In the last post, I noted that Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky concluded that a large portion of our happiness (40%) depends on our daily activities. Happify Daily reports that same 40% as being controlled by our thoughts, actions and behaviors. This, in essence, puts a good chunk of our happiness in our own hands, because have influence over our thoughts, actions, activities and behaviors.
Happiness is something we all want, though when we think about what it is, it can be hard to define. Science is making inroads on defining and studying happiness and there's an intriguing and growing body of evidence to support our ability to contribute to our own happiness.
But first, we need to define it...
hap·pi·ness ˈhapēnəs/ noun: happiness; plural noun: happinesses the state of being happy.
Am I a racist, bigot, misogynist or religiously intolerant because I have those thoughts?
When we purposely work with a mindfulness practice we focus on including the gamut of our human experience--thoughts, sensations, emotions--whether positive, negative, or neutral. We do this, in essence, by creating a "container" made up of our curious attention, non-judgmental acceptance and allowance, and an intention to compassionately and kindly meet whatever arises.
Over time, our formal practice spills into the rest of our lives and we gain a more attentive, richer and pleasant life. We also receive the all important gift of a spacious pause between our experience and reactions, enabling us a chance to consciously decide our next course of action.
In this way, mindfulness supports us actively aspiring towards higher ideals than our biological and instinctual reactions would otherwise allow. We can consciously evolve ourselves into a wiser, kinder and more generous being. While these characteristics are already innate in us, and we can consciously grow and strengthen them, our perceptions of threat, which activate our biological survival systems, can get in our way.
I've practiced mindfulness for 25+ years and have come to accept the fact that I may never be able to live wholly from my chosen values, as much as I try. Our bodies and minds are not only a product of evolutionary forces that respond to threats with fight, flight or freeze, they are also molded during early formative years to reflect the values and beliefs of those around us--our parents, extended family, friends, local community, and the larger culture.
Personally, I can still hear the harsh judgments and commands from growing up in rural 1960's America in a large and dysfunctional Italian Catholic family. Today, though, I'm still surprised and ashamed when the racist, misogynist, and religiously intolerant ideas and beliefs of that era pop into my mind seemingly of their own accord. Back then, they were just invisibly weaved into my life's narrative.
But, am I religiously intolerant, a racist, bigot, or misogynist because these thoughts still arise? Or do the labels only apply if I believe or take action upon them?
I recently attended a women entrepreneur's conference with Jenny Kassan titled Fund and Fuel Your Dreams. In it I learned so many valuable things about myself and women and how we are changing the conversation on the planet. Some fascinating statistics support what I evidenced first hand with the women in attendance at the conference. In particular, over the next 35 years, about $59,000,000,000,000 (that's 59 TRILLION dollars!) of wealth will transfer to women and millennials, of which women will inherit about 70% of this wealth. Also interesting, by 2030 in the U.S., women will hold two-thirds of the wealth.
Why is this exciting? Because women and millennials have different standards for investing than our past and present day investors. The vast majority hold pro social and environmental impact has key decisions in where they invest their wealth. This is huge as it has the potential to create a large shift in what drives investment.
The women I met at the conference are just a smattering--an inspiring and dynamic smattering--of the social and environmental good that is starting to emerge and take hold. From cleaning up the environment to finding creative and healthy food systems. From empowering others to live a more authentic and inspired life to funding that inspired life in community. The potential for quick and lasting impact is astounding. And the support they are giving each other is groundbreaking. (If you want to hear more about this, listen to this interview I did with Denise Rushing while guest hosting on the Taira St. John Show.)
Why is is this exciting? What does it have to do with you? With me? With our work in the world? With our work together?