Thursday, September 24, 2009

20 Ways to Find, Sustain, and Share Happiness

20 Ways to Find, Sustain, and Share Happiness
Megan R. McDonough 8/14/2004

The Dalai Lama says that we all share one common aspiration: we all want to be happy; no one wants to suffer. This universal desire binds us together. At some point the realization dawns that no matter how big the paycheck is, no matter how many degrees we get, no matter how nice the house and the white picket fence is, none of it can assure happiness.
What is it that does bring lasting happiness, no matter what the circumstance? The ancient poet and mystic Rumi gives us a clue when he says, “Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible.” The invisible world is within you, and it’s where lasting happiness resides.
Here are some suggestions for working in the invisible realm:
Look closely at what causes lasting happiness. Buying a new sweater might feel good for a moment or two, but looking closely you see that that sooner or later all new stuff loses its appeal, growing old and mundane. Reinforce in your mind that happiness is not the result of accumulating goods.
Savor the moment. When your child gives you a bear hug, live that experience fully, whilenoticing every little detail. The same holds true for the boring meeting that’s putting you to sleep. As Leo Buscaglia, the author of Love, says, “Braille your world.” Being mindful doesn’t mean things will be good, just that you are aware of them as they are, without judgment. Expand your awareness. See new perspectives by challenging your own beliefs. Expand your horizons by asking yourself, “What if…”.
Play. Between work, family, and grocery shopping, finding time to play can be just another chore. Forget picking up that gallon of milk on the way home from work today. Instead, tickle your children.
Practice gratitude. Focus your mind on all that you already possess, relegating that feeling of “needing more” to its proper place. If it works for Oprah, it works for me.
Follow the yes path. Margaret Wheatley, best-selling author of Leadership and the New Science, says that when events call out yes, follow that path. It’s certainly easier than banging your head against the wall.
Take time for self-reflection. Since childhood, we’ve been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” A much better question to ask is “How do I want to be?”
Choose to live your values. After reflecting on your personal values, instill them in your everyday actions.
Experiment. Philosopher Nietzsche said, “Life is a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves.” Give yourself permission to try something different, without obsessing over the outcome.
Listen. Get your mind off your own problems by lending an ear to hear others.
Stay present. As the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hahn has recommended in his many books, when you wash the dishes, just wash the dishes. The mind’s habit is to rehearse what the future holds or re-run life by mulling over past events. This moment is where life actually is lived.
Smile. It’s such a simple way to change your inner landscape and connect with others.
Know that life is finite. You are not guaranteed a tomorrow. Your life is precious. Live it fully.
Happiness is here, in this moment. George Bernard Shaw said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” Know that there is nothing to magically “find” for happiness; it’s created through you.
Notice your breath. It’s not difficult to simply notice the air entering your body and then watching it exit, but it has a powerful effect. Use it to re-focus from the hectic outside world to an attitude of mindfulness.
Give. Whether you gift the gift of time, money, or knowledge, sharing transforms the mind.
Your path to happiness is uniquely yours. Thomas Merton said, “Looking for God is like seeking a path in a field of snow; if there is no path and you are looking for one, walk across the field and there is your path.” It’s the same for happiness; you make your own path.
Drop the guilt trip. Go ahead and have a night out with a friend. See the sappy show that your husband wouldn’t be caught dead at.
Spend time in nature. Get out of a world lit by fluorescent lights and divided by cubicles. Take a walk in the woods. At the very least put a plant in your office.
Go to bed early. Never underestimate the power of a good nights sleep.
Joseph Campbell, who is best known for his forays into Mythology, cited a Polynesian saying to describe the state of humanity: “We are standing on a whale, fishing for minnows.” What you are looking for—what we are all looking for—is as close as your own self. Happiness is the whale right under your feet.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Birthday Wishes

To all you wonderful people out there who took time to send me birthday wishes.... all the hugs and love in the world goes out to you. My day was perfect in every sense. There really are wonderful people surrounding me and I feel supremely blessed to friends and family that truly care deeply about me. What more is there to life? A good bike ride in the mountains I suppose. Oh wait that did happen for my birthday!
My day was filled with phone calls, emails, and texts (oh the marvels of technology!) from wonderful people followed by an evening at the Temple Bar (as per my request) visiting with friends and family while drinking way too much wine and delectable treats. The day was preceded by a long weekend in Whistler thanks to Jess. Three days of perfect weather, perfect riding conditions and the perfect group to share it with.
What more could a girl ask for? Thanks everyone for making me feel incredibly special!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


We live in a world that is run on fear. I feel that our senses are so numbed by the romanticization and exploitation of our "news" that the facts and any sort of information is lost in the dramatization of trying to stimulate our senses.

The twisted and contorted and misled and misinformed and not informed world of media has become part of my job and part of life for the time being. The project that I am working on has ended up being a political hot button. I witness, first hand the mistakes, biases and political will of the media. What a learning experience! After the name calling, threats, accusations, and misinformation settles, we are left standing there legitimately questioning and challenging our motives.

At some point we must stand for something or else our county/country will be run by and for the interest of money.

Enough of my personal soap box, this is not the forum for political agendas nor is it interesting to anyone besides the few that are involved. I would like to share a letter that is written by a very prominent agricultural advocate here in Whatcom County.

My View
By Henry Bierlink

Fear Based Approaches Lack Integrity

I've attended a couple events recently that have me reflecting on the role of "fear" in our political process. Fear is a powerful motivator. Scaring people into action is much more effective then educating them. But it usually results in lousy public policy.

