It’s amazing how the mind works, right? One moment we can be angry and pissed off; in another, happy and gregarious.
One moment we can sick; In another, healthy.
Take, for instance, the last time I acted on stage. I had just come down with a delicious case of the flu and couldn’t hold down my lunch for the life of me. My roommates stayed far away from me lest they too come down with this stomach bug.
How, for the life of me, would I play a carefree and bubbly college student on stage that night? And the kicker… my character was the proverbial 30-year old who still lived at his parents’ home and comes home drunk to devour a plate of cold Spaghettios live on stage.
Minutes before the spotlight would shine on me that night, I imagined all the terrible scenarios that could happen on stage as I tried to hold down my character’s late night supper.
I breathed deep and steady for 60 seconds and did what I would always do before a performance. I said a quick prayer to my Nanas, imagined them in the audience watching me, and visualized my best performance.
The lights went up. I came on stage. And before I knew it, there I was bowing before the audience feeling healthy and happy with that high that all actors know comes after a performance.
The applause died down and with my first step off the stage, I transformed back into my terribly sick self.
How could this be? I thought to myself. One minute, I’m sick. The other, I’m healthy, and then I’m sick again?!
The answer may be as simple as one breath, says Sam Harris in his book Waking Up: “How we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the character of our experience and, therefore, the quality of our lives.”
Join me in trying this:
For The Next 60 Seconds, Press Pause On Whatever Mindset You Currently Have.
Take a deep inhale for four seconds followed by a deep exhale for four seconds. Repeat, starting the inhale in the deep bottom of the belly and rising it to the back of the shoulder blades. Exhale, coming back down.
Continue to breathe this way as you look around for a bit of beauty in front of you: the sunlight as it glistens off the petal of a flower, the bee that defies physics and hovers above a flower’s stamen, or a coworker or loved one who brings you joy.
Turn now to think of one bad thing that is not happening to you. You are not losing a limb. You are not running downstairs because of a missile attack. Your house is not on fire. You are not running out of water. You are not alone. And on and on and on.
You have abundant joy in your life, in this moment, in this breath.
Let me tell you a secret: When I woke up this morning, I felt lethargic and jet lagged and quickly thought of all the work I need to do, the errands that need to be done, the commitments I made to those I love, the mountain of things that I keep saying I will get to one day but never do.
In my first moments of waking up this morning, I felt defeated. Instead of focusing on the abundance of joy in my life, I focused in on the negative.
So, I shuffled over to my pour-over, fed Yoda the Cat, and took a few breaths. And in those breaths, I realized I was choosing to be unhappy.
Right now, as I type this message to you, I’m choosing to be happy.
What are you choosing right now?
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