March 20th is World Happiness Day. It’s as if our calendars are calling on us to evaluate our lives on the pure basis of feeling. LAMA turns to it’s interview partners to investigate…
While it may seem the key to happiness is as elusive as it is commercialized; it is our purpose to seek it (you may have suspected, but the Dalai Lama confirms). Western cultures often take a calvinistic approach and hope that whatever life path we choose ultimately arrives in the clearing of happiness while many eastern traditions suggest otherwise. Instead of working tirelessly in the hopes that you are “happy” at some future date, daily practices such as yoga and ritual can focus on cultivating gratitude and contentment in the present.
In the digital age where advertising (a medium crafted to make you feel insecure) and social media exist on almost every surface, happiness is often found broadcasted on a screen rather than reflected in a mirror. Globalization has changed the way we work, immigration and environmental degradation have made us more afraid and technology seems to promote isolation in the guise of connection. It’s no wonder that in 2018 Americans reached a “record level of unhappiness” according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. With those seemingly insurmountable realities, how does one become “happy”? And can such an awesome phenomenon be achieved through the maintenance of the daily mundane?
Yudelky Escorbores is a health and wellness coach focused on Nutrition. Self-improvement or weight loss are other journeys, like happiness, that seem daunting to attempt and aspirants often don’t know where to start. When speaking on the positive changes she made in her life post-pregnancy, Yudelky noted the keystone habit of running sparked massive changes across the board. “Change is a process that takes time, but it is attainable if you embrace it as part of the new vision of you. Mesmerized by my own health improvements, I started researching human behavior and our ability to change and adapt. I learned about our physiology and the important role nutrition plays in health and wellbeing. Genetic predisposition to certain ailments and conditions is a real problem, but it only amounts to ~35% of the risk. The rest lies in our daily behavioral choices.
Andrea Brook of Sonic Butterfly productions takes the same daily practice of intentions and choices and adds a 60ft long LED harp. Sonic Butterfly is a mystical, musical experience lead by Brooke in her Ojai cocoon but encompasses much more daily practice than extraordinary experience. “ Sonic Butterfly is really about inspiring people to recognize that whatever crazy idea they have whatever they feel their purpose is in life that they can take step by step and begin to move that forward consciously and physically in the world through that energetic recognition of what’s important to them. And that’s really what Sonic Butterfly Productions is. Is this process of step by step. It’s about transformation and about purpose and about bringing that message into the world.”
For Rajan Narayanaswamy, who teaches Ashtanga Yoga at the Chinmaya Mission in New Jersey, the practice of yoga is essentially spiritual. “The word yoga means the Union or Uniting with something”, but uniting with what? That is what yoga tries to teach us- that this aliveness that you feel in you, the source of this is very profound, it is not coming from your brain or your heart or from your cells, it’s coming from a much deeper place and the name given to that is Chaitanya or, in English, consciousness, the source of everything. Uniting with that because we have forgotten that we came from there, and uniting with that is the purpose of yoga, and that is why the Ashtanga yoga system, eventually leads to that union.”
While yoga obviously has physical benefits, the spiritual aspect of it is often neglect in Western exercise regimens or falls on the deaf ears of a non-spiritual population. Lindsey Kimura said it more simply, “There’s constant inquiry, constant returning to breath, to stillness, to meditation and because we are human we always have to come back.”
This mindfulness that yoga cultivates doesn’t just belong on the mat. Mounira Latrache, an advocate and coach for mindfulness and compassion in the executive world, “because mindfulness doesn’t mean always to meditate in a silent room. For me, it means finding ways to cope in exactly that world that we live in and I’m super passionate about this and passionate about empowering others to really go into their authentic self”. Latrache in her interview with Lama, emphasized how personal growth and understanding effects every relationship in the broader world. Cultivating happiness in oneself it seems is contagious.
How do you choose happiness every day, including March 20th? What will you do with this one wild and precious life?
Are you a health expert and want to share your knowledge? Or promote your practice? Email LAMA to get interviewed today!
Hallie Frost is a journalist living in Berlin.