One of these events was a meeting concerning the implementation of the County's critical areas ordinance on farms. It was healthy to have rural citizens express their concerns over how we try to balance protection of water quality, wetlands, and wildlife habitat with our desire to keep farmers and farmland productive. But an unhealthy fear clouded the discussion. Somehow, large portions of the audience concluded that the County has determined that animal agriculture, including 4-H and FFA projects, was a great threat to the environment and that draconian steps needed to be made to restrict it if not discourage it.

This fear has some factual basis but was blown out of proportion at the meeting. The County is legally obligated to protect all its resources and when animals are mismanaged they can cause negative impacts. The County seeks to provide the least onerous means of providing some accountability through the Conservation Program on Agricultural Lands program administered at the Conservation District. Most who go through this program realize that respecting property owner's desires and the needs of environmental protection is a delicate but achievable balance.

Farm Friends understands that this program is not perfect and the meeting underscored that some needed changes should be made. That is a productive discussion. Fear that the County wants to discourage agriculture is not.

On the other end of the spectrum I attended Food INC., a documentary film painting a grossly distorted picture of production agriculture and building a case in favor of locally produced, organic food. Again, "fear" was the dominate emotion, with the intent to scare people away from the most efficient, safest food production system in the world.

I don't argue that there are many legitimate criticisms of the way we produce the food we enjoy so cheaply. Just like in our recent financial meltdown there are places where greed and short term decision-making has left us with systems that are indefensible when you step back and honestly reflect. There are a myriad of books out about our food system. I find most of them reasonably balanced and very interesting reads.

Food INC. doesn't come close to measuring up to the standard these books have set. I could cut them some slack as it is hard to be thorough in a 90 minute film, but they don't even try. They present a series of "hit pieces" outlining abuses in our food systems and then note that those they are criticizing refused to comment.

A recent Capital Press op ed piece reinforced my conclusions: "The film did little to advance the debate over how food is produced. More importantly, it ignored the complexity of an efficient system that feeds much of the world."

I don't like operating out of fear. I have some sympathy for landowners who haven't had the experience of working through the complexities of balancing animal husbandry and the environment. I have no sympathy for those that use fear to manipulate me.

Friday, September 11, 2009



Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Thank you letter to Smart Trips

2509 Huron Street
Bellingham, WA 98226
September 2, 2009

Dear Smart Trips,
Every couple of months I get a reward delivered to my house. It is not a van with a large card board check and balloons; it comes modestly in an envelope from Smart Trips. It started off as ice cream, then a t-shirt, bagels, and even a movie rental, all from my favorite local shops. These little treats have landed in my hands and put a smile on my face. Someone out there is recognizing the fact that I make active transportation trips here in Whatcom County. The latest reward made me stop and think that maybe I am making a difference by getting on my bike instead of getting in my car.
This most recent gift couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
I have always dreamed of being a “one car family,” my husband and I got rid of our second car this year. It has been a rather easy transition even considering we both work about 10 miles from our jobs. This is the first time that we have made a conscious choice to have one car and put effort forward to make it work. Living in the car centric culture that we do one car can be difficult, and I must admit a car of my own is still in the back of my mind. I was ready to go back to having my personal car. I justified it every way imaginable, the next thing I knew; I had convinced myself that I had to have my own car. Ironically when I got the mail that day there was a card from Smart Trips congratulating me for making at least 200 active transportation trips in a year. I took a step back in awe, I was getting formally acknowledged for commuting by bike. I am making a difference by simply choosing to get on my bike, something that brings me joy and happiness at no cost.
I have since then reconsidered my want for a car and it was the simple gesture from the people working at Smart Trips. Fifteen dollars to spend at the Farmers Market and a slice of cake kept the fire alive. I have put almost 4,000 miles on my bike in less than two years by simply ridding to work. The second car can wait, maybe indefinitely because I can do everything on my bike (even in a mini skirt) and the occasional carpool.
Most of the people I know travel by means other than the bicycle. For the most part, they're still automobiles. Automobile drivers. It's the norm, isn't it? In a society like ours--where more money is spent advertising automobiles than is spent on the entire national mass transit system, where everyone's background assumption equates travel with driving--it isn't easy to make the shift to bicycle commuting.
High gas prices. Expensive car payments. Traffic delays. Road rage. Expanding waistlines. There are many great reasons to consider traveling to work by bicycle. It's an effective, healthy, inexpensive, and fun alternative that is attracting more and more commuters all over the world. One or a combination of reasons got me hooked on the bike as my primary means of transportation to my place of work. Now that I have started commuting by bike, I have a hard time imaging anything besides “Orangette” (yes I am one of those people who has named my bike).
At first I would ride just a couple times a week and most often I would call my husband to give me a ride on his way home. Now, every morning I roll up my pant leg, put on my bright yellow jacket, load my pannier and hop on my bike. I usually don’t consider getting in a car for work, it doesn’t even sound attractive anymore. The bike ride to work is the perfect way to start the day and get around town. It wasn’t always like this. What keeps me biking 11 miles work and then another 11 miles home everyday is simple.
Like so many other bike commuters the bike simple replaces or supplements the car. Getting on my bike is a habit, I am programmed to get on my bike rather than getting in the car, I don’t even think twice about it. I get exercise, fresh air, make snappy shortcuts, ride through grass and get home on trails and not stuck in intersections or busy roads. I know the other commuters on my route by first name and wave at them everyday. We are going to stay a one car family, avoiding all the costs associated with owning a second car. As I get more accustomed to riding I realize just as convenient biking is and as usually takes the same or less time as driving.
I am making a difference in my life and the people around me. The best way is to show is by action. If people see me, complete strangers, my coworkers and friends who listen to me get excited and praise commuting by bike sees me out on the roads, they may consider what it would be like to make less car trips. Someone may realize that I am going all the same places by bike as by car; soon they try it and experience just how easy it is. Slowly, one person at a time, we can make a difference.
Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to making this a healthier community for everyone.
Michelle Stiles