Posted: April 28th, 2011 | Author: Him | Filed under: Life | No Comments »
My friend Neil makes an interesting point about happiness: those “peak” moments in life — the big achievements and big releases that we imagine to be exactly what happiness is made of — will never amount to more than a tiny proportion of a person’s life. They are infrequent and quickly give way to the ordinary again. We invest a lot of energy getting to those exceptional highs, but they are exactly that: exceptions to the normal course of life.
In between these “violin crescendo moments” life unfolds without much fanfare, in its familiar way. But within these ordinary stretches of life lie frequent, intensely gratifying moments that arise out of the most mundane activities: waiting in line, parking your car, watching a TV movie.
Even in the context of a really bad day, there are humble little details that seem to hit some kind of “smile” button in the brain, and for those moments, life is unfettered. It’s great. Life is great just knowing that each day will contain them no matter what else the cat drags in.
Other than Ben Franklin’s two dreadful certainties, nothing in life is guaranteed — except (if you’re paying attention) that there will be a steady stream of these humble little awesome things, regardless of your situation, as long as you live. This is a powerful thought and even throughout the worst days I’ve never been able to forget it for long because the reminders come along so frequently.
Ever since I included him a quick piece on three extraordinary blogs two years ago, Neil has been a friend of mine. I love his perspective on gratitude — it recognizes that the present moment really is the place to find everything you look for in life (and not just “in theory”), yet doesn’t stray into ego-dismantling, self-mortification or Stuart Smally-like affirmations. It takes playfulness, rather than determination.
I am not his only fan. Neil’s blog, 1000 Awesome Things hit its stride pretty quickly in 2008. He won the Webby Award the following year for Best Blog, leading to his first book The Book of Awesome, which became an international bestseller. Its sequel, The Book of (Even More) Awesome launched Tuesday.
There is something about couch cushion forts and the other side of the pillow that huge numbers of people seem to be able to identify with. I don’t recommend many (any?) products on this blog, but I’m all over this one. In terms of a practical, non-striving approach to cultivating quality of life, it’s hard to do better than to learn to celebrate these very things, just for what they are.
Recently I talked with Neil about the role of unhappiness in happiness, the role of “little thing” when it comes to quality of life, and cavemen. He’s a riot. Enjoy.
How’s it going?
Good, good, I’m good. Thanks for asking, David.
You mentioned in your TED talk that when you began 1000 Awesome Things, things were particularly not awesome. The global outlook was looking grim, and you were in an especially difficult part of your life. What was going on and how did it lead to starting the blog?
Whew. Well, let’s see here. We all go through our own ups and downs and back when I started writing 1000 Awesome Things I was definitely in a cloud of doom and gloom.
I’d been married two years and my wife and I were slowly growing further and further apart. We always had respect, admiration, and trust with each other, but… something was missing. It came to a head one night after work when she summoned the courage, through tears, to tell me she didn’t love me any more. It was one of the toughest things I’d ever heard.
At around the same time one of my closest friends was quietly battling mental illness. Chris and I spoke three or four times a week and I knew all his pills, his doctors, his efforts towards overcoming the thoughts and feelings inside his head. But very sadly… he lost the battle. He ended up taking his own life.
As all of this was slowly happening I remember feeling like I needed a way to focus on the positive… somehow. 1000 Awesome Things became my outlet and my way to remind myself of one tiny, simple, awesome thing every night before I went to bed. I started writing about snow days, cold pillows, and all you can eat buffets, as a way to cheer myself up.
Good old Nietzsche said, “For happiness, how little suffices for happiness! … the least thing precisely, the gentlest thing, the lightest thing, a lizard’s rustling, a breath, a wisk, an eye glance – little maketh up the best happiness.” You’ve really nailed this reality in your work. Yet most of the pressures in society direct us to seek happiness in the big things: big events, big achievements, big payoffs. When it comes to happiness in general, did you always recognize the enormous role of the little thing?
