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Do you have too many thoughts on your mind?

People often say to me how they have such trouble with their minds, how their thoughts run away with them and they end up in places mentally where they don’t want to be. If only they could manage their thoughts, they say. You can have so many thoughts on your mind that the mind can become the source of your greatest torment, but it can also be the place of your greatest bliss. You can do something about it.

We get so caught up with our worries, problems and concerns that we don’t realise what’s really going on. Surely, we think, I need to focus on dealing with this problem. So people lie awake at night churning through the issue. It might be a stream of thoughts, and then it might be, say, a more generalised feeling, like anxiety about might happen or resentment about what has or hasn’t happened. They seem so important and real that we believe we can’t possibly let go of them. To not focus on them would feel somehow unsatisfactory. Which can point to an underlying tendency to treat life’s challenges in a particular way. For example we may have a tendency to catastrophise or see the worst in a situation. Or we may tend to blame others and find fault with them, and see them as the cause of our issues. Both these are patterns that can be challenged in themselves and dealt with.

To deal with the constant thinking however, often it is when you decide to step back from the problem and manage the process that things can start to be different, a “content to process shift”. Thus when you adopt a mindfulness approach, being aware of the thoughts you are having rather than caught up in thinking them, you can use the power of “metacognition”, seeing what’s going on in your mind. You can train yourself to observe or “witness” them: “Ah, I’m having that thought again.” “There I go with that one again.” Then, choose not to blame yourself, but rather accept. It’s what we do. It happens. Breathe, and breathe again, consciously, breathe in peace and calm, and breathe away thoughts and feelings, letting them go on the out-breath. And simply focus instead on breathing.

Over time you can choose to practice like this, and learn more about the practice of mindfulness, of witnessing your thoughts and letting them go, and learn to embrace the inner stillness that lies behind thoughts. For, when you simply sit with awareness of breath, you can find a growing calmness in your state of being. You can train yourself to have “no though” and be present with your stillness.

That way lies peace.

We seek peace in the world “out there” and think that when we’ve fixed our problems “out there” we’ll have peace. Yet real peace lies within.

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Sometimes it’s hard getting that others feel differently to you

Realising that others have a different perspective, that others feel differently, can be one that we resist. Moreover we can refuse to accept it, let alone empathise with it or see it as legitimate. Such is often the nature of disputes that keep us separate and at odds with our actual or former loved ones, neighbours or others we fall out with. Thus reaching beyond the divide, letting go of the pain and taking a higher perspective is often a necessary but challenging path. It’s like we just don’t want to let go!

As a continuing student of history and politics, usually an academic one, I often find myself getting caught up however in some drama that’s going on “out there” and needing to re-member, to see that there’s another perspective still. Thus I’ve been following the gathering dispute between the “West” and Russia over the Ukraine with some indignation and alarm, bearing in mind that such situations have in the past in Eastern Europe triggered two world wars. Without going into the drama itself, I just want to observe some parallels with how we humans are with each other.

The West lectures Russia on concepts like national sovereignty and self-determination, and Russia holds up the mirror over Iraq and also expresses the desire to oppose “fascism” and oppression of Slavic peoples. The two sides trade accusations and self-justification. Living in the “West” as I do, it is easy to take that point of view. It’s a bit like watching a couple fall out. Who’s right? And whose side are you on? Hold on a moment. Isn’t it all “judgement stuff” anyway, each judging the other? And what about the people in the middle, caught up in all this who just want peace? I was reminded of the terrible history of the Ukraine, which has been fought over by various bigger powers for centuries, most recently a famine induced by Stalin in the 1930’s (it is argued) and invasion by the Nazis in the 1940’s. You can imagine the children in the middle while the adults fight.

From a mindfulness perspective it is useful to become aware of one’s reactions to the unfolding drama and notice the process of being caught up in what’s happening. Not easy. At one moment you (or I) might be feeling for one position or the other, or even getting all righteous about world peace, which can be another drama, and the next taking the higher perspective. And then that goes right out of the window at the next upsurge in the drama and we’re back in the heat of battle. Hard work!

Even taking a higher perspective can be an ego trip too. “I know all about this and what’s going on. I can see it. “They” are refusing enlightenment and are choosing fear”, and we make a subtle judgement about that.

A mindful perspective is to step back from the whole thing, be present, and notice what’s going on, both “out there” and “in here”. We become the calm observer of our process.

