HAPPINESS: is enjoying time with your loved ones and not having any worries. It is not measurable, tradable, or profitable, and it can’t be measured by material wealth.
I am pleased to introduce you to Andrea F. Polard, an independent researcher in the subject of happiness and author of the author of “A Unified Theory of Happiness.” She is the founder of the Los Angeles Center for Zen Psychology, and is here to talk to us about her thoughts on how peace and happiness are important in our lives.
1. Everyone wants happiness in life. The more the merrier they say! How does happiness play a part in our lives?
I am glad you ask. Most people think of happiness as “feeling great” and that’s indeed an experience of which we can never get enough. Happiness is much more to me. It’s my answer to all of life’s questions, miracles, and conundrums. Life goes up and down, and I want to be present with everything it brings. I want to show up as a complete person, engage with an open heart and mind, with my senses open, feelings available, thoughts flexible, and my actions in alignment with the way of life. Life is big, so it needs a big response. I say “Yes” to whatever life throws at me, whether it feels good or bad, whether I want it or not, whether it gives me pleasure or pain.
2. Is it possible to be happy all the time, even in difficult situations?
Yes, but only in the sense of “being here and fully engaged.” I do not reject my presence when it presents itself as difficult to me. I do not ponder “Why me?” or dwell on “That’s not fair.” Life is full of difficulties and I am here to respond to these difficulties the most creatively, most lovingly, and most constructively that I can.
3. What is authentic happiness? Can you see it in someone’s smile or in their eyes? How long does it usually last?
Authentic happiness is relating to the entire universe. When someone relates and leaves nothing out, you can see it in the face and posture. There is a presence about a truly happy person, a look that says “Yes,” to oneself, to others, and to the world. It may come with an open smile, a smile that isn’t pretentious or hiding difficulty, but a smile that accepts and is at peace with what is.
4. Can you know someone’s feelings by their facial expressions?
We can all see a lot in others’ non-verbal expression as we are wired to pay more attention to what someone displays in the face than says with words. I just have more training in this as I formally studied non-verbal behavior and as I am a psychotherapist. I may see more because I want to see more. I want to be fully present for other people and, of course, for my clients.
5. People tell me to try and clear my mind to relax. Is it possible to close your eyes and forget about everything so your mind gets a break?
Yes. While relaxing usually means to slow down, you can let your mind be totally alert and have no thoughts. It’s a meditative state of mind. I love it. It’s part of my practice.
6. What is the difference between meditation and relaxation? Does it all benefit you the same way?
Meditation is not just relaxing, but to be keenly aware of the present moment while not interfering with mental activities that revolve around our little self. While meditation is beneficial to almost all people, some people who suffer from mental illness are not helped by it. To become peaceful and still can be frightening to those who need social support urgently and to those who have intrusive thoughts.
7. What is the difference between the mind resting and the mind having thoughts?
Mind resting usually doesn’t mean to have no thoughts, but to slow down thoughts and give each thought less meaning. Resting is going into the body and allowing things to be as they are. When I rest my mind, I grant myself not to compete and worry, not to regret and doubt. I grant myself to respond to life as a whole instead of to the little pieces I make life out to be. I let go of my categories, of what’s right or wrong, what’s useful or not, who’s beautiful or ugly. I go with “what is” instead of what I want life to be. I am letting myself be okay with the world the way I find it.
8. When reading your article “Are You Too Hard on Yourself?” I thought about myself! I’m someone who loves to work even after a long day of work. I come home and clean, cook, and take care of all the responsibilities at home. The only time I stop is when I go to bed. Why is it that we tend to stress and take control instead of letting the brain rest?
I think it’s wonderful that you love your work. You make things happen! What you might be missing is creative non-action, a way of being that does not involve your intervention. Taking control is good. But we need to realize that we cannot put life in a box and contain it with our action. Life is wild. It’s hard to sit down and realize that most of life is out of our control. Sit still and let yourself feel anxious about this.
9. When difficult situations happen, how do you deal with them without stress and anxiety?
I am unequivocally on my side. I am my best friend and can lean onto myself always. My stress level is low because I don’t expect myself to be perfect. Nobody is. I accept my imperfection and know that the best I can do is to stop trying to be perfect. I just want to be kind and learn and grow. A tree can do it. It is being a tree and growing in the meantime. Be like a tree!
10. What is something you do to de-stress and relax yourself?
I go for walks in nature. If I don’t have access to a park or forest, I listen to natural sounds on recordings, surround myself with house plants and pet my dog. I learn from Mother Earth as she touches me in so many ways. Then there is exercise. I might not always like it, but I sure like the way I feel afterwards. My practice includes meditation. I ask myself many times a day, “Am I conscious?” It wakes me up while it puts me at rest. Funny, right? But that’s life.
What is your definition of happiness? Leave your comments in the section below. We would love to hear your thoughts!