How many people do you know, or maybe you yourself, are searching for happiness? You will find moments of it of course. Maybe even long moments, but if it’s your goal in life to “find” happiness, I’m afraid you will be very disappointed and probably die frustrated and unhappy.
In my brief stint as a Doll Doctor (fancy title, I know!), I worked with someone around my age who was searching for a life purpose. This is very common in the Western way of life. He told me he was searching for happiness. I shared that I too looked for happiness and one day something clicked inside me.
Happiness is an emotion. Emotions fluctuate based on what happens around us, how much we sleep, what we eat and the people in our lives. If you think about it, does it really make sense to strive for happiness when you are probably not going to be happy when a loved one dies?? To me it just doesn’t seem realistic.
I took my second solo trip to Cambodia. What a beautiful country!! I highly recommend it. I took one of those organised tours, which wasn’t half as bad as I thought it would be and I met some lovely people. Our tour guide was a beautiful local woman who deserves a special blog about my time with her.
I had five free days before going to a yoga retreat I would not recommend. I was sad to be leaving people so scoured the airport for people who looked they wanted a friend too. As we walked to the plane, I met Jenny who was also travelling solo. When we arrived in Sihanoukville, she had met a third solo traveller on the plane and the three of us just happened to be on the same beach! It was great. We were in the same age group and in similar places in our lives.
After Ted arrived back from his daily adventures and Jenny and I had spent all day sunbathing, slagging off men, floating in the ocean and being waited on by the friendly and helpful male staff, we would discuss the meaning of life. At first it was a joke, don’t we all want to know that? Each day it became more serious and we would have deeper conversations about possible answers.
Three years later, Jenny and Ted are still in my life. We live in three different countries and now only have contact once or twice a year, but the contact always warms my heart as they have become very special people. Jenny and I have found our answers to the meaning of life. Ted is still on his journey. Jenny and I offer our hands as support on his journey and no advice as everyone’s meaning is different. The beauty of humanity is in our differences. Although I bet when it’s broken down, the answers to this philosophical question would be very similar for all of us.
To me, the meaning of life is peace. In the conversation I had with my fellow Doll Doctor, I suggested he replaced happiness with peace. He said that he never thought of that before. He agreed that happiness is an emotion and peace is a state of mind, making peace more achievable.
But what does peace mean? I’m sure there are many perspectives. I found my definition of peace in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. This is a truly magical place. There is a little village called San Marcos, which is mainly filled with ex-pats from around the world. There are all kinds of holistic healing services there. Yoga, cacao ceremonies, massage, sound therapy, kirtan, fermented foods for digestion, regression therapy, etc. I spent five beautiful healing weeks in this place. I went there to take a two week Thai massage course and had a hard time leaving!
The lake is surrounded by volcanos and it is said that the vibrations there are higher than in other parts of the world. This means that the state of mind or feelings you are experiencing are magnified. Luckily for me I arrived in quite a positive state!
Almost every morning, I woke up before the sun rise. I made a cup of ginger and lemon tea, grabbed my yoga mat and went to the shore to watch this daily show Mother Nature gives us. The photo above was taken during one of these mornings.
As I watched the sun rise, I looked all around me. I took in the changes of the lake as the sun lit up the sky, the clouds, the colours. I breathed in the smells of the lake and the nearby houses. I let the cool breeze caress the naked skin of my face, hands and feet. I let my thoughts roll from my head into an imaginary boat in front of me and sent it off across the lake when it was full. I placed no judgments on these thoughts. I simply allowed them to occur as though I was watching leaves floating down a river.
When the sun was above the volcanoes and began to warm my skin, I began my yoga practice. A beautiful practice where I could focus on the movements and let the thoughts roll away instead of allowing them to practice with me on the mat. Something I had always found difficult in London. It was the most refreshing way to start my day and I remember only one bad day while I was there. It was because of news from my job in London and had nothing to do with my current surroundings.
Depending on my day, I would sometimes sit after my practice with a smile and watch life on the lake. It was one of these sessions where I was struck with a realisation that has forever changed my life.
I realised I felt truly at peace. And not just for that moment. I had been feeling at peace for a while. This explains why so many of my friends there said I had a glowing energy about me. This explained why I felt as though as I was floating through life and negative events weren’t having a significant impact.
