10 years ago, I seemingly had no reason to be so unhappy. My career in sales was going well, I had great friends and family, my health was intact. Yet despite this, I had a lingering sense of something… missing. It always seemed that my happiness was a milestone away, to be attained as soon as I lost 10 pounds, got that raise, or purchased a home. I would work tirelessly to reach my desired milestone, only to see happiness on the horizon yet again, attached to a new, faraway goal. I was going through the motions, with some days feeling like a scene out of Groundhog Day. Whose life was I living, and why?
Determined to make a change, I started keeping a daily gratitude calendar. At the end of each day, I would take record of everything which went well. This allowed me to see some variance in my day-to-day ongoings, and encouraged me to be more present to the blessings unfolding around me. It helped, but it wasn’t enough. What did I need to feel content, to be complete? Was it religion? Marriage? Children? Intent to answer the question, I put my social life on the backburner. For months, I wrote endless chronicles in my diary each night, soon reaching the conclusion that everything I did was in the name of one thing – happiness. So what would it take to achieve that, and why did it seem to be so elusive?
Research on the topic of happiness became my passion project, as I sought to learn as much as I could about it. I interviewed the happiest people I knew, as well as the happiest people they knew. I devoured books on the subject, signed up to see motivational speakers on stage, attended self-help seminars, watched documentaries, detoxed from alcohol, and more – much more. I purged my home, strengthened my yoga practice, stopped watching TV, and saved money to travel to India, Bali and Thailand. I worked with a hypnotist, started floating (aka sensory deprivation tank sessions), ate a vegetarian diet, and prayed. I practiced one good deed a day, every day, for a year. I repeated mantras and made vision boards, while smudging my home regularly. I jumped out of a plane, went bungee jumping, got my motorcycle license, tried hang-gliding, and took up surfing. I volunteered. I learned about CBT, reiki, and crystals. I turned my notifications off on my phone, and unsubscribed from newsletters. I changed all of my passwords to positive affirmations.
As the next few years passed, I became well-versed on the subject of happiness. While feelings of peacefulness and contentment were present, they were fleeting, until I found the one thing that would forever change my life. I didn’t find it at the top of a mountain, nor did I find it in a plush bank account. It wasn’t when I fell in love, or lost 30 pounds. Quite simply, it was when I sat still.
Meditation was coming up often enough in my research that I decided it was worth a try. I was surprised to experience that in finding my breath, I found lasting peace. I found pause, between stimuli and my chosen response. I found that I could watch my busy mind, without seeing myself as the mind itself.
Meditation reminded me that I had a choice – that is, a choice in perspective. A choice in narrative, the option to tell myself another version of the story. I started seeing my life, and myself, through a lens of compassion, kindness, and gratitude. Perhaps most importantly, I began to reside in the present, rather than looking ahead to the future for contentment.
Today, I teach meditation in Toronto. I turned many pages (both literally and figuratively) in many books to get here. I often share with people, if you feel that you are on a path to find purpose, I invite you to find your breath. Maybe the rest will fall into place, as you find the beauty in this moment, right here, right now – one breath at a time.