledge both the dark and light and to live skillfully and happily regardless of the ups and downs of everyday life.

But how do we feel happy when life is hard? How can we make happiness a practice? What if you practiced going within and connecting to your soul? Think how differently you would feel if you had daily and simple practices to do that connected you to your soul and innate good nature.

Here are a few ways you can practice exercising your happiness muscle:

  • Practice gratitude. Daily gratitude practice reorients your mindset. Instead of chasing happiness outside of yourself, you learn to slow down and notice how many things you have working in your favor.

  • Serve other people. Think how good it feels when you help a friend out with a ride, or a sympathetic ear. When you serve other people you create a little energy loop where they get helped out, and you get a buzz from seeing a smiling and grateful face. It doesn’t have to be fancy: let someone in during a traffic jam, hold a door open, or drop a friend a “You are Awesome” text. By serving others we connect with the best parts of ourselves and pull ourselves out of negative and limited thinking.

I’d love to hear from you! How is your gratitude list going? How has serving other people made you feel better? By sharing our experiences we all become more powerful! Let’s put some good vibes into internet land; let me know in the comments below how your happiness homework went!

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Transcript

Hey guys. Welcome to the Gita Brown show:  bringing harmony into everyday life!

So today's show, I'm so excited, we heard talking about how to be happy. Yay! So today you're going to get inspired with practical tips for your creativity and for your spirit. If you're an artist a musician a writer or just a creative minded soul, you have found your source for inspiration and a little bit of guidance too. I'm Gita and I help creative people from all walks of life develop a holistic lifestyle that helps them with their art, their creativity, and their wellness.

So I'm guessing if you are tuning in to day in whatever format you're watching this-- or listening to this--that you want to be just a little bit more happy you know maybe you want to enjoy life a little bit more. Maybe you've reached a certain level of success but you're like dang! I still don't feel entirely happy. I still get anxious, what is going on with me?! Or you might be feeling in a really heavy intense and dark period. And if you're there, welcome! Bring all that darkness on with ya, no worries. Just be yourself.

I think all of us-- not I think I know--that all human beings want to be happy. We want to feel safe. We want to be nourished. And then once those basic needs are met we want to feel happy. And some of the greatest thinkers throughout time have really decoded the mystery of how to be happy. I'm just going to tell you today what they told me and what I put into practice and what's worked for me. So we're not reinventing the wheel here people; but we're connecting you to a really long and ancient tradition that runs through all of the spiritual traditions that teaches us how to truly be happy and to embrace a happiness that is permanent. Not a fleeting happiness, of like, eating a piece of a what would it be for me.... Godiva chocolate! But a kind of permanent happiness that you have with you all the time. So I really do believe if you pick this episode, or even like if it picked you somehow, has just landed on your screen or in your earbuds that this means we're here in this precious moment together right now for a reason. I believe that when the student is ready the teacher appears and here I am my friend I know that you can start practicing simple techniques to day as soon as this episode ends. Actually no! During the middle of this episode you can start practicing things that are going to help you feel more happy. Wouldn't that be a nice way to spend a half hour? So let's get into it.

Just so you know I've been doing yoga for about 30 years I've also been a clarinetist for even longer than that. And I have taught lots and lots of people how to breathe and to move and be creative. And I've witnessed a lot of transformation over the years. I've had some amazing teachers in my yoga tradition and have been blessed with everything they've taught me. And I'm going to share all of those thousands of years of tradition that have been given to me. I'm just going to share them with you today.

If you're feeling sort of like,  "life is OK but what's next for me?" This episode is for you. If you're feeling a little down in the dumps, this episode is for you. If you're wondering "why am I happy, I want to keep that but I feel like I lose it". This episode is for you. Because again, being happy is a fundamental need to our existence. And take a moment and recognize that so often we think like "oh that's for other people" or "that's for her because she has this and she has that and I'll never have that" or we think "well it's not for me because this and that happened to me."