First off, I just want to say that I really like the phrase “Good ol’ Nietzsche!” Like he’s this hilarious guy on the wobbly barstool across the room. Ha ha…
Anyway, hmmm — you ask good questions, David. I knew you would. Okay, when it comes to happiness in general, I definitely have no idea what makes what or what adds up to what. I just feel like, sure — we’ll all have high highs of wide eyes on graduation stages, father-daughter dances at weddings, and healthy baby screeches in the delivery room. But those big violin crescendo moments are maybe.. like, five days total in your life? I mean, I get to flip to the cold side of the pillow every single night if I can’t fall asleep and every single time it gives me a tiny fleeting rush of ice cold satisfaction on my cheek. The same is true for the crisping croissant aroma wafting out of the bakery I pass every day on my way home from work. Or the string of green lights I hit on Friday afternoons.
So I’m not sure if I knew much about little things. I guess like most of us I just see, feel, and touch them so much more often. They fill my days, weeks, and months. They are everywhere and there are millions of them. So I give them big props. No offense to father-daughter dances at weddings, but I’ll take pushing those little plastic buttons on the McDonald’s drink cup lid any day.
Maybe it’s a guy thing, but one of my favorite awesome things in the new book is “Doing anything that makes you feel like a caveman.” You’ve mentioned cavemen a couple of times on the blog. I find it’s helpful to my sanity to remember that I’m really just a caveman who’s learned to wear pants and do some other fancy things. I clamber up staircases on all fours from time to time when nobody’s watching. You’ve talked about the simple, primal joys of staring into a fire, letting your body hair run rampant for a while, or just breaking something. What is it about embodying the caveman mindset now and then that’s so gratifying?
Yeah, that’s funny. The Book of (Even More) Awesome also has stepping on those slightly frozen ice puddles and hearing them crack and finally peeing after holding it forever (which is a bit of an indictment on this flashy modern World of Pants we’ve chosen to live in). Plus, blowing your nose in the shower is in my back pocket if we get another go round.
I guess when it comes to cavemen it’s like — we are them. They’re not what we used to be. They are us. We’ve been walking around Earth with big brains and tall backs for what — like a couple hundred thousand years? And spandex shorts, reading glasses, and deodorant has been around for what — a couple hundred maybe? So maybe all our caveman impulses like eating a plate of just meat at the buffet, not shaving your legs during sweatpant season, or just doing nothing in a tent in the middle of nowhere scratches our brain stems just the right way.
I can’t pretend I know the answer. But I love the question and I’d love to know what you and your readers think as well.
There is a particular type of awesome thing that you’ve talked about that is undeniably awesome but I can’t figure out why: stomping dry crunchy leaves on the sidewalk or popping bubble wrap, for example. For the life of me I cannot explain why I like doing all those things, but I always do, and I know it’s not just that you and I happen to have the same weird fetishes. Appreciation for these things seems to be pretty universal among human beings, even though they don’t seem to aid our survival or have any “practical” value. Why do you think so many of us happen to derive some joy out of, say, the sound of the tiny rocks shooting up the vacuum hose or kicking those dark chunks of slush out of our wheel wells? [Well we Canadians do, anyway.]
Does stabbing a knife into the beautifully brown landscape of a fresh jar of peanut butter count too?
Maybe it’s a bit of a personality trait of maximizers or completists or something. Maybe it’s the same itch that gets scratched when you cross off the last item of a list, fold your last pair of socks (and they all match up!), or when you spatula out the final pudding molecules out of that plastic cup of butterscotch.
That’s what has probably been the most compelling part of your books and your blog: knowing that I am experiencing all these amazing little moments alongside other human beings. I always knew them as private little joys, not realizing that these are things I share with other people. There has been such an outpouring of appreciation for your awesome things — by this point you’ve reached millions of people. When you began, did you realize how powerfully people resonated with these things? Or has this widespread reception been a surprise?
When I started 1000 Awesome Things the only person who read it was my mom.
