Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

What I Know About Happiness I Learned From Mosquitoes

I am by nature a very peaceful and gentle person. I go out of my way to tend and to nurture – except when it comes to mosquitoes. I am not one ounce sorrowful, only full of glee, when I smush one with my lethal hand-clap, thus removing one more tyrant from the world. And yes, I fully understand I may be born a mosquito in my next life in karmic retribution.

When I am not plotting murder for mosquitoes, I think a lot about the nature of happiness. In fact, the cornerstone of all the work I do revolves around how to put into clear and useful language the art of living a happy, extraordinary life. One of the best ways to get off the crazy-train of running after happiness but never catching it, is to fully understand the nature of thoughts, and the nature of the mind (For a full description, please read "The Nature of the Mind" section on my website: http://www.redefiningmonogamy.com/secretsubjects_natureofmind.html).

There are several types of thoughts, but the ones that cause us real suffering are the unhealthy thoughts. These are the pestering, persistent ones that make us feel like shit about ourselves or seriously judge others, or make us worry ad nauseam about the future. My best analogy to date is that unhealthy thoughts are like mosquito bites.

Here's what most of us do: we feel the prick of the mosquito biting and although we reach to slap it away, of course it is too late, so then we begin the frenzy of scratching to ease the itch. We know, in some far off, momentarily inaccessible, part of our brain, that scratching only makes it worse. But at this very moment, we are fitfully sure, scratching it is definitely making things better! We think: I am just about to scratch enough to quench the itch, i know it, just one more scratch! But what happens is the mosquito venom spreads, the welt gets bigger and itchier and angrier and demands to be scratched over and over again, at inopportune times like during dinner with a new date, in meditation and especially in the middle of having sex.

Metaphor breakdown: The mosquito bites are your unhealthy thoughts. Your scratching of the bites is your attention on and belief in your unhealthy thoughts. So here's the key: don't scratch.

What happens if you don't scratch? It itches like crazy for about 10 solid minutes, and you have to sit on your hands to stop from scratching. But then, the itch stops. No welt appears. The mosquito bite goes away. In fact, about 20 minutes later, your skin shows no record of the mosquito bite at all. And so it is with unhealthy thoughts.

As I say over and over again, whatever you put your attention on, grows. Scratch the itch of an unhealthy thought, the unhealthy thought's venom spreads and becomes a big inflamed mess, demanding desperate attention for a very long time, perhaps a lifetime. Some things can help alleviate the itch momentarily, but somehow the itch always comes back.

It is a seductive mania to scratch at unhealthy thoughts, to think about them, to try to solve them, to prove them true or false or to puzzle them through to their conclusion. But there is no end. An unhealthy thought scratched gets scratched into reality. An unhealthy thought acknowledged, then ignored, cries and itches for a bit, then disappears. It is that simple. Happiness and contentment are what you experience in the absence of unhealthy thoughts.

I already have attractive matching anklets of about 20 red welts, most scabbed over from excessive, delirious scratching. These are my proof of what happens when I succumb to the urge to scratch. And given that I am here on this magical tropical southern island in Thailand and there are many more mosquitos lining up to help me with my experimentative process, I decide to take it all a step further and put my Happiness-Mosquito theory to physical practice. So last evening, doing yoga al fresco, I felt the generous contribution of a mosquito chomping on my ankle, right next to an existing welt. But I didn't scratch. I breathed through the itch, fully felt the blush and burn of it, but held back any scratchy scratching. 20 minutes later, the evidence was on my ankle: one old angry be-scratched inflamed welt – and nothing at all to show for the new bite.

And so, here on this gorgeous and generous island paradise, I am very happy to report the dissolution of both unhealthy thoughts and the equally distructive plague of mosquito bites.

PS – Spit helps too.

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Posted by LiYana at 4:55 am  Comments Off on What I Know About Happiness I Learned From Mosquitoes

Saturday, March 17th, 2007

Out Beyond

Today I led an informal yoga class to four of my dearest friends, who have come to the Philippines to help me and my boyfriend say goodbye to our year here. This last week, I struggle to balance the sunning, adventuring and laughing, with my work of client sessions, website maintenance, workshop preparation and tax returns whilst in a foreign country.

This past week, we've gone high, climbing a volcano with a stunning view of the tiny tropical island, resulting in two scrapes and very sore thighs all around. We've gone low, snorkeling through a giant clam sanctuary and a sunken cemetary, resulting in sunburns all around. We've gone fast and furious, renting motor bikes and driving them over gravel dirt roads, resulting in two wipe-outs, three burns (damn exhaust pipes) and wind in the hair all around. We've gone slow, staring at the brilliant blue ocean, drinking pina coladas over rambling conversation, resulting in a deeper understanding of the benefits of doing nothing.

As we all lay in Shivasana (also known as "corpse pose"), sweaty and happy at the end of class (I do give a rather vigorous and fierce class), a luciously-read Rumi poem came on over the Ipod playlist:

Out beyond right-doing and wrong-doing
There is a feild
I'll meet you there

I want to kiss you
But the price of kissing is your life

Now my loving is running toward my life, yelling
What a bargain
Let's buy it

So, this morning, amid my friends, one single and searching, one about to move in with her new love in a new town, one in a polyamorous relationship with a man and two women, the other with two women and one man, I found myself in such a feild. I took a break from the pressure of doing right the guest-hosting and the business-maintaing. I found myself in a sweet spot, in the living room, on beyond any sense of doing it right or doing it wrong.

There's never a better moment than now to love. There's no right way for that love to look.

Posted by LiYana at 2:39 am  Comments Off on Out Beyond

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