I wouldn’t have participated in Gorge Happiness Month had I not been asked to write about it. I was too busy, I thought, to fit in another activity. And that attitude – that gratitudes, acts of kindness, and moments of silence were extra To Do items – turned out to be the first obstacle. When I realized it was October 2nd and I needed to start doing this, I felt resentful. Why had I made more work for myself? But the three daily actions represent values that were already important to me, and I recognized that the ultimate goal was for them to flow out of me like water from a spring.
So I let the resentment pass and got started. Now, I could’ve cheated on the gratitudes. Each night, as I lay down in bed, I express silent gratitude: for a set list of things including my family and dogs, the fact that I get to write for a living, etc. I also look for at least one new thing from that day to be grateful for. I could have counted that as my gratitudes for GHM. But that wasn’t the point; the point was to increase my level of gratitude. So I started paying attention throughout my day for things I was grateful for, and that turned out to be easy.
Acts of kindness and moments of silence were harder. Kindness is already important to me, but somehow in this context I found myself thinking, “What, am I supposed to go out of my way to think of something to do for someone that I otherwise wouldn’t do – geez what a lot of work!” And the silence – I was supposed to stop everything else to be quiet and still for five minutes (so long? my jaw dropped when I read that)… I just didn’t find myself noticing when I could do it.
As I struggled with these challenges and began to make progress, I found myself pondering that ultimate goal, a state in which these actions did not require thought and effort. And it occurred to me that what I really wanted was a spirit of kindness, a spirit of gratitude, and a spirit of… call it stillness. As desirable as it would be to have actions become second nature, an action is inherently limited; it only takes one form, or applies in one situation. A spirit, on the other hand, is infinitely flexible, manifesting however is appropriate to the moment.
I can imagine what a spirit of kindness or gratitude might be like. But a spirit of stillness? See, I‘m always productive, and never really relax. And my head is a noisy place. There’s a chorus of voices, and almost always a song playing. In short, I have a busy, noisy spirit. So this question, “what would it mean to have a spirit of stillness?”, seems a vital one for me.
Participating in Gorge Happiness Month didn’t make me happier, but it put me on the right road.