That sounds easy. But it isn’t! Notice how the mind can so easily get back into the fray of what’s going on. Have you sat with the intention to meditate and found your mind going off on all sorts of dramas and upsets. Then we think we “can’t mediate”. Actually that today was your meditation. And you can still let go, be present and notice it. Here we learn something about persistence.

However what I’m drawing attention to are the very subtle ways in which even in our “holier than thou” perspective, we can still be engaged in ego. “They don’t get it,” can still be ego. If I sit with what occurs as the witness of it, I am neither one of the warring parties or him or her with the higher perspective. Stuff goes on and I rest as the witness.

Learning to rise above our dramas is an ongoing process, as it is for those around us.

I offer coaching for those who get conflict, struggle with difficult situations and need help to manage themselves and others in difficult situations. Click here.

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Getting to know the different parts of ourselves can be healing

You might think that the good person whom you like to think you are is always perfectly nice and reasonable, pleasant to be around, positive, calm and agreeable, and that that’s what others want. Then you might also want to throw your toys out of the pram, have a tantrum and be perfectly obnoxious. These different parts of ourselves can feel uncomfortable to be around. For example you may know you can’t be like that, having tantrums, quite simply for various reasons of a social kind, like that’s not what one does, others don’t like it – and they certainly won’t like us – and we might not get what we want. But then again you might get home and out it comes in yelling at the kids or at your partner or at the dog. What’s this “other side” of us? I mean, are we really like this, and might we really be nasty people trying not to be? Well, who are we?

Being a nice person of course is a very effective strategy for getting what you want. In ego terms it is a survival strategy. Not everybody does it. Some just get what they want by being beastly. Period. Not that people I work with necessarily see it like that. They may want to be “nice” (such an English term, folks!) and they may want others to be the same. They may be fearful of others being beastly and so being nice helps to prevent that. Then again they may simply want peace and calm (who doesn’t?!) and this strategy seems to do it for them, well most of the time, or they’d like it that way. But people aren’t all like that. Bother.

There’s another factor: ourselves. There’s what Jung called the Shadow, the  disowned part of us that we’re not comfortable with and that we project on to others. Somehow we learned early on that being beastly wasn’t OK so we suppressed it, made it “not me”, and instead we experience it in others. That’s how projection works. It seems to be others who are like that, and we don’t see that we have a bit of that quality within us too. Uncomfortable realisation.

Effective personal growth work can involve getting to know that part of us, and not disowning it but rather learning to find a non-toxic way of integrating it into our lives. It often has something to teach us. The paradox is so often that when we own our different “sides”, we start to become more “whole”, authentic and real. For example, some learn to stand up for themselves a lot more, and find shouting for example and being unreasonable releases pent up rage, and lets go of rules they grew up with that don’t serve them, so that this underlying energy dissipates (I did say, in a non-toxic way, please bear in mind). Then people buy us a lot more, trust us more and actually feel more comfortable with us. Comfortable outcome.

So the bit of us that wants to throw the toys out of the pram is invaluable. Paradoxically too, for some of us that way can lie peace.

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Honesty and openness not secrecy and distrust heals us and brings peace

Under pressure, a knee-jerk response is to close down and defend oneself. One classic stress response after all is to prepare the bodily system to engage the enemy, or to take flight, or to freeze to the spot. Traditional cultural conditioning is arguably to be careful what you reveal. It might be a natural “free child” response in Transactional Analysis terms to be open, spontaneous and expressive, to show honesty and openness, and yet that’s not how people have traditionally tended to react in social situations. Social conditioning closed down the “free child” response. To be honest, open and direct however might be a behaviour we’d adopt when we feel safe and confident, although the more firmly extrovert amongst us might have that more as their default position. However our culture has in recent years if anything been heading more in the direction of the latter, being more “out there” with how we feel, warts and all. Shows on the TV that attract a lot of views are ones where people will score higher the more honesty and openness they show.

So it might be somewhat puzzling that recent events about secrecy have shown up another polarity in our public life.

The secrecy state

Since the summer I have found myself absorbed in part by the Snowden revelations about internet snooping by the US’s NSA and the UK’s GCHQ. It’s provoked a lot of discussion, much more in the US than here, about privacy and oversight of the security services and about the freedom of the internet. Yet there’s not been so much about the other polarity, honesty and openness as an alternative value set.  Some of course argue for the need to delegate autonomy to our security services, whilst others advocate privacy as against state intrusiveness and surveillance “to keep us safe”. The “openness” trend clashes with the closed one. It’s a bit like the personal.