We have all these limiting beliefs that tell us that happiness is not for us. But let me tell you that's not true. Because when you were born and when you were a baby and a toddler you had moments of pure joy. Right? The first time that you discovered your foot and you held on to it. Now babies do that. So cute. Right? The first time you discovered how to laugh or to blow a bubble as a child, you were full of that joy. That is who you really are! You really are just happy. But you know, we're human and we have these very complex brains.  And we have complicated people and situations in our lives. Things happen to us along the way.

We get beaten down. We have our traumas and our dramas and our stories are limiting beliefs and life happens. And along the way it's like that happiness gets covered up.

And one of our jobs to be more happy is to uncover and let go of all that stuff that's just blocking our light, our natural state of being, how we were when we were kids. So you know I've got you my friends! I've been probably wherever you're at right now. If you're if high, if you're low. If you're familiar with my story you know that I went through a very tumultuous relationship with my ex-husband who was addicted to drugs and alcohol. I not only lost the marriage but eventually we lost him to his addiction.

So I have truly been in moments of deep deep suffering and deep pain.  And following the things that I'm going to share with you today, even learning to find the smallest joys in those moments and to keep my baseline set at happiness. And I'm going to get a little more into that in a moment.  But just so that you know, like, I feel where you're coming from. It's not always easy to be happy. But there are things you can do to day to build habits. It's like exercising your happiness muscle. This is a workout for happiness today. You can start doing them right now.

So I want to first start though before we dive into the techniques with a few little stories it's just kind of stories are a way to teach you how to think about a subject right. If we change sometimes our approach to how we think about happiness that can open the door to us picking up some new behaviors that will create more and uncover more of our natural happiness.

So one of my most dear,dear teachers is Sri Swami Satchidananda. He founded integral yoga. He actually came over here in the 60's and opened Woodstock with a chant. His "hippie children" as he called them absolutely loved him and they convinced him to stay. So he stayed in the United States and formed ashram. There's now an ashram in Virginia, San Francisco, New York, and there's one in India as well in the integral yoga tradition . An ashram is just a spiritual community dedicated to living the principles of yoga which is all about connecting with your soul and being of service to the world. Beautiful things.

He had this great great saying that just really really sticks in my mind. He said if you want to be happy don't run after temporary happiness.  If you stop and think about it for a minute most of the things that we think make us happy are really transitory. So let me give you little story.

 For example, just imagine, for example that you have a little nephew. Your nephew decides that he sees the butterflies flitting through the garden. He decides that he wants to catch a butterfly. He loves watching them. He thinks they're cool. He thinks they're beautiful. He says, "I want to catch a butterfly." He's literally chasing his happiness. So then he goes and he gets all the stuff he needs. He's a net. He needs a display box to keep the butterfly in once it's been captured. He gets all those things he spends all this time getting all the stuff he needs. He gets the net. He spends all afternoon chasing the butterflies and running around so happy laughing and giggling and finally! Nnatches that butterfly and has it in the net.

Wow. Beautiful! Admire it. Now remember what they did used to do, and some people still do with those butterflies ,when they catch them they kill them? Remember how they pin those in those boxes if you haven't seen them. That's what they do. They pin that butterfly in the box and they leave it there so everyone can view its beauty. And it does actually have some scientific application of course. So you can study the animal and all of that. So let's say this nephew he gets all his stuff. He captures the butterfly. He mounts it in his display box then he has it to keep there. What does he actually have? Well he has this dead body of a butterfly. Isn't that a beautiful form to look at. But if you think about how long is that body going to last? Even if it's in a perfectly sealed box eventually the body of that butterfly is going to decompose.  Eventuall the nephew will die. The butterfly will decompose and all that physical material thing will fade away. Right. And none of us can ultimately hold on to our physical life. It's not guaranteed for any of us. Each moment is truly a gift because we didn't do anything to get it.

