Category: Summer 2013

Happiness: Living not just Existing

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.  Lao Tzu

 Last weekend I went to see Tommy, the musical currently playing at Stratford Festival. What an incredible show! The story takes us through the life of Tommy, a young boy who became deaf and mute as a result of childhood trauma. His spirit was trapped in the psychic splits this abuse caused and he was disconnected from the centre of his own core. The child actors did an amazing job of depicting the zombie existence of Tommy. The one place of his eventual engagement came as a ‘pinball wizard.’

As the story unfolds, Tommy grows older and undergoes lots of ‘medical and psychological’ testing to find out what the matter is. Nothing is truly revealed until a profound act by his mother finally breaks through to Tommy’s core. She shattered the illusion of who he thought he was. His freedom and happiness came in his discovery that his light was inside of him. He discovered himself and rejoiced in his ability to hear, speak and engage.

When the world tried to make him be their spiritual guru, he refused it and told them they already had what they needed inside of them. Go look for it there. Happiness comes first when we go inside and we experience the good fortune of loving ourselves. As Tommy discovered his centre and rejected the fame of being a spiritual guru to his fans and the masses, he realized he needed to go home and make peace with his family, those who had abused him and simply misunderstood the trauma he absorbed. And as the two ‘key skills’ that were offered last week, he faced the deep hurt within and sought peace with his family and his world, a vision that took him outside of himself.

The next morning Carlie and I had the pleasure of getting really close to a hawk who was  on the ground in the middle of the field. We stopped and acknowledged this incredible bird and wished it a wonderful day. To my happiness, the hawk invited me to remember the message of the birds this month about the mindset of happiness:

 face your grief and hurt and seek peace with it, just as Tommy did. Then you will experience the good fortune of loving yourself and feeling happiness as a deeper state of living. Cultivate awareness so that you can see when ‘happiness’ arrives at your door in the ordinary moments of your life. And as you practise noticing happiness, you will feel deeper satisfaction. And as you express gratitude for this deeper satisfaction, you will open to the true self that holds the wisdom to live a fulfilled life.”

 The hawk then flew away and invited me to reflect on the happiness I felt at the show. Not only was I entertained with incredible music (it took me back to my teenage years of listening to ‘the Who’, a band I enjoyed listening and dancing to), I was called back to my centre to claim the good fortune of loving myself and realize that the inner peace I seek lies in my power to forgive those who have hurt me. Happiness, in this way, is an inside job to live. I leave you with this quote:

 Often people attempt to live their lives backwards; they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want, so they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.  Margaret Young

 Blessings of happy living as you step into Summer!

Sharing your Best Summer Holiday Memories

“It was the summer after my freshman year at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan. I packed my bags and shuffled off to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. For the next two months, I worked in the kitchen and the gift shop at Lake Yellowstone Hotel. On days off, I would fill a giant backpack with enough food, water, and clothes to last two days. New friends and I would backpack deep into Yellowstone’s grizzly bear inhabited forest and set up camp for the night (tents and camping supplies were carried on our backs too). These hikes were heart-poundingly difficult, and sometimes mosquito infested. But the beauty I beheld! I saw families of elk grazing or sometimes dashing off to a new location, giant moose resting under a shady bush, and a meteor shower unlike any I have ever witnessed. Every day that summer, I experienced a new wonder of nature. This convinced me that I wanted to have a connection with the force that created the beauty that I experienced. That was many years ago, and I still am compelled to have communion with the Creator of such wonder and magnificence.”   Barb

“The summer of 1996 was proving to be one of life altering experiences. Sitting on the beach listening to the waves was a welcome reprieve from recent days’ events. As the warmth of the sun’s rays subtly coaxed my tense body to relax, I listened as my 40-year old husband shared his recent cancer diagnosis with his long-time friend Trudy. Trudy, herself having just received a terminal cancer diagnosis, was unusually subdued as she listened intently.  As these two cherished people in my life shared their life defining experience since diagnosis, I found myself drifting to a difficult conversation with Danny earlier in the day. Believing “until death do us part” translated to 40 years from now; we never imagined that one of us might “part” in mid-life. I dug my heels into the wet, cool sand and savoured the sensation as the waves parted the sand for the sole of my feet to be embraced. This was not in our life plan. We were soul mates. How could one of us exist meaningfully without the other? I could feel my emotions of betrayal……anger……fear welling in my chest, as the reality of our circumstance sunk in. It is difficult to describe what followed. At this moment, Mother Nature with all Her grace and wisdom, using the waves and sand as Her medium, invited the overwhelm of these emotions to melt away into the wet sand through my feet. As awareness of this seemingly magical moment crept in, and a feeling of peace and harmony ensued, so did the realization I was not alone in this journey. I did not know where this new challenge would lead us, but I had the sense that no matter what happened, it would unfold as it should. Life happens, and when it becomes too much, you will find Danny and I sitting at the end of our dock. We invite Mother Nature to soothe our souls as we look out over the water enjoying the beauty of the moment. It is in the awareness of this moment, we know all is well. Life is good.”   Nancy