Some say, well this is about the national interest and the need for security against terrorism, and yet it’s a puzzling contradiction. There have been claims for secrecy and tight laws to protect against various threats at different times in our recent history, going back to, in the UK context, scares about German spies in the First World War and the Defence of the Realm Acts, through the Cold War “reds under the beds” anxiety about “communist infiltators” and “subversion,” through to the present-day Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, 2000. You might even feel your system shutting down as the fear level rises at the thought of it.

So, what’s honesty and openness got to offer then? What’s the connection?

There can often be a conspiracy of silence in this subject, something many observers have remarked upon in relation to the UK. Keep your views to your own arena and leave “serious” things like security to us security experts who know what we were doing, and as our Foreign Secretary recently told us, “If you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear”. Such whitewashing of the issue prevents more insightful thinking about what we’re otherwise allowing to happen that keeps us stuck in the past, old paradigm. “Trust me, guv”.

Fear keeps us stuck

Fear attracts fear. One begets the other. If you live with a conflict mentality, you attract it to you. You get more of it. The world-view will be that of threats. There’s hate, suspicion and distrust. If however you move from an “avoidance” strategy to an “approach” one in mindfulness terms, you draw to you what is positive, kind, loving and gentle. You can get how very different these two energies are. In the approach paradigm, people are healthier and have much stronger immune systems. They get less stress. They have, surprise, surprise, better relationships, self acceptance, meaning and purpose, creativity, and expansion. Conflicts are more likely to be solved, because people are more drawn to each other in this paradigm, and there’s greater trust. It’s a love space, basically.

No wonder positive businesses, for example, that want to encourage innovation, good team working and customer satisfaction, seek to foster a climate of openness and transparency. The results speak for themselves.

There’s also another point, that when we are honest about our lives, when we admit to what’s really going on, both to ourselves and to others, when we let go of what we’re holding on to, then there’s a release, a letting go, and a healing. When truth happens, so too does healing. Then we get peace.

Thus, when we get involved in debates and discussion that get stuck in the secrecy/distrust paradigm, it helps to take a deep breath, pause, be aware, notice our fear reactions, and let them go. They don’t serve us, and indeed by contrast help to keep us stuck. This applies at the personal level, in terms of personal growth, and at team and organisational levels too, and therefore it also applies at the national and international level. We need to challenge this fear-based way of thinking, since it serves none of us in terms of our evolution.

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Are you living your life in a way that really serves you?

In these holiday months it might be customary for some of us lounging by the pool in some sun-drenched beautiful location to reflect on the pace of life, and ask why do we put up with it and why can’t we do things differently. The lazy discussion on living your life as you really want, after say some complaints about the sharing of tasks, might result in some intentions to make changes. Yet like lambs to the slaughter we go back to our driven, city-centred life-styles and very quickly all the relaxation and sense of wellbeing has vanished and we’re back on the treadmill. As is also probably customary at these times people like the BBC put out articles on this subject, as with this comparison of the UK with Denmark, and we indulge in ritual self-mortification about how we’ve got it all wrong.

Contrary to widely held belief, we’re not the most driven country. The other day I was reminded about how in the US people work longer hours and have just two weeks’ holiday, and don’t seem to think a lot about it. Yet, as the above-mentioned article makes clear, Denmark is according to a UN survey the world’s happiest country. What is striking to read is the difference in values that is evident, with a lower priority given to achievement and “keeping up the with the Jones”.

Yet, humour apart, this time out to think about your work-life balance and your values is a very useful activity, and I’ve personally met as well as read about people who have actually followed up by making significant changes in their lives as a result. There’s one thing to have the debate, and it’s another to take action and have the courage to change.

It is worth asking yourself a few honest questions about the price you are paying for what you are getting. What are the current implications of the current choices being made? What is the impact on you, your health and wellbeing, and on your relationship if you are in one, and on your family and your friendships. In fact is the last-mentioned losing out. I often work with people who have all but dropped their friendships, giving lack of time and distance as the reasons. All the evidence about what fosters wellbeing points towards the importance of relationship in all its forms as a major contributor. Yet I find people who don’t really get time to spend quality time with their partner and/or children. I meet people nearing retirement who have no friends and are not in a relationship. Such people on average live less long and have more health problems.