I like to tell people that the traffic doubled the day she forwarded it to my dad. My parents were definitely the first two of the thirty million or so folks that have clicked the page. And there was no way, no way at all, could have expected the blog to amount to anything more than a simple way to jot down one awesome thing a day. That’s really all I’ve ever wanted or expected it to be. The fact that The Book of Awesome has been number one on bestseller lists for a year straight, that I got to write The Book of (Even More) Awesome, or that I’m on The Today Show next week…. believe me, these things are way beyond my wildest dreams.
At the end of the day, I still work my cubicle job in the suburbs, eat frozen burritos for dinner, and need to go to the gym more. The bags under my eyes are a bit darker and my hunch is getting a little sharper. But I don’t mind because I absolutely love and enjoy and value every tiny second I get to be alive and get to notice, appreciate, and talk about all the awesome things we share.
Thank you so much for the chat, David. You know how much I absolutely love Raptitude.com and I will be first in line when your book comes out. (Do it!) You’re a fantastic writer who I’ve learned a lot from. All the best my friend and keep popping bubble wrap and taking illegal naps every chance you get. Take care and thanks sincerely to all your readers,
The Book of (Even More) Awesome is available here and I think you should get it.
(Him: David from Raptitude.com sometimes publishes exceptional articles that can turn one’s day from a bad one to a bright one. Since he carries good logic & awareness, most of the contents he publish are simple to read and understand. If you’d like to learn more from him, please kindly visit: http://www.Raptitude.com. I only knew about Neil after reading this piece of interview that David had done with him. But one thing’s for sure, I know that appreciating the simple little things in life is what will make us happier in life. He has definitely inspired a lot of smiles in people from all over the world because of the work he’s done. To read more about Neil, you can visit his website at: http://www.1000awesomethings.com/)
Posted: April 10th, 2011 | Author: Him | Filed under: Life | No Comments »
The key to complete liberation in your lifetime boils down to one simple thing. Learning how to keep your mind’s attention on what you want, and keeping it off of what you don’t want. The longer you can hold your attention on the feeling of bliss, the more often bliss-filed experiences manifest into your world. Bliss is always found in the last place you’d think to look, and for that reason very few discover it. The greatest thing of all is that this awesome experience can be found within you now, and you don’t have to do anything or go anywhere else to find it.
The greatest bliss within you now is found in that place which has no boundaries, no rules, no fears, personal agendas or agreements with anyone. It simply appreciates everyone and everything exactly as it is. It unconditionally loves and accepts life as it is. It is always in a state of total appreciation. This bliss comes from a love that is always abundant, generous, giving of itself and effortlessly feeling the natural positivity of life. It is a selfless love that is not perpetually desiring this or that, but rather is perpetually giving itself away. With all that said, the intrinsic value you’ll receive through tasting even just a few seconds of bliss is soooo amazing, that it’s not something you can even put into words.
If the state of ecstatic bliss feels too intangible and other worldly to grasp because you have too many “real life” issues in the way such as paying off your debt, bills, health issues, car problems, childhood trauma, or just showing up on time for work, please do not be concerned. There are steps you can take to uncover this divinely magical energy inside you! Bliss is a state of mind that is instantly found when we’ve fully released what was once tight or heavy inside ourselves and shift into a constant state of expansion and joy.
The spiritual path is the path of lightness, where your main job is to welcome each experience of life, then go beyond every thought, desire, judgment, sensation and experience that passes through you. Believe it or not but you signed up to have major blissful feelings in this lifetime. You wouldn’t be reading this article if you weren’t ready for it either. It’s as if you’ve been in training, carrying a load of rocks in your backpack up a treacherous mountain, and now you get to unload them all and enjoy the journey back home. The heavy negative life experiences you’ve had in the past were JUST so that it could have the experience of letting them go and feel the pure lightness, weightlessness and joy that comes when they are gone.
Your inner bliss can be revealed in a matter of minutes if you’re willing to do some deep self-exploration and let go of everything that is weighing heavy on your mind. When you deeply let go of any lofty or lowly ideas about your life’s purpose or personal agenda, and have released that all too critical mindset about yourself, the mind instantly becomes lighter and more free. This expansive spacious mind is the only welcome mat that can handle this infinitely expanding happy loving feeling. When your mind is truly empty, the Universe takes this as a sign that you’re ready to receive this divine experience and graces you with bliss.
