The Three Grand Essentials To Happiness

essentials to happiness

Happiness is a state of mind; a state which can shift from pure contentment to complete dissatisfaction in any given moment. This change in perspective can be triggered by a number of outside circumstances seemingly out of our control; unexpected news, the loss of something dear, an ill-mannered interaction with a stranger…

At times our discomfort is prolonged and happiness can feel like a distant memory. I remember the overwhelming feeling of complete sorrow in the long months that followed my Dad’s death. I was a sinking ship. Afraid of marring others with my grief, I’d hide my devastation beneath a brave face, but on the inside I was an empty vessel lost at sea. If I knew then what I know now, I would advise my nineteen-year-old self to honour her feelings; to be unafraid of reaching out and asking for help.

If you are feeling bereft, try not to stuff down your emotions. Be kind to yourself and trust that this feeling will pass. It may not go away entirely, but as sure as the tides ebb and flow, so will your state of happiness. Nothing in life is constant. As rocky as the oceans may seem, the tides will settle in time. So don’t lose heart. It’s not your job to control the weather – life is unpredictable. But we can learn to navigate the storms, we can learn to stay afloat instead of drowning.

We can begin with the three essentials to happiness.

Something to do:

This could be as simple as petting your dog; making a start on a long neglected project or planting some vegetables to harvest in winter. Participating in life brings us back to the only moment we have – NOW. It is now that we are free from the binds of the past and worries about the future. For me, writing, walking in nature, and belly laughing with loved ones always brings me back to a state of gratitude for the moment I’m in.

Something to love:

At our core, we are pure, unbounded love. Therefore, not to love is a slow death to the soul. Yet many of us forget that we cannot give away what we don’t have. Love begins first with oneself. Not in a conceited self-righteous way, but in a way that is non-judgemental and self-accepting. When we truly love ourselves, we are able love others unconditionally. Make a promise each day to look in the mirror and say with deep compassion: “I love you.” Watch how that love flows outward to others.

Something to hope for:

Studies have shown that those who practice optimism and gratitude live longer, healthier lives. Hopeful individuals repeatedly show reduced levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Hope instills a sense of faith that everything will work out for our highest good. You don’t have to be religious to have faith in a higher power. You can have faith in yourself; faith in a loving Universe, faith in others, faith in a non-denominational Divine guidance. In short, faith and hope free us from the shackles of limiting beliefs, bringing a sense of peace to even the darkest of days.

Today, take the time to do something you love. Reflect and give thanks for this moment. Trust that everything is precisely as it is meant to be, and keep the faith.

In love & light,

Hayley xx

Breathe.

Breathe (1)
Today, I noticed a six year old boy distressed and crying. He’d gotten into a fight with his friend and was quite shaken by the event. I sat beside him and reminded him to breathe. I’d taught him yoga and mindfulness last year and together, we pretended we had balloons in our tummies. We filled them with air as we breathed in, and then let go a little more each time we breathed out. As we sat breathing together, I felt my own worries subside a little. Within seconds, he’d stopped crying. We smiled at each other. Little did he know, that I needed to breathe just as much as he did…

Later, I noticed he was alone. He was making something using card and sticky tape. I asked what it was. ‘It has special powers,’ he replied. ‘This button, when pressed, creates a protective shield around you.’ He pointed out a little scribble he’d marked on the card. ‘But this button here is the most powerful…’
‘What does it do?’ I asked.
‘It helps you to stay calm,’ he said.

Even at the age of six, this young wee soul understood the power of remaining calm.

We are each faced with adversities. There are things that happen to us in life that are beyond our control – events that we can’t stop or change. This can be difficult to accept. At times, we’re not even aware of why we feel sad or anxious. We just do. But it’s ok to not feel ok all of the time, so long as we don’t get stuck there for too long.

Today, be gentle on yourself. Sometimes it’s ok if the only thing you did today was breathe. Take it day by day, and trust that everything will be ok.