A useful exercise to do is to imagine yourself at 85, let’s say no longer able to do very much or get about so easily and sitting in your proverbial rocking chair, and now think about what you have in your life now and have had in the last two or three decades, as notional figures. What comes to mind? What do you most value and cherish. Do you come up with a list of material things (because when you’re dead you can’t take them with you – well unless you’re a Pharaoh)? Or do you think of more qualitative things, things that touch you more deeply, that have an emotional resonance? Might there be something there about relationship (in whatever form) or spirituality? What really matters to you when all the trappings of modernity are stripped away. Do you want to go to the pearly gates and say, “Hey, God, I’m really proud of that Mercedes”? Or might you say that you’ve been blessed to find and enjoy enduring love, bliss and contentment. Or that you finally fixed that tendency to blame others and take it out on them when things didn’t work out as you wanted, or that pattern of resentment towards your family, or that deep-seated anxiety that plagued your life, or some other way in which you lived your life that didn’t serve you. Or that you finally gave up on your angst for not “having enough” of whatever it is, and finally learned to accept and feel grateful for what there is in your life. Or any one of those things that we allow to stop ourselves being happy, contented people.

It can come down to thinking about your values, and what is really important to you, and then going about making it happen. Which brings up that other matter, the courage to change. For this, see the next post!

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Being driven can drive us to illness

People who help others can neglect looking after themselves. It’s a well-known hazard in the helping professions and Christmas here in the UK can serve as a useful reminder, if only that it is a common time for people to go down with bugs and be sick. It’s like we chase around after our own tails, get to the Christmas holiday and collapse in a sorry heap, like much of the rest of the workforce.

One characteristic is not knowing you’re exhausted till you stop. It’s slipped out of our conscious awareness. For the skilled helper, like coaches, counsellors, nurses and many others, our focus is “out there” with the needs of others. Then there’s those familiar drivers like the perceived need to make a difference, to work hard, to put others before oneself, to “get it right”, and so on, all perfectly worthy but also good solid compulsions towards burn out if not moderated by some good life balance activities.

“Slowing things down” is not a fashionable motif in our current compulsive, immediate gratification, “have it now”, “do it quick” paradigm. Yet, this is exactly what’s needed. The skilled helper needs to be self aware and socially aware, tuned in, conscious, picking up the subtleties in the field of awareness. We can’t do that if we’re driven, or not so well.

To help others means we also need to know how to help ourselves. The two go together. Otherwise we’re out of integrity. We’re not walking our talk. There’s otherwise a lie at the heart of what we’re doing, or if we’re unaware of it, then a failure to sustain awareness when under pressure.

And these are tough times for many people, which puts more demands on us. So we need to set an example and be a role model. Just like any leader.

So, as the Christmas holiday approaches, it’s wise to set time aside to be still, to meditate, to walk, to talk to people, to laugh, to let go. “But I can’t,” I can hear many wail. And that’s just it. That’s where we’re caught up, thinking that “we can’t”. Saying “we can’t”, is to fail to take responsibility, to not realise we always have choice. And to choose again.

In the Christian tradition, or at least for those 59% of the UK who still nominally say they’re Christian, many of us celebrate the birth of the “Prince of Peace”. So, it’s a good time to be in peace, and what better way to enjoy That is to start preparing ourselves for it in the days that come. And for others, why not use the opportunity to have some peace too, a time for renewal. Om shanti.

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Building self confidence can mean starting with inner quiet

It can seem an odd place to start in building self confidence in yourself and in a project by first building inner quiet. Yet if you need to re-focus, re-build, get something new going in your life and work, you may need to calm self doubt and lack of self belief and develop stillness of mind so that you have a surer base from which to grow what you intend.

You may not be clear what it is that you intend and you may need to get your mind clear in order to allow creativity to do its work. In a still place, unhindered by the workings of the mind, intuition can lead you to your bright idea, your new awareness, your insight. You may also need to manage the sirens of doubt and one way to do that is by developing skill in managing the mind, using some practice to get more adept at interrupting the negative mental flow, which in any case is an illusion of the ego, stilling your thoughts, even challenging any negativity, and moving towards greater calm and equipoise.

Meditation is a powerful tool for this, although you can do this simply by having some quiet time, focusing on the breath, using the breath to calm your mind and become more relaxed. Those more used to the inner journey use this as a regular technique. It is very simple but needs regular practice, and sticking with it when we feel we don’t need it, to be building self confidence in our ability to still our minds, increase innner peace, and re-focus on our purpose.