Below are the 5 secret steps that will empower you to find bliss wherever you are, no matter who you think you are, or what life situation you may be in.
Step #1 Accept Yourself As You Are. If you want to find the greatest divine bliss inside you tonight, the first and perhaps most important step is to start with accepting yourself and your life exactly the way it is right now. Don’t think about what you need to change, improve and get rid of to make you or your life better. Just start with accepting everything inside you exactly the way it is, and know that within this feeling of self acceptance is self-love, which is the greatest gift you can give YOU!
By deeply accepting yourself it becomes easy to slip into appreciating yourself, and you soon begin to see all your opportunities for growth (problems) as exciting adventures to explore! Flipping on the self-acceptance switch as often as you can will light the pathway to bliss as the love you let in will advance your soul “light years” on your inner world. Self acceptance is the first essential key to get your happy engines spinning and start blasting open the door to bliss inside.
Step #2 Release your Addiction to Suffering. Whether you want to admit it or not, on some unconscious level some part of you is addicted to suffering. Now addiction may be a strong word here, yet it is essential to see the repetitive patterns you’ve created within you that create perpetual struggle, strife and mental/emotional challenges on your inner world. The thoughts that your mind constantly thinks about and can never find peace with are your biggest addictions to suffering. Worries, fears, insecurities and judgments create a majority of the internal battles and self-sabotaging patterns that people can experience hourly. These suffering habits tend to be very sneaky, and are often the main reason why most people believe they cannot enter this ideal state of bliss. Once you’ve looked inside yourself, come to know yourself and identified what your hab it is, you can transcend it. The moment you do you’ll find yourself slipping down the slope of joy…and ohh what a ride it is!
Something you may find interesting is that 99% of our worries never come true, and the ones that did manifest were karmically unavoidable. They say worrying is praying for what you don’t want, and basically its just negative thinking about the future. The worrying habit is often the hardest habit to overcome, yet can be easily transcended once the mind stops believing that holding onto these vital concerns are key ingredients to maintaining a successful life. Once you are conscious in each moment that each one of your thoughts manifest into your life, you can only think positively about yourself, the future, and you start to feel like a living breathing success! As you realize how this habit is merely an unconscious addiction that keeps you powerless and irresponsible for your divine manifesting power within, you will completely release this pattern of suffering and try ou t something new.
Step #3 Release your Attachment to Being Happy. You may not realize how much suffering is created by being attached to having to always be happy, and doing things that make you happy. What would happen if no action, event, person, or thing in your outer world created happiness for you anymore? Where would you find happiness? The key to finding real joy is never in anything “out there”, especially all your ideas about how your life should unfold. The greatest secret to finding happiness is diving into your inner world and finding total peace with the real YOU! When you are no longer attached to anything or anyone in the outer world making you happy, you take the reigns back on your life and can find pure joy inside your soul wherever you are.
One key element to unleashing the immense joy inside you is learning how to relax your body deeply and completely while maintaining present moment awareness. This means your body is relaxed, yet your mind is vigilantly alert and watching what is showing up without getting identified. Simply take a few minutes to stop doing those things you think will one day make you happy, and just practice relaxing your body completely. Try it! Rest fully into the very center of your heart, letting go into the very center of your being, and you’ll find total equanimity in your mind.
It is a law of nature that you cannot live in worry, negativity or fear when your body is physically at peace. When every tiny muscle is relaxed and completely still, every concern, fear, worry and negative thought will have disappeared from your mind. The mind and body behave as one unit, and when your body is at peace, you’ll instantly drop any attachment you have to how your life should be, or how your friends, family, work, money, and all those things which are “responsible” for making you happy.
The more you can master the experience of living in a relaxed body 24 hours a day, the more impossible it becomes to getting attached to anything in the outer world for making you happy. When you start to abide in this divine infinite realm of loving energy inside you, you’ll wonder why were you ever searching for it out there. The day you discover this profound inner peace in the most stressful, boring or ordinary situations in your life, you’ll become a HUGE ball of peace, love, joy and bliss!
