The following is a guest post by Halina Goldstein at Flow and Joy
Did you know that the happiest people on the planet are those in their seventies? That’s good to know but do we really need to wait that long?! Let me state it as boldly as I can: No, we do not! Here’s how I know that and here’s how you too can open a door to happiness right now, regardless of your circumstances.
When I was 16, my family moved from Poland to Denmark. We didn’t want to move but we had to. We became political refugees. We were stateless, without a home of our own.
From one day to the next, I had to say goodbye to each and every person that had ever called a friend. Goodbye to each and every place I had ever known. Goodbye to my language and to my expression. Farewell to the life I knew.
It didn’t make it any easier that I had no influence on that life-changing decision. If I had, we would have stayed. I was in no willing or able to acknowledge that the move was necessary. Even if my life in Poland wasn’t exactly happy, it was the only life I knew. I clung to it with everything I had in me. Denmark was nothing but an abstract and distant place, somewhere out there.
The experience was: “I am losing everything and there is nothing in front of me to replace it. There is no hope. This is worse than hell.”
But then again, hell or not, without even admitting it to myself, a part of me entered this new country with curiosity. Almost unaware of it, I started exploring and experimenting with this new environment.
At first it was just tiny things, like noticing how the streets in Denmark were colorful and smelled of soap in the morning. Or tasting the Danish food (and not liking it). Or wondering about the peculiar sound of the Danish language (and not understanding a word of it).
From there, slowly but surely, in invisible micro-steps, I started opening up more and more.
Bit by bit, the more or less involuntary openness started turning into appreciation, and even…
Glimpses of happiness.
Like realizing that since no one knew me, I could reinvent myself in any way I wanted.
Like falling in love with a Danish boy, and deciding that this was a positive reason to stay in Denmark.
Like starting to claim my freedom as a young woman, and realizing that back in Poland that would have been unthinkable.
As time passed by, more and more joyful — even miraculous –experiences took place in Denmark, and each time there was this mind-blowing ‘aha’: “This would not have taken place had I stayed in Poland!”
Acknowledging the gifts
And so, as Denmark grew on me and eventually did become my second home, I finally acknowledged that what I had called one of the worst disasters in my life really was one of the greatest gifts. But that’s not all.
With these realizations came the understanding that while pain, fear and resistance are part of life, they are not a sign that my life is taking a wrong direction.
On the contrary. What my life showed me back then – and has ever since — is that life is my ultimate friend, and that it takes me where I truly want to be. Even if I have no idea where that is.
Trusting life like a friend
Like every good friend, life is ultimately supporting my growth and happiness, even if it hurts sometimes.
Today I trust it on a very deep level, and support others in doing the same. And here’s the best part:
There are three doors to happiness that you can open, even in the midst of adversity. It’s quite simple.
Door #1: Become An Explorer
Enter whatever situation life brings you as an explorer would– with open senses. At the end of the day, every experience is new, like unknown territory. So be open to it in the same way in which you are open to a new landscape while you’re on vacation. What do you see, hear, touch, taste, smell, feel, sense there? Who do you meet? What do you feel like doing there, or not?
Even if you go through pain, fear or resistance, you can still just explore those feelings. You don’t have to change them or fight them. Eventually, when the time is ripe, they will all transform into happiness, flow and joy. But don’t take my word for it…
Door #2: Cultivate Your Most Precious Experience
Take some time where you can sit undisturbed. You will also need pen and paper.
Think of one of the most challenging experiences in your life. Make a note of it on paper. Just a sentence or two will do. Now contemplate what gifts you eventually got from this experience. Write them down. Spend additional time finding more gifts from the same experience. There is always more than one. Life is very generous!
If you’re in doubt, or if at this point you’re not able to see any of your past challenges in this way, spend some time contemplating your birth. When you were born, you lost the safety of the womb. It was most probably a painful, perhaps even traumatic experience. And yet – what an abundance of gifts. The gift of life itself, of being the human you, of all the joyful moments, big and small.
As you learn to cherish and remember these gifts, it will develop into a lifeline, something you can rely on even in the most challenging times. Something to remind you that life is your trusted friend, and that every challenge, pain or disaster you experience is but another rebirth.
Door #3: Share Your Story
There is magic in sharing your story, in expressing it. It connects you with your gifts on a deeper level. And it connects you with the people around you in more beautiful ways. Just like there is a time to be on your own, there is a time to share. You can start right now. Share your story and the gifts you have received from it in a comment below!