With a calm state re-established, you are likely to be feeling better in yourself and better placed to focus on your project.

Those already embarked on their project may also find they hit problems and doubts and thus this same practice, giving time for inner quiet, is invaluable. We can get so rushed off our feet in all that is going on that we can somehow easily lose that sense of connection that is so vital to our wellbeing and what we are trying to achieve. When our minds get wobbly, it is much easier for the ego to reassert itself and we go back in an instant to our old knee-jerk responses.

Thus regular re-visiting of your own inner space is vital to helping yourself move forward.

Use this week to do this every day. Find a quiet time where you won’t be interrupted and spend a little while giving yourself inner quiet.

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To know the value of quiet

In trawling through a range of business articles online I came across a delight* which praised the value of quiet and affirmed the value of of introverts. As another “introvert”, I read with enthusiasm: how nice to see people being positive about introversion, and about being quiet! As the writer states, in a world seemingly dominated by extroversion and the valuing of extrovert behaviours, and the noise that ensues, the pressure is seemingly on the introvert to change. She is very clear that those of us who are quiet can also serve.

I wonder how you react when you see the word “quiet”: is it “ah,yes!” or might you be wondering about what is “wrong” about noise? Of course they are polarities, and sometimes we might be in one dimension and another time seeking out the other. However, your reaction might be a symptom of a deeper desire. What, after all, does “quiet” mean for you?

For me, and yes I’m an introvert (to the extent that, with hesitation, I accept labels for the purposes of communication), “quiet” means inner stillness as much as it might be quiet around me. It conjures up a sense of inner peace, and the beauty that might be found in the present. I visualise peaceful rural scenery, mountains, and trees. Nature can however be very far from “quiet”. What I’m referring to is the inner sense that is there, that process of going within to find inner stillness that seems to meet the soul’s longing, where the heart responds with a gentler, warmer, more loving, reverential beat, and all feels complete.

As the article above points out, the introvert “quiet” person has every bit as much to contribute to society, organisations, etc. In fact, once when I was doing a survey of senior managers in a high profile project team, they turned out, most of them, to be introverts! And there’s a certain group of them that do actually run organisations. So!

To savour the inner journey is not to be unusual, at odds with the generality. Rather it meets a deeply felt need that many of us have, even extroverts too. It needs to be taken care of. As the writer points out, it is here that we can reflect, take stock, assess, get insights and be creative. For many of us, I’d suggest, it is the very fact that we find our anchor within that we are how we are on the world’s stage.

In fact I’d suggest that to be disconnected from Source once consciously gained can in itself be a stressor. Once we’ve built a more deeply-sensed connection, then to try and “extrovert” too much, especially where what you do is in some way contrary to your values at Source then there’s a tension that is really only resolved when the connection is reasserted. What can be tricky is to be aware, to notice when a disconnection has occurred. Such is the way of the Ego, with it’s security knee-jerk behaviour for example, that we can otherwise cut off before we notice. In fact we can get lulled into a false sense of security (!) and think we can cope. But until our connection is very strong that’s not so easy.

So, in the middle of whatever is going on, and for many of us at the moment it’s a very great deal, everybody seems to say, it is all the more important to have your own practice of inner reflection and stillness. It can be so easy to let it drop and then there’s all the more effort needed to restore it. My guru calls it “sweet effort” but it can seem hard work at times! But we have to do it. Staying on purpose requires commitment and steadfastness. We need to keep treading the path. Yes, difficulties may come along, but continuing the path is key. Gradually, whatever has distracted us is healed away and back comes that sense of inner stillness and peace, that inner wholeness and completeness that reminds us, re-minds us, that this is truly Life.

Because It never really went away!

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Beating ourselves up doesn’t make for lasting peace

Have you found that the frustration, shame or disappointment you have felt for something adverse that has happened for you has been such that you’ve turned it on yourself?

Beating ourselves up can be one way of dealing with lack of success in some area of life, although not exactly the most positive way of treating the self. If we don’t take it out on others, then there’s ourselves, if that is we feel we have to “take it out” on something. The anger, shame, rage, call it what you will, needs an outlet. There’s a long history of this. If society hasn’t judged us and then punished us for our alleged transgressions, then we can do a pretty good job on it ourselves. In medieval times it also had a religious aspect too, the Flagellants, especially during the Black Death, doing penance for our perceived sins and unworthiness. At the extreme end, some people self-harm today, deliberately hurting themselves, hitting, stabbing or cutting themselves for example, often as a release for the pain they feel.