When I got home, I quickly journaled how it felt to be at peace. After all, I didn’t want to lose this realisation and I wanted to share it with anyone who would listen so they could feel it too!
Before I came on the boat, I left all my journals at my parent’s house because I didn’t want anything to happen to them and I would forever lose those memories. When I decided to write a blog on this topic, I was so disappointed I didn’t have that journal. Then I realised I’m still at peace. Fourteen months later I have still managed to keep my peace. Therefore I don’t need my journal. I can tell you from my present experience my version of peace.
Being at peace is living in the moment and enjoying the surroundings around me. Noticing the colours of that tree, the dress the person across the street is wearing and breathing in the smell of the coffee in front of me.
Being at peace is when I am mentally and physically present with the person or people I am with. Really paying attention to what they’re saying or how they’re acting without judgment.
When I am angry or sad, I still feel at peace. Despite my anger, I have a calm air about me that helps me find a solution. When someone is angry or aggressive towards me, my peace allows me to remain calm and look deeper into the reason for their behaviour while standing my own ground in an assertive way. After all, it really has nothing to do with me. I don’t make anyone feel anything, the individual decides to feel a certain way whether they are conscience of it or not. My peace protects me from their anger.
When I am sad, my peace comforts me. It’s ok to feel sad, I am human after all. My peace tells me that it is hard right now and one day it will all be ok. It always works out how it’s supposed to. This peace makes my sadness last hours or maybe a couple of days and then I am back to see the beauty the world has to offer. After all, if you wear the right glasses, you will see the world’s beauty in abundance.
Being at peace helps me realise that I can’t always fix the challenges in my loved ones lives. I can only offer support and my time to make it easier. This allows me to keep my peace instead of take on their negative emotions. It is not my job to carry their emotions, only to ease them if possible.
Life is not perfect. As well as beautiful, happy and fun days, I have sad days, lonely days and frustrated days. Sometimes I am impatient with life because I want something to be different. My peace reminds me that there is always a lesson if I look for it. Patience and an open mind will always bring me to where I belong. The anxiety, frustration, loneliness and sadness are alleviated by this peace.
My peace allows me to be patient. That sailing trip around the world I want to make, that new friend I want to meet, meeting that sailor who has the same sailing plans as me, that sailboat I want to own, those student loans I want to pay off. They will all happen when the time is right. My peace tells me that when the opportunity arises, it will be what was needed to fulfil my goal or give me an important lesson. Why do I need to worry about it or rush it? Doing that changes nothing.
Being at peace means that my whole world could crumble apart and all my loved ones could leave me, but I know it will be ok in the end.
Having peace gives me independence and control over my life. I no longer need to find that man who will make it all ok. I understand he doesn’t exist for me or anyone. I am the only one who can make it all ok and now I have.
For those of you reading this who know me, you may think someone else is writing this. I have been far from this state for much of my life, particularly in my teens and early twenties. I let fear, anxiety, low self esteem and sadness rule my life.
You may ask how I made this transition. The truth is, I really don’t know. I do know that yoga helped a lot. My mind isn’t quiet when I do yoga. I know some people who say they don’t think of outside things during class. How blissful this would be!! However, my mind has changed during my practice. It used to rule my practice. If I thought of something I needed to do, which almost always happened when I was in London, I would spend the rest of my practice reciting it to myself and in a panic that I would forget. If I was at home, I would sometimes stop to write it down.
I don’t do that now. I acknowledge the thought and then bring my attention back to my breathing and movements. I may spend all practice doing this, but the anxiety or panic is no longer on the mat with me. My mind likes to be busy, but my peace accepts that and doesn’t let it control my emotions or my special time connecting with my body.
I started taking more time for me instead of giving all my energy to others. I started being honest with myself about what and who was helpful and unhelpful in my life. That was, and still is, sometimes very painful and uncomfortable. However, it was all worth it in the end because I found peace. I live every day comforted by this peace and it is something no one can ever take away from me. I am choosing to keep it in my life, it’s not for others to take.
So you see, to me, peace is much more helpful than happiness. In fact, it makes my happiness even more genuine than before.