It just arrived here and landed in our laps. And we can't hold onto that. So that little boy who spent all that time chasing the butterfly, captures it, but then ultimately can't keep on  can't hold onto it so you can't really hold onto anything. Happiness is like that. As soon as you get it, you have it here, and then it either decays in your hand or you start to crave the next thing that's going to make you happy. So the first thing is with the butterfly story you can't hold on to happiness. It's always going to be there for a moment and then it's going to fleet. Except for the kind of happiness we're going to talk about in a minute. But most of our happiness is this fleeting kind of thing. It's something we eat, a movie we watch, a dinner we have. It all comes and goes and comes and goes and comes and goes and comes and goes.

And we just sit there and we get all excited about catching the butterfly and then we catch it and we'd tank down again and we get all excited about the next thing and we take down again. You can't hang on to that kind of happiness. So maybe you're chasing it the wrong way around.

Here's another way to think about it. Think about, like for me, the first time I was going to buy my own car . It was a big deal. It was a white Toyota Corolla and I even had all the little emblems on it painted like the fake gold color because I thought it looked cooler.  I was so  happy to have this car. I thought about this car I saved for this car. I dreamed about it. You know looking at those shiny glossy catalogs they give you? I was dreaming about how I was going to drive it to Colorado. I was going out to Aspen Music Festival and school for summer there as a clarinetist and bass clarinet. I was like, "I'm going to drive this thing to the mountains. It'll be great!"  All these months of build up. So then I finally I get the car and I'm driving the car and I'm loving it.

 But then what happens a year or two later? I start looking around. What's she driving?What's he driving? I get to Aspen. What are they driving BMW Lexuses. What's the plural of Lexus, Lexi?  I start looking around. Oh maybe there's a better car. Maybe I could get a Camry the next time, maybe I could get an SUV. Right you start looking at that next thing. That was temporary happiness to you. Put all this effort and energy into getting the thing that you want and then you just want the next thing and you want the next thing. So you're chasing after something like the butterfly that you can't hold on to ultimately.

And you're also chasing after something that even if you do get it you instantly want the next thing and the next thing. OK. This does not sound like a recipe for happiness to me. I'm listening to this myself talking. Know that sounds like kind of a disaster. No wonder we get a little cuckoo.  So how do we undo this then? Right. This is some different ways to think about it. How do we begin to undo our minds from this conditioning of like needing all this external stuff or needing these external experiences even to make us happy?I need that vacation I need that day off I need this I need that and then I'll be happy.

Well to unwind that my friends the first step is to remember who you really are. Sri Swami Satchidananda would also have as great saying, I can hear his beautiful voice saying this, "you are happiness personified!" and for first he said it was like yeah right I'm going through a divorce and I'm miserable and life stinks! So yeah I don't think so. But his point was like, "Hey who you actually really are--not the suffering not the bad things that have happened not the pain--who you really are the essence that fragile essence of your soul that was breathed into life in this lifetime--who that really is is happiness."

And that is peace and your job is to let go of all the things that are getting in the way of blocking that light. Your default setting is actually happiness. You've just forgotten to go inside and connect with that happiness and you've become attached to everything outside of you. Needing that all to be a certain way so that you can be happy. But if you can't hold onto that outside stuff and you always crave more, then you have nowhere left to go but within.

So let's get to how you practice going within for your happiness. So you can have that permanent happiness that will be with you all the time. And the next time I see you or meet you, my friend,  you'll be like "I'm so happy because I've remembered who I really am I'm a beautiful soul!" and I'll high five you and we'll be so happy together! OK.

And let me just put a little caveat here before I give you this first practice. I'm not talking about fake happiness. I'm not talking about the happiness that denies pain either, right. I think there's a false belief that like Oh when you're deep into a spiritual practice that you just get like I'm so happy all the time and I love everyone and everything is golden. Yeah, that's not true. True spirituality, to truly practice yoga, means to sit with equanimity with both the dark and the light. It recognizes that dark things that happen and the light things that happen are all outside experiences. The permanent experience, your soul, is what I'm talking about when I'm talking about being happy. bBeing connected to your soul is how I define happiness. makes sense not some false state of like... incense and chanting (although I love all those things!) but not some false, fake,  kind of surface level happiness. The real "connected to your soul" happy.