Psychologically we can beat ourselves up too, being angry with ourselves, even insulting ourselves, very much as we might imagine others might do to us. Yet when it’s over, people can report feeling at peace. Interesting that we feel we need to inflict pain on ourselves to get to peace.

For some it is an energy that really needs to be channelled outwards, as if we really want to be directing it towards others or the world. Who would we really like to direct this at? People who were taught not to get angry with others, for example, direct it at themselves instead. Those too who’ve been on the receiving end of some verbal or physical abuse, then carry it on with themselves.

We might blame ourselves for some perceived inadequacy we think we have. We might think we’re failing at something, or “no good” at something, or don’t come up to our own exacting standards. I say “perceived” because this is all so much as we see it, or we think others might see it, and we lack a detached, more balanced view of what is going on.

It is as though there is one part judging another, inadequate part of us. And this can be a crucial insight, since neither part is who we are really, but just two parts of us at war. It’s like there’s a morally superior part that sits in judgement and then there’s some poor, mean and feeble underdog that can’t “get it right”.

In beating ourselves up what we fail to see is that this is all ego, all a false identification, not who we really are. In all the anger and angst the pure, peaceful Self is obscured, seemingly obliterated in the rage and upset. So, when we’re at peace again, then we can feel It more. Not a very self-respectful way of proceeding in order to know peace. We need to find a way to be kinder and loving to ourselves all the time. They say that the body is the temple of the spirit and therefore deserves kindness and respect. The challenge is to find ways to heal our angst and anger and connect at ease with our Inner Peace, the inner contentment of the Self.

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Happiness may not be the best goal to pursue

Attempts by governments to foster happiness in the population seem to have been hitting resistance. This is not only because of the well-known tendency of the population to tire of particular regimes over time and look for a change but also that the very happiness agenda itself has been controversial. It’s been pointed out that an over-strong emphasis on happiness as a desirable quality can actually have a dispiriting effect on those for whom being happy is something they are really struggling with. Even the supposed champion par excellence of happiness, Dr Seligman, has in his latest book Flourish moved away from saying that happiness is crucial to wellbeing and instead classed it as one facet of “Positive Emotion”, itself one of five determinants of well being.

If for example you are one who is suffering from depression, it is possible that too much of an emphasis on being happy could tip you further into depression. You might for example feel you’re failing, that it’s beyond you. People who are depressed are even likely to avoid being around situations where you are supposed to be happy. It can just “miss it” for them. If someone comes up to them and says “Cheer up!” they might just be met with an expletive.

This can seem to fly in the face of so much cultural pressure to “be positive”, to at all costs keep a smile on your face. I’m always struck how in business today, when people talk together they often have a fixed smile on their face. I remember at one training course it was, with a Transatlantic reference, called a “PanAm smile”, a big, cheesy grin but no crows feet creases at the edge of the eyes. Look into the eyes and they aren’t smiling. The eyes after all are where truth lies.

Happiness can become a polarity, at the other end of which is sadness. Those who are bipolar will know this painfully well: you can flip from one state to the other very fast. Rather, I would suggest a re-framing of perspective. Happiness as a state can be a misleading goal for those on a path of personal growth.

In meditation, for example, before you settle into a meditative state you might first need to negotiate the Scylla and Charybdis pitfalls of the mind. All can play itself out when you confront your mind’s tendencies here. You might go off into some blank state and then you might be caught up in whatever is plaguing your mind that day. If you’re feeling down, you can get that in meditation. The art is how to become aware or mindful, to return your awareness to your breath (and perhaps to a mantra) and let go of what the mind is focused on. Instead you become the watcher of the mind, the witness.

In the aware state you might simply be aware. You might be very present. You might just be blank. You might feel at peace, calm, steady, balanced, centered. Then you might feel very contented. You might even feel love, or bliss, ananda. And then you might not. But you would seek not to judge it, not to have expectation, not to set yourself up in comparison, but be unattached. Once you set yourself up in comparison, you are setting up a subject/object separation and are no longer at One.

So, from this perspective, as Seligman says, happiness is just one state. But it’s not the only one, or necessarily a pre-condition for well being. So, perhaps it’s best not to get hung up on the search for happiness per se! Like so much of life, it is riven with paradox.