“How can I live a happy life?” is one of the most frequently asked questions by my clients. Obviously the details vary from person to person, but the overarching guideline and method is the same for all of us. It is spelled S I M P L E because it is simple and universal, rooted in timeless wisdom.
Let me wish you a happy festive season with this simple gift.
Should we seek happiness?
Seeking happiness is futile as I have illustrated in some of my previous posts. Feel free to browse all my Happiness tagged posts.
Happiness emerges as the side benefit of living a meaningful and fulfilling life. Such a life depends on how we deal with our ‘life experiences’.
Running the risk of oversimplification, here I wish to offer you the essence of timeless universal teachings in one acronym that came to me recently.
I suggest you use this in the context of your daily life experiences; more often the better until it becomes your second nature.
Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify. -Henry David Thoreau
The SIMPLE Mindfulness Practice
Experience shows that the SIMPLE practice is easier to apply in more pleasant situations. It becomes more difficult in neutral boring situations. And it is the most difficult practice in tense and unpleasant situations. I endeavour to offer some practical examples in future posts, but for now here is a brief explanation:
S … Stop and savour your experience.
This is a significant mindfulness practice helping us to be more present in the here-and-now. We are usually busy doing things in order to finish and go rest or do something else. We rarely stop and savour the experience, unless it is advertised as extraordinary, or we are on holidays in an exotic place, or with someone special. Even then, some get attached to the pleasurable experience and cannot let go. Savouring means really tasting the experience with your inner sense of taste; or using your tongue to taste, if it is a culinary experience. Of-course use your other senses too, the more we pay attention to our five senses, the more grounded we become.
Our inner critic is one of the biggest barriers that blocks us from pausing and savouring the moment here and now. We keep judging, measuring, and comparing our immediate experience with our own past experiences, or with that of others. Watch out for these give away words announcing the nasty arrival of your inner judge (inner critic), and disengage as soon as you can. Words like: what if, should, should not, who am I to …, that was better, I’m no good, same mistake, must improve, and so on.
I … Immerse and inquire.
Immerse yourself in the experience as fully as possible. Again in the freshness of the here-and-now, not bound by your memories of similar experiences. Neither shaped by your past-based fears, nor by your hopes of a better future. Some might skim a beautiful rich experience by taking selfies to share on Instagram. They are not fully immersed in the actual live experience.
Then, if you can, start inquiring into the deeper nature of your experience with curiosity and open arms; not with a ‘problem-solving’ attitude. Curiosity begins with the acceptance of what is, whereas problem solving is rooted in rejection, because the situation is seen as a ‘problem’. This inquiry is more like a wondering with your heart, rather than investigating with your head.
M … Make minimal.
It does not mean to minimise your experience which might show up as compromise or withdrawal. Making minimal means to cut back the extra stuff, the fluff, your histories, beliefs and assumptions about the situation. The fast thinking part of our brain (as Noble laureate psychologist, Daniel Kahneman calls it) has the habit of adding assumption layers in order to make quicker decisions, usually jumping to conclusions which could be unrealistic and wrong.
Cutting back the fluff needs slowing down and paying attention to what is real and what is superfluous in our current situation. It is another helpful mindfulness practice and probably the key to the SIMPLE principle.
See also Did you know true happiness is about nothing? And the ‘Via Negativa‘ approach, such as in ‘Via Negativa: Adding to Your Life By Subtracting‘. Or ‘Via Negativa; Finding the essence of a product through continuous elimination‘ .
P … Play and purify.
Don’t take a tense and serious attitude towards your experience. Instead take a playful and pure attitude. This helps you to see more possibilities whereas being too serious can close you off and narrow you down to your usual reactive patterns.
This is not being childish. It is having a child’s playful attitude while being an adult. It is being an adult with a child’s fresh and endless unbiased curiosity. In this playfulness, we are continually amazed with the freshness of each moment like a child who won’t get bored doing the same thing over and over. Unhelpful biographical layers drop. Life moments can now be experienced purely, without our constant inner commentary.
L … Learn and let go.
Look at your experience as an opportunity to learn, not a win/lose situation. There is no success or failure in learning, there are only outcomes which you can learn from and grow.
Letting go means being non-attached. Do not hold on to outcomes, be they good or bad ones. Put effort in doing what’s needed to be done, and in learning the lessons of your experience. Then be prepared to let go. Simply do your best and rest.
Just a heads up that non-attachment is different from detachment. Detachment smacks of being disinterested or distanced, whereas one can be intensely interested in something but not attached to the outcome.
E … Exit and evolve.
Similar to the above, but emphasising the universal truth that ‘This too shall pass‘; and that everything is in constant evolution, including you. Hence, it is conducive to your health and happiness to note the end of an experience and not to dwell on it too much; be it a good or a bad experience. If you exit each life situation gracefully, the evolution happens by itself.
Simple but not easy
This practice is simple but not necessarily easy. Meaning that it is not complicated, but needs sustained practice on your part to be increasingly more effective. So, don’t get disappointed if you don’t get quick results. Keep going, and by all means contact me if you may need a hand or have a question.
I suggest you practice this in the context of your daily life experiences; the more often the better until it becomes second nature.
Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.” ―