Wednesday, October 12, 2011

How am I? I am happy and at peace

Whenever people asked me, "How are you?" I used to have one of two frequent responses:
- "I am fine."
- "Busy, busy."

I found both responses to be unsatisfactory.  So recently, I decided to change my response to, "I am happy and at peace" whenever it is true.  And since I am happy and at peace a lot, thanks to my years of mindfulness training, even when I'm busy and feeling overwhelmed (which also happens a lot), it is fast becoming my default response.

To my surprise, I found that response to have a big impact on others.  Some people tell me that when they hear that response, they immediately also feel happy and at peace.  Wow.  The simple act of articulating your own inner well-being can inspire others.  Very cost-effective.

I also discovered that responding that way has an impact on me.  When I stop saying, "I'm busy, busy" and start saying "I'm happy and at peace", my frame of reference changes.  I stopped seeing my being as an island of peace surrounded by a sea of busy-ness, and started seeing it as an island of busy-ness surrounded by a sea of peace.  The circumstantial situation is unchanged, but the mind frames it differently, and that change in framing alone changes the mental and emotional state.  It makes the mind perceive the peace more easily than it usually does, and what the mind can perceive easily, it can indulge in easily.  So mind changes its indulgence from busy-ness to peace.

I hope you too are happy and at peace, my friend.


  1. Is it inherently good to be happy and at peace?

    It is possible that I am angry too much, but I think there are also many people who are not angry enough.

    Steve Jobs is an inspiration, yet he was often angry (or, at least, not at peace). Discuss.

  2. Steve, while arguably a genius, was also universally known as a jerk. He also went to an early grave. So you get your good with your bad.

  3. Dave, your theory is that pancreatic cancer is caused by being mean to people? This seems a notion of karma I can't endorse.

  4. I think the more important question is: if I when I choose to be happy and at peace, whether I am capable of making that choice. For me, it is very important that I can make that choice, rather than be compelled by the emotional flavor of the day.

  5. That sounds useful, if you can also choose when to be angry, and if you use those abilities prudently.

    I am just somewhat concerned about the idea of people choosing to be happy and at peace when circumstances dictate that it should be otherwise. It can be human nature to accept that which should not be accepted, or tolerate that which should not be tolerated.

  6. Yes, in my experience, it is possible to consciously choose to be angry too when the situation warrants it. Here's an excerpt from my upcoming book:

    Self-regulation is not about never having certain emotions, it is about becoming very skillful with them. For example, in Buddhist psychology, there is an important difference between anger and indignation: anger arises out of powerlessness, while indignation arises out of power. Because of that difference, when you feel angry, you feel out of control, but when you feel indignant, you can retain full control of your mind and emotion. Hence, you can be emotional and fighting for change without ever “losing your cool.” Indignation is, therefore, a skillful state and a good example of self-regulation at its best. I think the person who best personified this was Gandhi. Gandhi was not an angry man, but that did not stop him from fighting injustice or leading massive marches. All that time he was fighting, and he never lost his calmness or compassion. That is how I want to be when I grow up.

  7. I am not convinced that, in ordinary English, "angry" implies a lack of control. But perhaps it should---I can see how it would be useful to distinguish the concepts. So thank you for this insight.

    My daughter often says to me, "Stop yelling at me!" when I am speaking calmly and in my normal tone of voice. I find that interesting, and perhaps related to your point about anger and control.

    When people ask, "How are you?" perhaps you should sometimes reply, "I am indignant." Maybe I will start using that myself.

  8. I was always frustrated when people asked me how are you?
    There were periods in my life when I couldn't say that I was fine, and trying to be sincere and to complain people was hard.
    Than I went to one yoga class at Jivamukti Yoga School where I've heart key phrase from Sharon, school founder:
    It's doesn't mean in term of practicing being happy or pretending. If you smile artificially 100 times, 101 might be sincere. If you'll make think that I'm great you'll become great one day.
    So I started to reply: OK, I'm great.
    So sometimes even lying brings value.