Where are you on the “happiness index?”

Fay Hart, poet (Yardsale) and recent Plug In member from San Miguel de Allende Mexico, sent an email last week with an intriguing subject line: the happiest place on earth. It was a link to a Ted talk. I love the Ted website, so I listened. It’s about measuring the happiness level of countries. The speaker showed a chart with one lone dot representing a country that was clearly happier than all the others. I about fell out of my chair. The happiest place on earth is Costa Rica!

Here’s the talk if you’d like to hear it.

Of course I sent the link to everyone interested in the Writing Down Your Soul soul-venture in Costa Rica this April. But I don’t think the universe nudged Fay to send this to me just to fill the trip. There’s a bigger message here. A message that applies to all of us.

I thought, if countries can be measured on a Happiness Index, is there a Happiness Index for people? There are, it seems, a gazillion books on happiness. Happiness seemed to be the topic du jour the last few years. To be honest, I didn’t read any of them. I had a gut feeling they were talking about something a bit too superficial for me, and I wasn’t sure that someone else’s definition of happiness and how to get there would fit me.

But, when I watched the Ted talk on the Global Happiness Index, I felt inspired to come up with a human Happiness Index. My life has been transformed from pretty darn miserable to amazingly joyful, so I thought: I can do this.

I started with the things that make me happy: writing, creating, cooking, being with my son, praying, going for walks, watching birds of prey…. All fun, yes, but, I had to admit they were not deep enough.

So I tried to write a deeper list. Things like: I have a purpose and I live my purpose; I am not alone, I have an intimate relationship with the Divine; I am excited about my future…. The second list definitely sounded better, stronger, happier, but nice as it was, I knew in my gut it wasn’t universal. I hadn’t found the universal Human Happiness Index. So I dropped the whole idea.

Until Monday.

On Monday, I started rereading Anatomy of the Spirit for my Soul Vows telecourse. When I wrote my own Soul Vows ten years ago, I was obsessed with Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. I read it several times, underlining and circling and highlighting something on every page.

In my current Soul Vows course, I recommend each member select one or two books that really speak to them, and read them slowly and thoughtfully so the ideas held within the pages gently and effortlessly enter their subconscious and help them create their Soul Vows, just like Anatomy of the Spirit helped me.

I thought it would be fun to reread a book that meant so much to me years ago. Well, it’s turned out to be a whole lot more. I can’t put it down. Anatomy is an astonishingly clear explanation of the connection between our personal power and our health or illness.

Listen: “Our relationship with power is at the core of our health.” (If you’ve read Carolyn before, you know she’s blunt.) “You need to become conscious of what gives you power.” And you need to become aware of what drains your power: “Always address the question, ‘Why am I losing power?'”

Sound simple? Well, yes, only two things to do. Become aware of what feeds your power and what drains your power. But easy? Maybe not. Here’s the rub. “Never look to another person to make you happy–happiness is an internal, personal attitude and responsibility.”

Oh! That’s why I couldn’t come up with a universal human happiness index. There isn’t one. Happiness is an inside job. Your happiness is inside of you, your choices, your loves, your relationship with yourself, your relationship with Spirit. You have to decide for yourself what makes you happy and what you are going to do to become happy and stay happy.

As I pondered this, I realized, wait a minute, I already have my Happiness Index. It’s my Soul Vows. And there are just 7 measures.

1. unite to create good
2. live in partnership
3. honor myself
4. come from love
5. surrender there is no path but God’s
6. seek truth
7. pray always

When I do these seven things, make these seven choices, live these seven ways, I am deeply happy regardless of what’s going on around me. (Now I know why I burst out smiling when I say my vows aloud every morning.)

Carolyn wraps up her concept with two simple instructions. “Achieving health, happiness, and an energy balance comes down to deciding to focus more on the positive than the negative and to live in a manner spiritually congruent with what we know is the truth.”