“When I was a kid, my family used to go camping together. We often went to a campground near Owen Sound and other places up north. For 2 weeks we would swim, play golf and baseball, barbecue, sleep in a tent trailer, do fire camps at night and see neat things in Nature. We often went with other families and so we would run around the camp with our friends. I loved it and still today when these old friends get together on rare occasions, we still laugh and recall the fun and games we played as children. As we moved into our teens, we still wanted these times of camping and the only difference was that the nights just got later around the campfire and the stories more ridiculous! To this day, I love the opportunity to let all the responsibilities of the rest of my life be put aside for a while, to sit down around the campfire and tell great stories that make us all laugh. Laughter is one of my soul medicines and camping reminds me to replenish it for my life!”   Shirley Lynn

“Memories are priceless, especially the fond ones. I would have to go back to the summer of 1996 which was the first year I met my husband. He introduced me to the beauty of Georgian Bay. We were boating and jet skiing over the weekend enjoying the beautiful weather. I hadn’t had that much fun in years. The waters did get a bit rough at times, pretty bouncy. At night we all gathered around the fire and told stories. What a night. So calm and peaceful. Sometimes now when I get stressed or need to find my place, I think of the views of Georgian Bay that weekend. Oh, and how tall and strong the trees are. No matter how rough the waters are, the water is still underneath. I will picture myself underneath the water and know to keep calm and strong, as the rough water passes. -Relax, Faith, Resilience, Gratitude, Appreciation, and Strength.  Life is good.”   Sandra

“Happy Summer Solstice! When Allie was a toddler she used to chase the seagulls hoping to catch one so she could fly with it. So hold on to the thought that we can all fly with the birds when we let our thoughts soar and our dreams be lifted skyward!”  JJ

“When I used to live in Glencoe, a small farming community south west of London, the summer nights were the best! Our main rule was to be home when the street lights turned on. We always followed that rule. We made it home, but we did not necessarily make it in the house. Our backyard was attached and open to three other backyards in a subdivision on the very outskirts of town.  Our neighbour allowed the kids in the neighbourhood to play on her huge metal monkey bars. My brother and I would be allowed to play on them until our parents finally called us in. Many kids often joined us in our nightly sessions. Some of the best stories were told and we had many laughs. In looking back, these nights provided a carefree and simplistic time and I will always treasure those memories. Going forward, I continue to take time to get away from it all and socialize, especially with family and friends as much as possible.”  Cindy

“It was the summer of 1970. I was 16 years old and had started on first part-time job. My new friends that I had met at work were heading to Sauble Beach for the weekend. I knew there was no way my dad would let me go. He didn’t allow me to do anything. So I lied to him. I ended up getting a ride up with friends and I hitchhiked home at the end of the weekend. This was a major step for me. It represented two things. The first was that I was totally dishonest with my parents and I was never dishonest – miss goody two-shoes. And surprisingly it didn’t bother me. The second part is that I hitchhiked with a guy all the way home. And surprisingly that didn’t bother me either. Instead I felt totally free. Totally liberated. Totally in control of my life. The only other time in my life that I felt that way was when I divorced. This is significant for me because I never did anything like it ever in my life again. I have never felt that sense of freedom, that sense of control again. Yet I know how it felt and I know that I have longed for that feeling. But it has become a small treasure that I hold in my heart for just me. To bring out at a moment when I feel the need. When I went home after this weekend I went back to my “miss goody two-shoes” life.  If you were to tell anyone in my family that I did this, they would never believe it. If I were asked to do it again right here, right now, I wouldn’t even hesitate! Freedom is a wonderful thing. This has been a good exercise for me. It was a time in my life that I treasure but surprisingly had forgotten about for this past while.  It has definitely got me thinking!!”   Karen

