Three Doors to Happiness In the Midst of Adversity

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.

Losing everything

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.”

Unintentional discovery

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!

Halina Goldstein is a Flow and Joy mentor, teacher and blogger and the creator of the Flow~Integration approach. She invites you to open the door # 4 with her free Flow and Joy Contemplation.

{ 22 comments… add one }

  • Halina Goldstein June 21, 2012, 8:31 am

    Thank you Tess for creating the space for my story and other stories as well!

    Thank you Everyone for reading it – I look forward to all comments, questions and last but not least, your stories…



  • b June 21, 2012, 8:54 am

    This is very powerful. I liked the idea of stripping life down to it’s core by losing everything (even metaphorically). Gratitude is my pathway to arriving there. Being thankful each morning and night for the very pillow I sleep in…out loud… somehow brings such peace.

    Thank you for sharing.


    • Halina Goldstein June 21, 2012, 9:01 am

      Thank you, B, for your response and for sharing your way. Yes, gratitude, for the smallest things even, makes such a difference. Plus, a good pillow at the right time is not a small thing at all! :-)

  • William Veasley June 21, 2012, 11:25 am

    Tess: I think that we must learn to leave our comfort zones. Only then can we begin to learn something new and or see what we are really made of deep down inside. Lately, I have exploring new a strength of will power that I have because I have been working much harder and that is when I do not feel like working. When I say working I mean on my blog and at my 9-5 job. When I started the first blog a couple years ago, I did not much get traffic or even more than 5 comments till about the 5th post, but this time around I beat that on my first post. So, I think I have stepped a little further out of my comfort zone. I am able to share my story through word of mouth and blog comments, but I probably will not do it on my blog.

    Anyways, just my two cents . . .

    Best wishes,
    William Veasley

    • William Veasley June 21, 2012, 11:28 am

      Halina: I am sorry my comment above was meant for you and not Tess. ( :

      • Halina Goldstein June 21, 2012, 12:21 pm

        Thanks for the comment William. You are so right about your observation on comfort zone and learning!

        The thing is that while many of us are willing to stretch our comfort zone a bit (especially when we’re aware of how it will enrich our life), few of us are willing to or able to do it in drastic ways. And sometimes, drastic changes is what life has in store for us. There’s no other way. At these times, most of us find ourselves dragged out of our comfort zone kicking and screaming… and it can take months or years to do the transition. And — it’s all worth it! and a gift for life.

        As for sharing your story: I believe it is really, really important to do it in such a way that it does feel right to you. Stretching your comfort zone is not the same as disrespecting your boundaries. I would never share a personal story in public unless I felt the time was right and it would benefit both my readers/clients and myself. There is a time for everything… :-)

        Best wishes to you!

  • Kim June 21, 2012, 11:53 am

    This post is awesome! I actually did #2 a couple months ago. It was such an incredible experience, writing down all the good that came from my horrible experience. I can say, with complete honesty, that it changed my outlook entirely.

  • Halina Goldstein June 21, 2012, 12:23 pm

    Thank you so much Kim! Yes, it is an incredible and incredibly freeing experience, isn’t it. I’m very happy for you! :-)

  • Megan Bord June 22, 2012, 4:10 am

    What a beautiful story, full good learning. Thank you, Halina, for offering part of your life here for my benefit.
    Being open to what life presents… It’s harder in practice than in concept, yet I’ve found, like you did, that when I can remain open to what’s happening – even if for a moment – grace happens. God’s light finds its way into my heart and mind, and my life is shifted just a little bit (which is all it takes).
    I admire your strength, and I honor your wisdom. I’m so glad Tess featured you here on Bold Life.

    • Halina Goldstein June 22, 2012, 9:08 am

      I’m touched by your words, Megan – thank you!

      And thank you for that wonderful observation: a little shift is all it takes!

      I also feel like adding that in most cases, pushing or forcing yourself into openness/appreciation/gratitude has the opposite effect and is not necessary either. That’s why the explorer perspective is so helpful. It doesn’t require you to feel differently than you do – it’s just an invitation to simply experience what is there, including resentment, fear or pain. There’s no pressure – just living and experiencing. I find that this is the most powerful and freeing approach of them all.

      Many warm greetings –

  • Currie June 22, 2012, 10:28 am

    Thank you, Halina, for your story and the bold challenge that you embraced when you were so young and really wanted only to keep your Life as it was. I have been in those situations over and over and over in Life and I finally realise that this is how Life is for me. I used to hold on and resist so much, thinking there was only a great abyss if I were to Let Go and allow myself to leap into what was next, Now, or ON.