In love & light,
Hayley xx

Holiday Blues

holiday-blues

I know I’m not alone in feeling depleted and drained in the wake of the holiday mayhem. Thoughts of loved ones passed, demands on our time, over indulgences in rich foods and beverages, can all begin to take their toll on our wellbeing…

So I created this post of ‘Top Tips To Get Through The Holiday Blues.’ You can find the link on my website here. I hope there are some gems in there for you.

Stay blessed xx

Forgive. And dance.

forgive-others-because-you-deserve-peace

So many of us struggle to let go of grievances; she did this; he said that; she didn’t do this; he failed to say that. We hold grudges, turning a blind eye to the affects our deep-rooted resentments have on our lives and the lives of those around us. We justify our unhappiness and hold others accountable for the way we feel; if only he’d change, if only she hadn’t treated me that way, if only my circumstances were different – then my life would be so much happier. But when we view life through the lens of non-forgiveness – we give our power away. We become powerless.

Here, I tell the true story of a brave woman named Satta Joe; a story of immense courage and forgiveness. Satta lived in Sierra Leone during the civil war, a time of great upheaval and uncertainty. When the rebels attacked Satta’s village, she became the victim of gang rape. Her husband was shot dead and her seven year old son slaughtered before her very eyes. Curled up in a broken heap on the floor with her newborn child, Satta was left for dead.sattajoe

The man who had led the attack was Nyuma Saffa, a blood relative of Satta’s who had once tried to force his love upon her. Fueled by his grievance over Satta’s rejection and by his new allegiance to the rebels, he unleashed his attack upon Satta and her family.

Once the civil war had ended, the rebels returned to live in the village. Satta recalls feeling powerless: This was very hard for me, but what was I to do?  And that’s when Fambul Tok (Family Talk) arrived, a community led reconciliation program. They called for a meeting in the village and asked for those who had experienced suffering during the war to speak up. Satta bravely stepped forward and told her story. Fambul Tok then asked that Nyuma Saffa come forward to admit his crimes against Satta and her family. Finally, he confessed.

As part of the reconciliation ritual, Satta and Nyuma were asked to dance together as a way of forgiving the past. Understandably, Satta refused. She couldn’t bear the thought of holding Nyuma’s hands – the same hands that had raped her and killed her family. Though, after much encouragement – she bravely accepted. Satta states: As I took his hand I was sobbing, not out of despair but a sense of relief that perhaps now we could move on from this terrible pain in our past. I didn’t expect it, but they succeeded in making peace between us.

Satta Joe is one of many heroic people who, under horrific and seemingly unforgivable circumstances, have chosen the path of peace.

Forgiveness does not mean that what the other person did was ok. Forgiveness is choosing to shift our focus from one of pain, to peace. We forgive because we want to feel good. And holding onto resentment prevents us from feeling any peace within ourselves. It prevents us from moving forward.

If Satta Joe can forgive this man for inflicting terrible crimes against her and her family; if she can choose peace over pain and sorrow; forgiveness over bitterness and revenge – then isn’t it time we all cleared the floor and danced?

A Letter to My Younger Self

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Dear Hayley,

It’s me, Hayley. Your future you. I wanted to write to you because, well, I guess there are some things you don’t know yet that I think may help you along the way. Let’s begin at the start shall we?

See that photo? That’s you on the day you were born, all red faced and new in your Dad’s arms. In years to come, when he is gone (don’t panic – you have nineteen more years together before that happens…), you will look at this photo a lot; at the way his hands, which are almost as big as your body, are holding you tight in case he drops you. You’ll wish you could remember being held as you look longingly at the presence of you both together. Don’t worry – see how Dad is looking down on you even though your eyes are closed tight? Your eyes do open eventually… And when they do, you can see the bigger picture. Although there are many years of feeling bereft, in time, you do heal. So don’t fret little one – he’s with you now, just enjoy the warmth of his embrace.