“It was only a few years ago. The first time I stayed at Wasaga Beach. Wolfgang and I had just enjoyed a wonderful dinner on the deck of the house we were renting. We saw a twinkle in a tree across the creek; it twinkled so brightly it caught our eye. As the sun was setting and evening was growing darker and darker, we saw a few more twinkling lights. The darker it grew, the more lights there were. Soon there were thousands of tiny twinkling lights. They looked like fairies gently flying and swaying across the creek and right up to where we were standing. We did not know what it was we were experiencing until the following day. We do know we had an amazing sense of peace and excitement at the same time. It was truly beautiful and we did not want to leave the deck and go into the house. Later that same evening, we heard the sound of something crossing the creek, sloshing in the water and stamping up to the backyard of the house. We got the camera, and caught photos of a doe deer and her two young fawns. They were just grazing on the grass. Quite content. We know the deer now, and feed them corn every evening, as we go back to the same house each July. The first time we saw and heard them was exciting and filled me with a sense of awe. They are majestic, yet playful. Wary and somewhat skittish, but curious about us, and still strong and graceful, able to bound across the large lot and creek into the woods in a flash. They teach you that you can be strong and gentle together. We later found out that the twinkling fairy lights were fireflies and they were in abundance that year. It was such a beautiful, exhilarating experience. It drew us closer and it gave us a profound appreciation and awe of nature. Our best holidays are always those spent embracing what nature has to show us.”   Judy

“I immediately thought of my best friend, Tess, and being at her cottage as a youngster. There were many kids on Smirle Street, but Tess and I were really close. Her parents would take me to their cottage every summer until I left Ottawa at age 9. The memory is of swimming in the beautiful lake, with water so clean. We also would canoe around and check out different cottages or little islands. Tess’ grandfather built one cottage and then a few years later bought a new cottage beside the old one. The old cottage had secret pathways through it – one upstairs and one that went from upstairs to downstairs. I loved that place! Across the gravel road there was a pond that would be FULL of tadpoles, and we would go with a glass jar and scoop some up and check the different ones out: some tiny with tails, and some big starting to develop legs. So cool. Good memories.”   Sam

“The summer of 1981 was a memorable one for me. I just finished high school and was looking for adventure. I found it in the form of biking across Canada with 21 others from various parts of Canada and the US. We started in the Pacific Ocean and ended 2 months later in the Atlantic. I learned a lot that summer and I won’t bore you with the long version about all our trials and tribulations, joys and triumphs – can you say character-building? What stands out for me even today is the value of community in supporting each other through the highs and lows of our life journey – each of us could probably still recall a time on that trip when we didn’t think we could go on but someone said or did something that gave us the necessary support to keep moving forward. A simple squirt of water did the trip sometimes. Other times an imaginary tow line pulled someone up yet another mountain. I like to believe that I have carried this lesson forward in my life. I want to remember and act on the knowledge that reaching out and offering help and support to someone (whether in big or small ways) can have a positive impact on that person, and maybe me too. As Red Green used to say, “…we’re all in this together”. Some of you who know me may think – “I didn’t know she liked to bike”. And you’re right. I don’t. Never really did. I’ve rarely been on a bike since. But it still was the ride of a lifetime. Kind of a coming-of-age adventure that will stay with me forever.”   Lucy

Thanks to everyone who shared their best summer holiday memories along with the impact they had on who you are today. Congratulations to Cindy who is the winner of our random draw for a one-of-a kind Beat the Heat of Summer Gift Basket.

Happiness: a Gift and a Skill

Yesterday I realized just how many happy moments are available to me in the course of one day. I had a really good night’s sleep. Carlie and I had a wonderful 15 minute walk today – she is post-surgery so it brought tremendous happiness to both of us to be able to get out and sniff ‘new’ things. We celebrated my mother’s birthday and we connected with family and friends over dinner. We enjoyed hearing my nephew sing via computer. Moments of joy. And that is what the birds sang to me: happiness is moments of joy, the good fortune of loving myself.

These little moments of joy are gifts when they come to us in our day. They lift our mood, celebrate our relationships and bring joy to our real existence. At the same time, we need to cultivate awareness so we recognize when these little moments present themselves to us, face to face, heart to heart. That may sound simple enough and easily done, yet it can be difficult to sustain when we face challenges and disappointments.

Last week, Lucy shared her insight of how we can spread happiness; cultivate more of it in our environment by responding and encouraging more of what makes others happy. We are not asked here to disregard loving ourselves or to neglect the boundaries and self care that invites happiness in us. Rather, I believe, the expansiveness that Lucy was talking about comes out of having a deeper sense of meaning in life.

As is expressed in my mission, ‘wisdom’s way to peace’, I experience profound meaning in my life by helping others make peace with themselves, their families, their environment, their Higher Power and Presence, with their lives and so forth by connecting them with their own inner wisdom. We all have conflicts of some sort, hidden and conscious. Developing skills to cultivate an attitude of happiness and expanding our awareness to embrace the moments of joy as they arise are powerful antidotes to the conflicts that so often take up space in our mind and wind tight in the connective tissue in our bodies.