Ah, so now all I have to do is live my Soul Vows. And I’ve been moving closer and closer to that over the last ten years. Am I there yet? No, not 100%, but I am getting closer. I know instantly when I’m not being congruent. My stomach does a little screaming act, shouting NO NO NO! It’s really rather difficult to ignore. In Carolyn-speak what it’s doing is screaming: Stop! Power leak! Stop! And I stop. It’s that simple.

So here’s my thought for you: Do some deep soul writing about your very own Happiness Index. You don’t have to call the result your Soul Vows. You can call it “My Happiness Index” or “My Power List.” Call it anything you like. But do take the time to hone in on the things that give you power and the things that drain your power.

Then, take a moment every day to renew your commitment to live in a way that is congruent with your power, your truth. Based on Carolyn’s research and my personal experience, I believe your life will be one of real happiness, not the happiness that comes with stuff, but the happiness that comes with being the powerful loving being you were made to be.

December Plan Day 19: Who’s in your Dungeon?

We’ve been talking about forgiveness for several days now. And the conversation just keep getting richer and richer. Truth is we could probably talk about forgiveness with our inner divine Voice for a month, and still find more to say and more to forgive.

That’s why most people don’t begin. We sense instinctively that if we start to poke beneath the taut surface of our “everything is fine” mask, we’ll find dozens of wounds that need healing and there’ll never be an end to it. So why start?

Here’s why: forgiveness is the most delicious, most healing, most soul-lifting, joy-inducing thing you can do.

Want freedom? Forgive.
Want a vibrant healthy body? Forgive.
Want to find your purpose? Live your purpose? Forgive.
Want love? Forgive.
Want that magical new year? Gotta forgive first.

Forgiveness is the magic. It opens the door to a life you cannot even imagine at the moment. A life that’s yours, all yours, if you will just let go of the anger and resenting holding you prisoner.

St Theresa of Avila knew this way back in the sixteenth century. She explained it in her treatise, Inner Castle. In Entering the Castle, Caroline Myss gives us a modern insight into St Theresa’s vision. For Theresa, the soul has seven floors in the inner castle. Well, guess what’s on the first floor? Your castle’s dungeon.

Listen to St Theresa speaking to you about the dungeon through Caroline Myss:

“Everyone has a dungeon. It’s where you hold your prisoners…. Haul open the heavy lead door and walk down the damp, stone stairs. The atmosphere gts darker and colder as you descent. As you walk through, notice that there are cells for prisoners lining the walls. Everyone you cannot forgive or whom you resent or wish harm to is held by you in these cells. The parents you cannot forgive are in a cell; the business partner who cheated you and whom you still resent is in a cell; the ex-spouse is in a cell…. No doubt some of the people you hold prisoners are holding you prisoner as well.

Why do you keep prisoners? …you keep someone prisoner because you feel he has not been punished enough for the harm he did to you.”

It’s time to take a little tour of your own dungeon. Close your eyes for a few seconds and walk down the stairs in your own inner gut. Look around at the cells. Surprising how many are in there, huh? Glance around inside the cells. Who’s there? Any surprises?

Now, comes the fun part. And it’s easy. Instead of dissecting all the stories, reopening the wounds, explaining what happened, justifying your behavior or your motivation for locking them up, just release them. That’s it. Just release them. Here’s how you do it.

Stand up to stretch out your dungeon. Close your eyes. Put your hands in front of your dungeon like two doors. Visualize yourself walking down into your dungeon. See the cells. Walk up to each one and open it. Gesture for the prisoner to leave. No talking. No apologizing. No explaining. No nothing. Just open the cells and watch them walk out. When all your prisoners are gone, walk to the very back and release the pathetic prisoner in the darkest dankest cell. You know who that is. You.

When your dungeon is empty, call on Spirit to flood the dungeon with white and gold light. See the space being filled with this loving gentle healing light. Watch the cells dissolve. When the space is completely transformed from prison to light, say thank you and open your eyes.

How does that feel?

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