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This is your first birthday. (Healthy right?) This is pretty much your diet growing up as a kid. In fact, you’ll eat nothing but white stodgy stuff right up until the age of about eighteen. It’s surprising you don’t resemble a loaf of bread really! (And by the way, you go through a really weird phase of eating nothing but instant noodles and meatballs.) But fear not, after much trial and error you finally discover the beauty of fresh ingredients, and by the time you are thirty one, you are eating a diet rich in wholefoods – you’re even eating organic! (I know – madness right?) But I just want you to know that you’ll be ok and that miraculously, you manage to avoid any fillings or cavities despite the copious amounts of fizzy pop you’ll consume far into your late teens. In fact, you haven’t drunk a drop of sugary beverage for the last seven years! Can you believe it? I still don’t know how you manage to survive not drinking a drop of water until you turn eighteen??? But you do. And now you can’t get enough of the stuff!

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This is your first school photo. I don’t know how it became all speckled like that, but it looks as though you have a terrible case of the measles. Behind your smile is a frightened little girl. This is the year you first witnessed Dad have an epileptic fit and it’s made you very fearful. You’re scared of the dark, of sleeping on your own, you still wet the bed and you’re even scared of your soft cuddly toys because you think they come to life at night! You hallucinate quite a bit and have scary dreams too… But I’m here to tell you that everything will be alright. I know it makes you sad when Mum won’t let you sleep in her bed; I know you lie awake all night in terror that something will eat you… But I promise that you won’t get killed by the freaky looking pot doll Mum bought you, and you don’t need to long jump into your bed in case an arm pops out from beneath it to grab your ankles and swallow you up! You are totally safe. And yes, there will be times in your teens, shortly after Dad dies, that you begin to have nightmares again. In fact, you will experience a year of terrible insomnia, but you get through it and, although you are still a light sleeper, you now have a healthy sleep routine. You’re even brave enough to walk to the toilet in the dark! (I won’t lie, your heart does beat a little fast as you do) – but the affirmations you say whilst tip-toeing down the hallway help! I am safe. I am protected. All is well…  And all is well!

Hayley - film (5)

Heyyyyy twenty year old you! Don’t you look fresh? But behind that smile is a sadness so great I can almost feel it rendering me paralysed again now… In fact – here is another shot taken whilst you were off guard, and it reveals the true emptiness behind your eyes and your smile.

Hayley - film (2)

You are numb. You are confused and your heart is heavy. You are also smoking a lot (thank God you’ve stopped that filthy habit) and drinking to numb the pain. Recreational drugs are taking their toll on your relationships and your job. You feel as though life is grim and grey and it is. You have recently lost your gentle giant, and Dad’s absence weighs heavily on your heart. Why pretend you are happy when you are not? It’s ok to feel grief, it’s ok to feel pain – just roll with it, everything is in divine order. I want you to know that things do improve. You have a few more years of losing yourself in drugs and alcohol, and unhealthy relationships. So if I could give you any advice right now, it would be to stop putting on a brave face. Stop worrying that your grief will effect others. This stuffing down of your emotions is causing you to turn to external ‘pleasures’ and false sensory highs. You needn’t numb the feelings. It’s ok to allow them to just be. I know you feel lost, I know you feel lonely and misunderstood, but this, in time, will pass.

hayley-paris

And this? This is me (you) now. (Well – actually that photo was taken last year in Paris) but still! – this is you at thirty one! Not as bad as you thought eh? How could you ever think thirty was old?

So a little of your life now…You are learning to love yourself. In fact, most days you look in the mirror and say, I love you Hayley. And guess what? You actually mean it! Some days it’s harder than others, but deep down you know that at your very core you are love. You have replaced drugs and alcohol with yoga and meditation. You love to spend time in nature (just as you did when you were little.) And you are a teacher too! You love working with children and seeing the world through their eyes. In fact, it has reminded you of the importance of embracing your own inner child and to follow your childhood dreams of becoming an author (just like Roald Dahl! Remember?) You write again and feel so much joy when you do. You have neglected your passion for drawing and sketching – but we can look for an art class here in Melbourne if you like?! (Oh yes – you now live in Australia!) And behind that lens is your best friend and man of six years, Mark.