As we build skills to be happy in our attitude, we need to practise these skills to sustain this attitude over the long haul. As these moments get stronger and more frequent, we evolve into deeper states of satisfaction. Deeper states of satisfaction open the door to experience deeper levels of fulfilment. Feeling fulfilled is reserved for those moments and times and continuum of experience that connects us to our purpose in life, to that which gives us a meaningful sense of existence.

So how do we move from moments of joy to living a fulfilled life where happiness is not just about an emotional feeling, but rather an existential sense of meaning and purpose that contributes to the larger good?

I will share two key ‘skills’ to sustain inner happiness leading to fulfilment for you to contemplate and test. Please bring your own insights to this conversation.

(Remember, the birds asked me to go and ponder their wisdom: So to my surprise, the robin’s message tells me that being happy means that there is good fortune in loving myself. Good fortune comes when I appreciate what I have; it comes when I open to the moments of joy as I share my gifts for the greater good. I will be ‘lucky’ when I find joy in my place in the world. The Welsh understood this kind of attitude as being wise.)

  1. What is it you are seeking to accomplish that is bigger than you? If you don’t have anything, then you must find something or happiness will be fleeting and inner fulfilment will always remain elusive.
  2. What still hurts? Unresolved hurt can turn into resentment, depression, anger, despair and a gripping sense of alienation from being loved and belonging. It trips us up at the most inopportune times when a path to happiness opens up.

When you are honest with yourself and listen with heart to the answers that arise from deep within your core to these questions, what path to happiness becomes revealed? Is it what you imagined? What is one first step you need to take to bring momentum and new life to this path of something bigger than you and/or beginning to heal that inner hurt blocking the way? Let’s get started.

 Namaste.

The Power of a Wagging Tail

Last week Rayna and I (Lucy) moved into the next phase of our training (puppy classes are now complete). One of the skills required in the first level is for me to be able to prompt her to wag her tail. Huh? [The premise is that it shows social engagement, specifically with me]. Sounds easy enough except that Rayna doesn’t wag her tail as readily as some other dogs do. This has made me consider what a wagging tail means.

Without going into all the nuances of tail wags, I am limiting a wagging tail here to mean what we understand as the “I’m happy to see you” wag. I began to pay close attention to when Rayna wags her tail – I learned that she wags her tail when greeting a new person or animal into her environment, particularly if she is feeling comfortable and fairly confident. A novel stimulus is likely to invoke a wag from Rayna.

Relaxin' RaynaAs I stated above, we presume a wagging tail to mean the dog is happy to see us. They are outwardly expressing their happiness in that moment. But does that mean the dog is a ‘happy’ dog? Are ‘tail-waggers’ happier dogs? If a dog doesn’t wag its tail as readily, is it less happy? Specifically, is Rayna unhappy if she doesn’t wag her tail as readily someone like Carlie?

More observation and reflection revealed that tail wagging is simply one outward expression of how the dog is feeling at that moment – “I’m SO HAPPY to see you!” There could also be sparkling eyes, a lolling grin, jumping and bouncing around, etc. All are momentary outward expressions of an internal state of being, in this case, happiness.

One trainer suggested that if I want Rayna to wag her tail more, I need to mark the behavior and reward her for doing it – this will increase the behaviour. Interesting! I can reinforce and increase someone else’s expression of happiness simply by rewarding them in a meaningful (to them) way. I have the power to increase happiness around me by responding and encouraging more of it in others.

This confirms for me that happiness is expansive – we really can make more of it if we intentionally set out to do so. Being happy and expressing it freely has a positive effect on those around you. At some point all of these outward expressions of happiness will shift the internal state of being to match the environment. Who doesn’t feel uplifted and loved with a greeting that says “I’m SO HAPPY to see you!”? And who can resist responding with our own variation of “I’m SO HAPPY to see you too”?

Take a few moments to consider your own life. Are you happy? How do you express it? Do you reinforce happiness in others? How? Do you encourage it in yourself?

Back to Rayna. I feel fairly confident that overall she is a happy dog (which makes me happy too). I have noticed that Rayna demonstrates her happiness in multiple ways (some more endearing than others). Sometimes that includes wagging her tail. Now I just have to get her to do it on cue…

Happiness … pass it on!

submitted by Lucy Martin

Looking for more WINNING Stories of Summer!

This is a REMINDER INVITATION to join us in celebrating the arrival of summer with a random draw for our one-of-a-kind Beat the Heat of Summer Gift Basket. In less than a week it will be here!! It’s time to pack away your jackets, sweatshirts and wooly socks and get out your sandals, shorts and sunblock.

