The present moment is filled with joy and happiness, if you are attentive

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Quote of the Week

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The present moment is filled with joy and happiness.  If you are attentive, you will see it.  ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

This quote reminded me of an exercise in Julia Cameron’s book The Right to Write.  It’s very simple: List 50 things that make you happy.  Fifty may seem like a lot, but once I got started, it was easy to think of more than 50 things that bring me joy, contentment, peace, and awe (all forms of happiness).

Ms. Cameron’s point, like Thich Nhat Hang’s, is just how accessible happiness is:

Happiness is not only a mood.  It is a decision.  Writing our list of fifty happinesses causes us to see how simple some forms of joy are, how we can make ourselves happy in simple ways—read the Neruda poems, eat the ice cream, take time to check out the sunsets.  Happiness lists are also an effective deterrent for situational depression.  When the blues set in, the simple act of listing joys can help elicit some.  (The Right to Write page 129)

When I made my initial list (I have kept adding to it), I too was struck that most of the items on my list do not require fame, fortune, or expensive things and that many sources of joy are available throughout my day, if I am present and paying attention.  Saturday morning, while walking from the library to the grocery store, I was stopped by the beauty and wonder of spring buds in a row of sidewalk trees.  Some buds were brand new and tiny; some were full grown but still closed fuzzy capsules; others were in various stages of eruption (but no flowers yet).

It also occurred to me that the happiness list can be another tool to help you identify values and priorities.  What brings you deep happiness may reflect a value you hadn’t previously recognized as a guiding principle.  And why wouldn’t you invest more time and energy on things that inspire peace, joy, contentment, and awe?  A glamorous party may initially seem like a “must-do,” but if those parties always leave you feeling “Blech,” while cooking a delicious meal for friends at home brings you great joy, it seems obvious which you should do more often.  (Even if you need to attend some parties for work reasons, you can decide to limit the frequency or how much time you spend at events.)

A few examples from my happinesses list:

  1. Time with great, loving friends
  2. Laughing out loud (with friends, or thanks to something I’m reading, watching, seeing, or listening to)
  3. Great stories, whatever the form (a friend’s story, book, movie, story slam, podcast, TV show . . . )
  4. Thunder and lightning storms
  5. Feeling, hearing, smelling, and watching a storm come in
  6. Comfy, firm beds with soft sheets
  7. Vanilla porter beer
  8. Walking outside—alone, with human friends, and with furry friends
  9. Tree buds in spring
  10. Flowers! Their scents, colors, shapes
  11. A great sail
  12. An Alvin Ailey performance*


What about you?  What struck you as you wrote and reviewed your happinesses list?


*If you’ve never seen Alvin Ailey live, I highly recommend it.  Even from the very last row in the upper-most balcony of Boston’s Wang theatre, it is moving, inspiring, and beautiful.

Alexandra Marchosky
Alexandra Marchosky
I coach individuals and organizations to do and be better by more fully living their values.
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