OK so practice Number one I hope you're paying attention because you will have homework on this my friend and I'll know if you do it or not. Because when I see you I'll be able to tell by the way you radiate if you're doing your homework or not. OK.

Practice number one. Be grateful.

Oh and this is a tough one if you are going through a hard time I know what it's like what do I have to be grateful for everything seems awful so there's a wonderful TED talk by a Benedictine monk David Steinl Rast. I have it here so you can look it up. "Want to be happy. Be grateful."  He does a beautiful job illuminating this and this is one that my teacher Sri Swami Sachidananda talks about quite frequently and one that I've put into practice in my life and it's transformed and connected me with my my soul. So. Be grateful.

So again we tend to have the equation reversed. We look for happiness all around us outside of us.  To be grateful means to go within. To be grateful means to go with in. Can I say that again? To be grateful means to go within. I have this thing I do. and I'm going to teach it to you now when I'm getting really stuck and when I'm just like a total crabby pants and I just like want everyone to just leave me alone and I'm just: "Everything seems horrible!" even though like it's not. I stop.  I make myself list 10 things that I'm grateful for. And this is usually how goes. I'm going to run you how it goes like my inner monologue it starts to go like this;

"I'm grateful for my husband. I'm grateful for my mom and my dad. whatever. I'm grateful for Yeah, these feet I have-they are walking fine. I'm grateful for, oh, I have fresh water flowing through my pipes. Okay. God now I kind of feel like a jerk. Okay I'm grateful for my dog, my cat, my siste,r whatever, my beautiful friends. I am grateful for my house. I'm grateful for my car. I'm grateful I have money to put in the gas tank in my car. I'm grateful that I know where dinner is coming from tonight. I'm grateful that I have clothes on my back. I'm grateful that I'm kind of healthy. I'm grateful that I'm breathing right now. I'm grateful that the sun is shining. I'm grateful that I have this moment to be grateful for and it keeps going and going and going till I realize how many things I'm missing in each moment that are opportunities to connect to my happiness.

Again if we're chasing happiness outside of us that means that we're constantly cataloging  everything that's wrong outside of us. Counting those things that are actually working gives us a little internal reality check.

Difficult moments are opportunities for us to learn and to grow. We learn patience. We learn endurance. We learn conviction. So even in the intensity of your experience my friend in the worst moments; you know when my ex-husband was crawling down the hallway because he was so drunk he couldn't walk. I was grateful that I had a floor and a roof over my head and a way to keep him safe that night even at the same time I was holding my deep despair. So being grateful means being grateful for the opportunity of the gift of each moment that you're being given.

And again remember you're listening to this it means that you are someone who is wanting to grow wherever you're at in your happiness scale way up here or you're just  really suffering.

You are someone who is dedicated to growth you are someone who is dedicated to being more connected to your soul.  Practice gratitude here's a couple ways you can do it. You can do my my what I call my "begrudging list" which is: I force myself to list  10 things are grateful for and then I try and make you do 10 more. Okay do 10 more until it kind of shifts me out of that mindset and gets me to pay attention to all of the opportunities I have in life to make different choices.

You can set up little triggers for you to be grateful. One that I love as I take little post it notes and I place them on the mirror. And so when I look at it and brushing my teeth I see a little post it note and just has like something like a heart in it. And like the name of one of my dogs. It just like reminds me like I'll be so grateful you have that dog in your life. That's a that's really a cool thing. I have another trigger I use as soon as I open the door to my house when I come in from work I say, "I'm so grateful to be home. I'm so grateful to be home. I am so grateful for my home. Thank you universe." So that little doorway trigger kind of triggers me to practice gratitude.

Some people love this one. I don't do it. I will admit it but a lot of my students swear by it. So please try it if you like to journal. They swear by this that at night you sit down and you just write in your journal one page maybe a list of ten things that you're grateful for in the day. Just ten things. That's it. And then you put it away and let it go. This is exercising your happiness muscle my friends it's connecting you to who you really are putting the focus inward.