As we mentioned earlier in the month, we are looking for your Best Summer Holiday Memory that had an impact on who you are today. Where were you (at the farm, beach, cottage, road trip, camping, etc) and who were you with? The entries we have already received are great and we look forward to sharing what everyone contributed next weekend. – Everyone who enters will automatically be entered into our draw for the Gift Basket.

This gift basket has a Patio theme – it features a beautiful pitcher with glasses, great drink recipes (love that Sangria!), soem ingredients to get you started, fabulous snack foods to enjoy while you relax and revel in the sun (or maybe shade) with someone or something you love.  Of course there will be other little surprises to fill every cranny of the basket.

Entries will be accepted until noon EDT on Friday, June 21st,, the first day of summer! Please send your responses to Shirley@shirleylynnmartin.com. The winner will be randomly chosen and notified by email later that day along with all the Summer Holiday stories that were submitted.

*Please note that delivery is not included. Pick up can be arranged through Shirley Lynn.

The summer of 1981 was a memorable one for me. I just finished high school and was looking for adventure. I found it in the form of biking across Canada with 21 others from various parts of Canada and the US. We started in the Pacific Ocean and ended 2 months later in the Atlantic.

I learned a lot that summer and I won’t bore you with the long version about all our trials and tribulations, joys and triumphs – can you say character-building? What stands out for me even today is the value of community in supporting each other through the highs and lows of our life journey – each of us could probably still recall a time on that trip when we didn’t think we could go on but someone said or did something that gave us the necessary support to keep moving forward. A simple squirt of water did the trip soometimes. Other times an imaginary tow line pulled someone up yet another mountain.

I like to believe that I have carried this lesson forward in my life. I want to remember and act on the knowledge that reaching out and offering help and support to someone (whether in big or small ways) can have a positive impact on that person, and maybe me too. As Red Green used to say, “…we’re all in this together”.

Some of you who know me may think – “I didn’t know she liked to bike”. And you’re right. I don’t. Never really did. I’ve rarely been on a bike since. But it still was the ride of a lifetime. Kind of a coming-of-age adventure that will stay with me forever.  I look forward to your stories too.  ~ Lucy

 

What is Happiness Anyway?

Over the course of June, we will explore this attitude or goal of ‘happiness’. And why not; how can we bloom if we have no inner state of happiness?
Recently, I went to hear the Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi Rinpoche who is the Founding Director of The Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. One of the first questions he asked the audience was, “how many of you plan to wake up and spend the day feeling upset or angry?” How many of you wake up and say to yourself, “I plan on feeling miserable today?” Of course, no one raised their hands. He went on to say that one of the key reasons that we don’t feel happy lies in our lack of understanding of what happiness really is all about. So let’s explore it!
On one of my recent daily walks, I asked Nature which ‘relation’ wished to share wisdom with me about what happiness really is about anyway. The birds volunteered to share their wisdom with me. And so for the past few weeks I’ve been listening. A robin has been coming and sitting on my windowsill at work, peeking in and ‘participating’ in my sessions with clients at very key moments. Synchro-destiny shall we say!
I asked her, “What can you share with me about being happy?”
Her response: “Being happy is loving yourself, no matter how big or how small your spirit is. Being happy is appreciating who you are and what you have been given to live your best. Being happy is enjoying your place in the world and the gifts you bring for the greater good.”
What I noticed about this robin’s response is her emphasis on ‘being happy.’ Happiness is already planted within our centre, within our core. We may need to lift off the layers of unhappiness that shroud and deny us this experience of ourselves. At the core, we are designed and have the talent to be happy, however.
I wanted to know more about what she meant by ‘happy’. What do you mean by ‘happy’? I asked this robin.
She replied, “Happiness is a moment of joy.” She flew away and told me to sit with this understanding.

I decided to look up its origin and found that “happy” comes from the Middle English hap (‘chance, fortune’). To my surprise, the robin’s message tells me that being happy means that there is good fortune in loving myself. Good fortune comes when I appreciate what I have; it comes when I open to the moments of joy as I share my gifts for the greater good. I will be ‘lucky’ when I find joy in my place in the world. The Welsh understood this kind of attitude as being wise.
I offer a gift of gratitude to this robin who blessed me with this wisdom and joins me daily on my windowsill reminding me to be happy and open myself to good fortune. Coming back to the comments of the Venerable Tenzin Pridaryahsi – much of our being happy is whether we ‘practice’ or ‘train’ to be happy. So stay tuned!
Here is one conversation I’m having about what happiness means. What do you want to add to it? Where are you stuck and without the attitude of happiness? If you are willing to explore and practise happiness, contact me at shirley@shirleylynnmartin.com.