It’s been a journey of self-discovery, of learning to love and be loved. But do you know what? You finally feel joy again. You have a deep and profound gratitude for life. You’ve discovered your true nature, your authentic self, and with that comes a knowing far greater than ever imagined – a knowledge that you are whole, connected, one – despite being imperfectly you. Dad is in your heart, you are in his, and that, my dear child, will never change.

Love always,

Hayley xx

Deep Holes In The Sidewalks

 

dear-dad-there's-a-hole-in-my-sidewalk-portia-nelson

Dear Dad,

Today I received a parking fine for $150. I hesitated when parking in that area, the sign was new to me and I was unclear of its meaning. I ignored the feeling of hesitancy I felt when exiting my vehicle. I was gone from my car for less than 10 minutes, and returned to find the parking ticket waving at me from my windscreen. My heart sank. It was the most expensive avocado and banana I’d ever bought. Normally in this situation, I would feel the anger rising. Thoughts of ‘Why me?’ surfacing. …but not this time. For I have been here before. The victim. The blamer. I know why I received this ticket.

Just the night before I had found myself in a familiar hole. Money worries, feelings of lack when I discovered that my work hours had been reduced from four days a week to just two. We haven’t had as many schools book our programs next term and I’d felt a worry over the drop in income. Scarcity thoughts crept in and I reacted from a place of low vibration, arguing with my partner and succumbing to the ego in me. My parking ticket was a confirmation of my scarcity thinking, mirroring back to me my false feelings of ‘lack.’

Looking down at my ticket, I sighed and resolved to step out of my familiar hole. Crying over it would only exasperate my situation, bring about more of the same circumstances.

Father, thank you for the sign. For the reminder to walk a different path. I am grateful for the extra time to myself next term, for the extra days you have provided so that I may attend to a project dear to my heart. The freedom from lesson planning is something to be thankful for as I throw myself into other avenues with great passion. And of course, two days of work are always better than none.

Love  always,

Hayley xx

***

Dear Child,

Sometimes situations will arrive at your door in unforeseen and distressing ways. You may feel as though the world is against you, that life is unfair and this shouldn’t be happening. In each heartache there lies an opportunity for spiritual growth. Are you prolonging unhealthy habits that are holding you back on your path to freedom? How about stagnant thought patterns that are creating equally stagnant circumstances? Is there an element of your own undoing that you have been refusing to see? Blame, excuses, feeling angry and victimised…we’ve all been there. But those feelings no longer serve us.  Nor does the outward search for refuge and answers. The answers lie here within. Be still.

Let us open our eyes and our hearts so that we may hear the answers to our prayers – for the solution to all sorrow lies in communion with the soul, with God. Instead of proclaiming ‘This isn’t fair!’ – may we have the strength to ask, ‘How may I grow from this? How may I serve?’

There are no accidents in this world. The world is ever changing, ever evolving, all knowing and divinely timed. When you accept that this is so, when you trust in life and trust that life is preparing you for your purpose – you can smile in the face of life’s hurdles, for they are your greatest teachers. Be safe in the knowledge, that in time – all will be well.

In love and light,

Your Father.

If you too have found yourself stuck in a hole, may Portia Nelson’s Poem – There’s A Hole In My Sidewalk, bring comfort as she reminds us that it is we who hold the key to end all suffering.

There’s A Hole In My Sidewalk

Chapter One
I walk down the street,
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk,
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless,
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find my way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street,
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk,
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street,
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit …but,
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

by Portia Nelson.

Let us be kind to ourselves as we navigate life’s sidewalks, may we pick ourselves up out of those deep holes, and choose another path.

We Remember

Day 18: Compose a series of anecdotes
Today, tell a story through a series of anecdotes (also called vignettes): short, episodic scenes or moments that together read as variations on the same theme. 

Based on real life accounts published in the local newspaper. Names and some details of individual experiences have been changed.

Last month over 1000 people gathered to remember the 185 who died in the February 2011 earthquake. I have written about my own experience of that frightful day here. With Christchurch still experiencing ground movement, we can’t help but be reminded of the many lives lost. Survivors guilt is very real, and whilst fleeing the rubble relatively unscathed brought with it renewed gratitude for life and loved ones, grief for those less fortunate continues to percolate the surface of emotions for many, especially around this time of year.

