Excerpt from Agapi Stassinopoulous’s new book
Why do some people seem to find happiness and not others? Are they lucky or do they simply choose to be happy?
Happiness is an amazing sensation that we want to hold onto and make last forever. The problem is that many of us wait for and depend on the incredible moments in life – falling in love, getting a promotion, traveling to a tropical paradise – to experience happiness.
It took me a long time to realize that happiness is more than simply a feeling; it’s a state of being.
In Wake Up To The Joy of You, Agapi Stassinopoulous explains that happiness is not based on conditions; it’s based on accepting and being grateful for where you are, in this moment. Written in an intuitive and relatable way, Agapi’s message really hit home. Not only is she a dear friend but Agapi is a pioneer of the heart—she truly has a knack for awakening the best in us. The main takeaway you should know is: While there will always be ups and downs in life, we have the ability to experience contentment almost every day.
Here is one of my favorite excerpts, “The Art of Doing Nothing:”
One of my favorite things to do as a little girl was to swing aimlessly. It gave me such joy and took away the pressure that I was feeling; it was my time to really wonder. As Veronigue Vienne wrote in her book The Art of Doing Nothing, “For a child doing nothing doesn’t mean being inactive. It means doing something that doesn’t have a name.” I remember a time when I went fishing with a fisherman in the Greek islands at dawn. It was enthralling to watch him so patiently waiting to catch the fish, watching the line to see if it moved. Witnessing his stillness in the calmness of the sea, I felt completely present and at peace.
Doing nothing isn’t just about feeling good. Vienne also wrote, “Some of the best thinking we do happens when the conscious mind is on sabbatical. Isaac Newton figured out the law of universal gravitation when sitting under a tree. Ben Franklin invented the lightning rod while flying a kite. Thomas Edison came up with the lightbulb filament while idly rolling kerosene residue between his fingers. Albert Einstein pondered the riddle of the universe with a cat on his lap.” What an endorsement for doing nothing! Who knows what you might discover and contribute to society!
Doing nothing is not meditation – that can become one more thing to do. I’m talking about free-falling with yourself. Staring, gazing. Did you know that gazing is a spiritual practice – you can gaze at the horizon until you expand your vision into something larger than yourself, and merge with this expansiveness. Doing nothing can open you up to the awe of your life, the mystery of who you are. It’s remarkable what happens when you slow down. No longer operating from “time famine,” you’ll feel timeless.
There are a lot of Eastern practices that involve this non-doing, this non-effort, this leaning back and surrendering. However, in the West, we train our minds in such a linear way, constantly pushing ourselves to produce. We feel guilty when we’re not producing. We are programmed to do, not to be. We tell ourselves that if we’re not accomplishing, we will fall behind. So we often feel pressured and anxious and keep moving to relieve that anxiety. But, as Rumi said, “You wander from room to room, hunting for the diamond necklace that’s already around your neck.”
Return to that calm place inside of you often. Build it until it becomes your way of being. Imagine how amazing life would be if you did things from that place of no effort. I encourage you to give yourself this gift of finding creative ways to do nothing.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THIS WEEK
- Make it a habit to watch the sun set and appreciate the slow motion transition from day to night. Take the colors in and notice how each sunset varies from day to day. Gaze upon the horizon and allow your eyes to soften. Fill your heart with gratitude and awe.
- Throughout each day, make it a habit to pause and get back to your own natural breath and internal rhythm. Back away from your to-do list. Take a walk around your space, leaving your phones behind, wherever you are; just five to ten minutes of slowing down will energize you.
- Find a place in your home where you can “lean back,” allowing yourself to let go of “the next thing” and all the things that are preoccupying you. Stare, be, and breathe. There is no urgency.
Excerpted from WAKE UP TO THE JOY OF YOU: 52 MEDITATIONS AND PRACTICES FOR A CALMER HAPPIER LIFE Copyright © 2016 by Agapi Stassinopoulos. Published by Harmony Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.