    I have recently done many things, and each day I DO more, that teach me to trust this is truly meant for me, for my very best, in fact. Sometimes people look at me and think me so weird to DO some or ALL of what I have done. I used to let that bother me until I realised I, too, am often quick to judge or make up my mind about something someone else “seems to BE” or “is” in my opinion DOing.

    Life is a grand Journey and I know that though I am only just 59, that I have no more wait in me to BE happy. I choose it Right Now and let it launch me ever onward.

    BEautimous sharing… I thank you and Tess for introducing you to me.

    • Halina Goldstein June 22, 2012, 2:03 pm

      As simple as it may sound, finding out that life is about being you and “doing you”, that this is what you’re here for, can be one of the most freeing and “happying” realizations ever… :-)

      Thank you for sharing a glimpse of your grand journey, Curry, and for your kind words!

  • Betsy at Zen Mama June 22, 2012, 12:23 pm

    I absolutely loved your post and the story that you told. It is a great reminder that everything will work out if you trust. I love your saying: “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.” I’m going to send that to my son who is going through a rather tough time! And I also loved your tips. I’m going to try sitting with pen and paper and cultivate my most precious experience.

    Thank you Tess, for bringing Halina to your blog. I look forward to checking out her site!

    PS I just saw a TED video about older people being happier than younger ones!

  • Leah June 22, 2012, 2:38 pm

    Thank you Halina for sharing your experience with joy & happiness—with me;)
    I’m currently in the middle of a huge life lesson. I’m not exactly sure what it is I’m supposed be learning, although I do have some basic ideas. Right now the pain comes in waves. In between the waves I feel fine. Not happy per se, but fine. During the waves I struggle for release from the pain.

    I’m trying to enter the pain and receive whatever truths I need to know. It’s so hard to see the light, to grab for joy, when I’m feeling so low. I try to keep my thinking centered, and I talk to myself, telling myself that things are just as they should be. But boy it feels cruddy! LOL!!
    Your post today was reassuring; that this pain will turn to joy and happiness.
    Thanks for throwing me a lifeline. These waves are treacherous!
    My Best,

    • Halina Goldstein June 22, 2012, 3:11 pm

      Dear Leah,

      I’m working on an e-book addressing this exact situation. But for now let me just say that in my experience the best way to go through it is simply to allow these waves to flow through you. You don’t have to feel the joy there, you don’t have to see the truth there – just allow it to flow, just allow the experience to be. These waves are not really treacherous – we just fear they are. Every wave brings you closer to home.

      With love

  • Halina Goldstein June 22, 2012, 3:00 pm

    Thank you Betsy!

    Your words remind me of something: A few days before we left Poland a friend recommended that I spoke to a priest she knew and trusted. I didn’t believe it would make any difference but agreed to meet the man after all. After I told him about my situation, he just looked at me and then he said, in a very neutral kind of way: “You’re going to be all right”. That was it! and I couldn’t relate to his words at all. He couldn’t know that!

    But then again, even if I didn’t believe him, there was something in his expression that reached me on a very deep level. It didn’t make a big difference in my life, it didn’t relieve me of the pain and fear in any way. But it stayed with me nevertheless and supported me through the transition somehow, in an invisible sort of way.

    It took me many years to understand where he came from. That he could indeed know that, simply because he had faith in life as such, and therefore in my life too.

    Your son’s going to be all right too! :-)

  • Bobbi Emel June 22, 2012, 5:33 pm

    Terrific story and wonderful tips, Halina. Thank you!!

  • Halina Goldstein June 23, 2012, 12:21 am

    I’m so glad to hear that Bobbi – thank you!

  • Vidya Sury June 23, 2012, 12:48 pm

    Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing, Halina. ” life is my ultimate friend” – I love that. Blessed to meet you here. Thank you Tess! Love, Vidya

  • Halina Goldstein June 24, 2012, 12:21 am

    Life is our ultimate friend – and so are the people we meet – all around the world! :-)

    Thank you Vidya!

  • Born27 June 27, 2012, 9:04 am

    Beautiful post! I love reading this kind of blog. It gives inspiration to me. Opening you doors to everything can give you more opportunity in life.

    • Halina Goldstein June 27, 2012, 10:33 am

      Yes, exactly! As we allow doors to open, we invite opportunities we didn’t even imagine were waiting for us. Thank you!


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