Three years ago I hired a life coach. It was an easy decision for me at the time because my life had come to a screeching halt, and I was desperate for help. Without sufficient health insurance, I sought out a certified life coach because I was turned off by the red tape required for a traditional counselor. I didn’t tell anyone about my decision, not even my husband, because I was embarrassed that a life coach would not fit my life story. I hadn’t shed the old, crusty layers of who I thought I was, and although it was unfair of me to assume my friends and family would judge me or disapprove of my actions, that’s what you do when you don’t know who you are.
I learned a lot from my life coach. It was perhaps the very first time I turned the flashlight around and pointed it at myself. Thinking back on our sessions, a major take-away was the coach’s pithy phrase, “Do less, be more.” She wove it into most of our conversations and to be honest, I had no clue what she meant by it, but I nodded my head anyway. It has taken years for me to understand and embrace this concept and integrate it into my life. And it’s a powerful one. Putting this concept to work has changed my perception of everything and everyone; it has re-written my story, and even better – allowed me to drop my story altogether. Well, mostly.
At the same time as working with a life coach, I also learned to meditate. This, too, I kept on the down-low, only telling the people who absolutely had to know. Meditation is what taught me the meaning of my coach’s phrase.
My meditation practice, in and of itself, is an exercise of doing less. Simply by sitting twice a day in meditation, I am practicing this very concept. The meditation method that I practice and teach is effortless. There is no effort involved, no concentration, no trying to quiet the mind or have certain experiences. In fact, the less I do, the better it works. It’s something I go over again and again with my students because it is the opposite of what we are conditioned to believe. To most people, it even seems to defy logic. We live in a “do more to be more” culture. It is a deeply ingrained mistake of the intellect – one that meditation helps us to reset.
The paradox is that we already are everything we are striving for.
This weekend I taught a group of new students to meditate. The night before the class I was struck with inspiration about happiness and decided to open the class with an evocative statement, “I am happy all the time no matter what.” Right away I could feel the resistance from my students about the notion of permanent, abiding happiness. They were skeptical that even if I could be happy all the time, it couldn’t happen for them.
We looked at our pre-conceived notions about happiness and realized that happiness, because of our misunderstanding of it, gets a bad rap. Happiness is defined as “the state of being happy.” It is a state of beingnot a result of doing. However, we commonly associate happiness with something we earn when our goals are met or our kids are well adjusted. Happiness seems to be outside of us and for most people, it is chased with great gusto. If and when it is caught, it may not last forever; so we hold on tightly because this thing called happiness is elusive and transient – we think.
What I have come to realize – a tangible result of my meditation practice – is that happiness resides within me. If there are times I don’t realize this – and yes, there are those times – it’s because I’ve turned the flashlight out “there” to look for it.
Coming to this understanding is the journey of self-realization. It’s the unwinding of the concept that everything we want to be we must earn or achieve. It’s letting go of the notion that you’ll be happy when… when you land the job or have a certain amount of money or meet that special someone.
It’s finally looking within and meeting ourselves in a tender embrace. It’s taking our self by the hand, and bringing the fullness of who we are into the world. It’s an inside-out approach, not outside-in. It is living from within, from the rich wellspring of who we really are. And it’s from here that we best love and serve others.
That’s why I can say I am happy all the time no matter what. If I forget, I go within – and remember.