So there's another really simple practice you can do to up your happiness. Serve other people

You know how good it feels-think to a time when you've just like helped someone out. You gave him a ride from the airport or you can make them some food or they're having a down moment. You gave him a piece of advice and they looked at you, "like thank you so much you really helped me!" Like how good that felt! Or they were there were looking at you going, "oh God you must be so tired you just want to go to bed! and I'm talking your ear off!"  And you're going, "no this is great. I'm loving helping you right now" And that hug you get after that conversation.

Think to some of those moments where you've been able to help someone and how good it felt. What if you made that a practice every single day to serve other people without an expectation of reward?Just because it makes you feel good.

Think about this especially (I'm looking at you Boston drivers!) let someone in, in traffic just let them in. Think about opening the door for someone at the supermarket. Think about all you notice someone dropped something, pick it up and put it in their cart without them even noticing you. You get bonus points for serving other people if no one even sees you doing it. That's really like a challenge. To try and help people out and they don't even notice you're doing it. Then you just get the little happiness buzz from doing it and you don't have the expectation of them getting a big reward and a thank you card and all that thought loop stuff that comes up from that.

Can you think of one way that you could help someone today. Just a small nice thing you could do? One little thing I do is every now now I leave little post it notes from my husband on the bathroom mirror. So when he wakes up in the morning there's a little note right there. Just something silly. He'll leave me one in return. It's really small but I'm serving him by kind of like bringing the joy to the moment.

So if you practice a gratitude journal, or you get some kind of location trigger like when you come home you practice a little gratitude, or you have a little mental trigger of when you start to get really down of just forcing yourself to list 10 things you're grateful for and really break it on down being grateful for running water kind of makes a little nice reality check of how much we really do have.  And then serve other people. Think about creating that energy loop. You're giving love and happiness and energy forward and then you get it back. And the more you give the more you get the more you give the more you get. It really really works. This doesn't have to be fancy. To be happy is to go within. To be happy to connect to who you really are. You are Joy. You are happiness made into a body! So connect with that by being grateful and by serving others and you absolutely cannot go wrong my friends.

So you have some homework my friends and I want to hear about it. Wherever you're listening or watching this please drop me a little note. Let us know how it's going and you might also have some ideas in there of how to create happiness that really connects you to your soul. Give me a little shout. I want to hear how it's going. Pick one of these things. Pick either serving other people or starting your gratitude journal or gratitude lists or mental listing and put it into practice right now as soon as this episode ends.

You might even be doing it right now. Starting to exercise your happiness muscle and we will all feel the benefits and the rewards from that. That's the kind of internal change that leads to the peace connection love and happiness that all of us are looking for in this life. This is the kind of practice my friends that can create world peace. This is the kind of practice that can end the political discord. This is the kind of practice you must do as an individual if you want to take responsibility for the state our world is in right now. Go within and fix that connection first. Then you can share it outwards

And let me know how it's going!

 Let's seal our little happiness discussion with a happy chant. It's a happy chant for peace. This is a universal chant for peace. It was taught to me by my teachers who study with Sri Swami Satchidananda. You can learn more about him at yogaville.org. I'm sure my fabulous tech guy will put yogaville.org on the bottom of the screen right now. Fancy! so you can find out more about him. This chant is beautiful it's a universal chant for peace at the end I'll give you the English translation so you know what I was talking about. All right let's elevate your happiness.

Lokah samastah sukino bhavantu.

May you be filled with peace and joy love and light. That means you my friend! I wish you peace.

Om Shanti

Now if you like to this why not share it with a friend? or even better hop on over gitabrown.com and let me know on my blog how it is going for you! I want to hear how this is all going for you!

 You can also sign up for updates follow me on social media if you want to drop me a comment on Instagram Twitter or Facebook is just @GitaCBrown I'd love to meet you there!. Keep the happiness flowing my friends!

Peace to you.


Gita BrownComment