New Zealand Earthquake

February 22nd 2011, 12:51pm,
Christchurch, New Zealand 

The low rumble intensifies before Anderson reaches the center of the room, the ground beneath him gives way as the building collapses into itself. ‘This is it,’ he contemplates, before plummeting into concrete below.

The shaking stops and an eerie silence ensues. ‘I must be dead.’ The silence is pierced by a female coughing and then he too is coughing, choking on the thick layer of dust which envelopes them. The agonizing pain of his left hand confirms his existence as it throbs with the motion of his body. He winces. ‘Are you alright?’ he asks his colleague. Jenny? Sarah? Elaine?
‘I think so,’ she replies.

Soon after, sirens spring to life and two hours later, they are rescued. Emerging from the rubble, they are met with cheers from the street below. Inhaling the air as if it were to be taken from them again at any moment, they stare at the ruinous sight before them. We are the lucky ones…

***

The shutter on Langley’s camera clicks as the earth beneath murmurs its low guttural groan. Horses in the nearby paddock whinny as they jostle and bolt. Langley is thrown to the ground and he clings to the grass, the earth jerking beneath him like a wild bucking bronco. Turning towards the city where he sat at his desk just thirteen minutes prior, he watches as a thick blanket of smoke rises like an ominous cloak.

Within seconds he is behind the wheel of his Toyota racing towards the city, his camera on shane-tomlin-lead-300x340the passenger seat beside him.  Nothing can prepare him for what he finds when he arrives at the center; buildings brought to the ground, terrified people with blood stained faces. He pauses, sees that the emergency services are working hard to rescue those in need of help, then reaches for his camera.

As he takes the photos that will document a day set to change Christchurch forever, Langley spots a man pulled from the rubble, his face covered in dust. He is comforted by two males who have come to his aid. The dust covered man stares down the barrel of Langley’s lens. Click. 

***

Strolling through Christchurch’s City Mall, Mary’s daughter turns with a smile as she holds up a pretty floral scarf, “Isn’t this …” She stops mid-sentence, eyes wide as the deafening roar consumes them. Before Mary can run to her daughter’s aid she is thrown into chaos and darkness.

Seconds seem like minutes, minutes like hours and hours like days, and all the while Mary is unable to reach her daughter. Her legs trapped beneath the rubble, she tries to call for her girl: ‘Amanda… Amanda…’ Nothing. She lies back in agony, not sure which is worse, the pain of her crushed ankles, or the heavy dull ache in her chest. In the darkness that surrounds her, Mary begins to weep.

She doesn’t know how much time has passed when she is finally pulled to safety, only that she does not want to leave the wreckage – not until her Amanda is also rescued. Against her will, Mary is raced away to the hospital, all the while calling out her daughters name… ‘Amanda…’

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  ***

48 hours later

Anderson sits in his leather arm chair staring at the forgotten brew in his lap. He has sat this way for over an hour, thoughts of his fallen colleagues circulating like a never ending ferris wheel. Up one moment, down the next, as news of his co-workers trickles in: Saho from Japan who’d arrived that morning to learn English as part of her studies… Peter, who always greeted him with a smile as he collected the mail… Janice, who was to attend her daughters wedding on Saturday. All of them, gone. A tear falls into his cold coffee causing it’s stagnant surface to ripple.

***

Langley sits staring at the screen in front of him just hours after hearing the news that the dust covered man he had photographed had later died in hospital. His editor approaches him and places a comforting hand on his shoulder. He cannot help it, a surge of emotion overtakes him and before he can stop himself, he is breaking down in floods of tears, hugging his colleague beside him.

***

Mary lies in the hospital bed, her husband in the chair beside her. Her legs are in a plaster cast but she doesn’t feel a thing. She is numb from head to toe, news of Amanda’s death not quite comprehensible, not making sense to this broken, grief stricken mother. She stares at the ceiling as her husband places his hand on hers; Why did you take my girl and not me?