Step #4 Let Go of The Mind’s Perpetual Efforting. When you have completely stopped making any effort to resist negative thinking, and released that unending push towards positive thinking, that is the same day that bliss will find you. When you can sit back and watch the mind without being involved, eventually in time it will give up its perpetual struggle. By making the simple choice to back off from your inner “thinker” and step back, below or behind these thoughts, you become the overriding master of your mind.
It’s ironic, yet the bliss we are all seeking is first initiated through the mind’s imagination, yet is truly discovered when you let go of the mind completely. The lightest and highest feeling of bliss cannot be found through forming any one thought or belief with your mind. That would narrow and squeeze your mind’s experience of life even tighter (like caffeine does) and not allow these cosmic blissful sensations the room they need to enter. True bliss is only found through divine openness and receptivity. When you are 100% free from all the ridiculous efforting of the mind, having no attachments to any agenda it forms, no attachment to any desires or disposition, you will fall into a deeply relaxed and sweet heavenly trusting space with life and bliss will take over you.
There are moments in everyone’s life where we get a glimpse of this succulent, spacious, peaceful place inside our mind. Yet, you’ll notice that in this space the mind is no where to be found and you feel even more conscious, alive, aware, and awake. This is the experience of your very essence, your innermost nature… the soul that you are! The feeling is sooo pleasant that you don’t want to form any desire or agenda for that would create too much pain. This spacious place is where your real freedom abides. It allows you to be free of the mind moving backwards or forwards in time, because when you’re in bliss you have no fear, no worries or memories to deal with. When this grounded spaciousness finds you, you will be arriving in the beloved land of bliss. It is an experience that is meant for those who are ready and will ing to be touched by the Divine.
Step #5 Quiet your Mind and Completely Be Still. When you have fully emptied your inner container of plans, agendas, fears, worries, concerns, and positive thinking your brain may not know what to do with itself. It will most likely try to reform some random idea to hold onto to give it some stability. When your body is deeply relaxed and your mind is truly empty, make the golden pillar of your life total silence and stillness. When you reach the mountain peak of consciousness everything is divinely still. These profoundly quiet moments within instantly pave fresh new neuronal pathways in your brain for having many more blissed-out experiences of life.
To arrive at complete stillness, it takes outrageous courage. You must have vigilance with the mind, the strength to hold on to stillness when you cannot, and the trust to let go of the process all at the same time. By deeply trusting everything that shows up when you venture into the unknown empty zone of no-mind, this totally quiet and profound stillness will pour into you. The more time you spend in stillness, then bliss has to become your ordinary mode of operation. The first time it happens you may be able to handle it for a few minutes, yet with practice you’ll get better at it. When you can hang for a few hours in this cosmic space it will totally alter your life (and everybody else’s life that you know) forever in the most positive ways.
As you discover that your real work here on Earth is not “out there” yet finding the pathway to bliss within, all 5 of these steps will naturally unfold for you. The greatest experience of your lifetime is being filled with bliss all day and night long. Just open your mind to this possibility, follow the 5 steps above and you’ll soon find it start seeping in. .The experience of complete bliss is your soul’s destiny. Why make up some ridiculous reason that you don’t deserve it? You are a mixture of both human and divine, and so it is your divine right to own this joyous sensation. You’ll see, keep pondering over these 5 steps and you will disco ver total bliss sooner than later.
(Him: If you’d like to learn more from Mr. Ozwald, kindly visit his website at: www.enlightenedbeings.com. He has a series of free books, information and some good products for the average person to learn more from on the topic of happiness. Of course, I’d prefer to share all the best information I have for free whenever possible. Mr. Ozwald makes a living from his website, so naturally people would have to exchange money for some of the information he provides. Nonetheless, even though paying for it may not be most ideal, his information can make very good reminders on how we can live our lives better. Hope you’ll find them helpful.)