Relaxation and happiness

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Perfect relaxation

My recent Chicago visit came to be because of the fortieth anniversary celebration of Amazingrace, the coffeehouse and collective that started my freshman year at Northwestern. The coffeehouse was where I first heard Redwood Landing, a long time favorite band and they played a final gig for the celebration. That night at the concert, sitting next to a dear friend from those days and surrounded by many more friends and familiar faces, the band playing better than ever, I thought, “Wow, I feel so incredibly happy. When was the last time I felt this happy?” It seemed like it had been decades.

The interesting thing, I realized, is that it isn’t that I’ve been unhappy or that there haven’t been many very happy moments. But after years of emotional release, meditation, and spiritual practice, I spend a lot of time in a very calm place and it feels good. I often say that I think one of the greatest gifts this journey has given me is greater equanimity.

Forty years ago I was far more volatile, swinging from very high highs to very low lows and relishing the drama of it all. I was also unbelievably tense and anxious all the time. I’m not sure how much of the happiness that night, while surrounded by memories of those days, was a reflection of the giddiness I felt at the time; I’m sure there was some small effect, but really the great music and company just felt wonderful.

It makes me realize that when I finish this phase of getting my head released – which will be pretty much the finish of the health problems – it’s time to get out into the world a little more and feel that kind of happy more often. But the main lesson I get from this is that relaxed calm for me is worth more than lots of happy highs. The calm means I don’t live in that angst any more. The relaxation means I don’t feel that constant tension as if the world is closing in on me any more. That for me now pretty much equates with happy.

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7 thoughts on “Relaxation and happiness

  1. Leigh, You continue to practice my own experience and do it so eloquently. Some who see me sitting in my state of “no extremes” see that as “cold” or “unemotional”. I feel it as very comfortable. I do miss the “highs” sometimes, but not so much the “lows”. When the “lows” do occur, they feel so much more uncomfortable and I don’t want to wallow there low. Forty years ago, I ‘accepted’ that the wide swings were normal. WHew! Glad that’s not true.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

  2. Yes, I think one of the tough puzzles in our society is the degree to which people feel that calm and serene equates with dull, boring or cold. I know for me the wide swings and the drama were the frustrated expressions of so much that was wrong underneath — and I didn’t want to look at any of it. The quote from Abraham Hicks today was about learning to enjoy the peaks but not to create them all the time because then they’re just normal and boring, which fits so well with my realization that I like the calm, punctuated here and there by peak moments of happy. Thanks for the kind comments and for pointing out yet one more thing we have in common.

  3. I also noticed that I have been much happier since I felt more calm and stable. It was a totally weird feeling. When I was really happy and eventually came down to normal, I felt more “sad.” Is it because the level of the drop?

  4. Sometimes I think it’s the level of the drop, sometimes I think in America we have become so attuned to the idea that we should feel blissfully happy all the time that anything less makes us feel that life isn’t measuring up. That’s why so many people think that serenity and calm are dull… Does that answer?

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