Happiness & Becoming Who You Are: My 1000th Post!
Just imagine becoming the way you used to be as a very young child, before you understood the meaning of any word, before opinions took over your mind. The real you is loving, joyful, and free. The real you is just like a flower, just like the wind, just like the ocean, just like the sun. ~ Don Miguel Ruiz
I love this quote and have written on returning to a child-like state before, it is a basic tenet in many eastern religions, the idea that in many ways we were born perfect beings and the best way to return to that state is to become child-like, not childish, but child-like. Tonight I am writing my 1000th post on the Ministry of Happiness Blog, it does not seem possible. I started this blog six years ago after returning from a twenty-two day trek in the Himalayas, a trip that obviously incredibly impacted my life. I wanted a venue to take the things I had researched and learned in my quest to overcome my own bouts of depression, and share it with others. My hope, that by publishing what I learned, I might help one person, if I did I would consider the project a success. Initially I thought that once I got to a 100 posts I’d call it quits.
Of course, 1000 posts later, that didn’t happen. Why? Well simply the feedback I got and continue to get about the Ministry of Happiness from its followers has been more positive than I could have hoped for. Instead of merely being a vehicle to help others, writing this blog has also helped me and transformed my life. The blog has changed over the years, it has broadened its focus to reflect my own interests in art, poetry, photography, adventure and travel as well as providing positive news and resources. I have become more and more of a proponent of happiness through action, that you have to effect change to become happier. That the best way to effect this change is through changing habits and getting out of your comfort zone. Then of course, if you’re going to talk the talk, and you want to be credible, you need to walk the walk.
So walk the walk I have, over 15 months ago I effected massive change in my life, sold my house, quit my job and hit the road. Along the way I did a bit of walking, 1000 miles on the Appalachian Trail. I have even written a book about that experience that I hope to have out in the next couple of months that I’ll be calling Appalachian Trail Happiness. There were other adventures, swimming with whale sharks and photographing Polar Bears. I saw a lot of beauty over the last 15 months including a northern light show in the Arctic that was beyond my wildest dreams. I changed the way I journaled about my adventures by coming up with a system of three questions to answer each day. What was the most beautiful thing I encountered today? What did I learn today? What made me happy today?
I hope that when people read about all of this they get one over arching message from all of it. Yes you can! You can make changes, you can have adventures, big or small. But most of all, you CAN be happier than you are today. If that message gets across to folks and they can put it into action than I really will have accomplished something with this work.
More than just reminisce tonight I want to talk about life and what’s next. If anyone ever writes my biography they should steal the title from the Grateful Dead and call it, What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been. You know we all start out as those perfect creatures in life and then ironically what gets in the way of us remaining that, is our life. We experience all manner of disturbances from without and within, family troubles, sickness, death, money problems. Our life and the responsibilities in our life, the choices we make can sometimes lead us into very unhappy places. That was where I ended up, a little over thirty years ago I was an angry young man, an alcoholic, abusing drugs, I had just failed out of college. People around me thought I was suicidal, it was bad. I hit rock bottom and was able to build from there. But even fifteen years ago, sober, building a career, I was still an angry man who fought through bouts of depression. My life from the outside was functional and fine but inside I was hollow and black. But the one thing that I had held onto from my most desperate point was one thing, it’s my fault.
Personal responsibility is a powerful concept, there are things none of us can control, but there are far more things that we can control. Most of all, we can control our choices and how we choose to respond to the world. Over the last fifteen years I’ve worked hard to find ways to control my internal anger, through writing, through finding ways to forgive people. None of it was easy, none of it happened quickly, but it happened. I began to mellow out the depressive dips I sunk into, I began to be generally happier. My life got better, not just from a surface view by outsiders, but internally where it mattered. Eventually I came to the Ministry of Happiness at a point when I was really, for the first time since the early innocence of childhood, a happy person.
I’ve worked hard since then to become happier and at the core that has meant one thing, trying to become more of the person I really want to be. We all have an idealized version of who we want to be, it’s a concept they use brilliantly in the first Matrix film. For me that person is very free, unconcerned with the opinion of others who are not in my inner circle. That person travels and writes, makes time for gardening and artistic pursuits. My idealized self is someone who is physically fit and spontaneous, grateful and kind. A person who is actively working on their bucket list because of an understand of the fleeting and precious nature of life .
At 51, it doesn’t seem possible that I’m in my 50’s, I feel like I’m getting there. I really feel like I’m making progress at being that person. At the same time I’m becoming very aware of the clock. I can realistically, barring some random accident or illness, expect to live another twenty years. When I write that it chills me, only twenty years, it is not enough time. That’s a little over 7000 days, suddenly each of those days seem really, really valuable and for good reason, they are, as have all the ones that have come before. And like most of us, I’ve squandered far more than I would like to admit. The idealized me doesn’t waste a day lightly and neither should you my friends.
All of this work is really just a gentle unfolding of what was there all along. The real work is clearing all of the layers of crap that I and the world have piled on. I’m thankful that all of you are here for the ride. Readership continues to grow, the number of followers has now topped 6200 and rising. I wish you all would comment more, but it’s the nature of blogs that most people don’t, I can see from the page views that you’re out there reading. So thank you all very much for your support and who knows, maybe some day I’ll be sitting down writing my 2000th post, let’s hope so, and let’s also hope we’ve all had lots of happy days in between. ~ Rev Kane