Sunday, August 28, 2011

Three Steps to Happiness

Samantha and I had a couple of pretty deep, involved, conversations this weekend about personal habits.  She mentioned something that stuck in my mind that I can’t seem to shake.  She talked about how she felt that her priorities have become skewed recently; I can completely relate.
The period of my life I generally regard as being the most peaceful, easy-flowing, and - ultimately - fulfilling, was the summer, fall, and winter of 2003.  I was a cast member of the Blast!, Inc. (which is touring again) production Cyberjam, and during this time we were located in Bloomington, IN for six weeks and then London, England for the rest of the time.
In Bloomington, my days were filled with rehearsals and practicing.  I was in the role of swing, so my responsibility was to learn the other woodwinds’ shows.  I had to memorize their music, their staging and choreography, and do my best to imitate their playing abilities on saxophone, clarinet, and flute.
When we moved on to London, my responsibilities altered slightly.  One of the saxophones sustained an injury that took an extended amount of time to heal, so I settled into the routine of performing his track daily.  My days were filled with working out, discovering the city of London, finding myself, and performing in the West End.
Looking back, it would make sense that I would regard this as one of the best times of my life.  Who wouldn’t?  Now that I have seven years of perspective, I can honestly say that I could recapture the same feeling of peace and contentment I enjoyed during that period in any location, doing any job.
How is that possible?
Because the elements that constructed my life at the time are the building blocks of a happy life.  They were not exclusive to London or Bloomington, nor to performing in musical theater.  I am confident if I rekindled the habits I have lost over the years, I could find the same feeling.
So what was it that made this time so special for me?  
I have boiled my experience down to three basic elements anyone can capture.

  1. devotional time
  2. build the temple
  3. an enjoyable career

Devotional Time

My dedication to internal exploration began when I was in college, developed over the time I was on tour with the Blast! show Shockwave, and culminated in my time in Bloomington and London.  Everyday, generally at the same time each day, I made sure to spend some time being still and being quiet.  In Bloomington, my devotional time was immediately following lunch.  I would eat quickly, retire to a shady bench outside Star Hall, sit still, close my eyes, and focus inward.  I would spend about 15-20 minutes this way, then get up and go for a walk.  Afterwards I would practice my instruments.
My routine had to change in London.  My day would begin with devotional time.  After waking, I would get something to eat, make my way to our french doors looking out over the street (they hooked us up with an awesome flat in High Holborn), and meditate.  As consistently as I could, my day began this way for four months.
By establishing some consistency, I was able to promise my body the same treatment daily.  I looked forward to my devotional time, both because of the way I would feel afterwards and because I knew the rest of my day was guaranteed to go better.

Building the Temple
Each of our bodies are different in myriad ways, but one thing is consistent among them all - they react positively to consistent exercise in any form.
Cyberjam was an incredibly cardio-intensive production.  For those of you who have seen marching band and drum corps shows, imagine taking that formula and stretching it out over two hours.  We burned a lot of calories six times a week.  I watched people melt from 250-plus pounds down to a trim 180 in  matter of a couple months.
Aside from the show requirements, we all wanted to look as good as we could, so gym time was a must.  Our gym in London was a stones throw from the flat - Soho Gym.  It was easy to build a regular routine around visits to the gym.  At least six days out of the week I was there, spending time reading while I rode a bike, alternating workouts for the different muscle groups in my body.  My body enjoyed a constant pleasant soreness, reminding me of how good it felt to exercise.  Any stress not combated by my daily devotional exercises was melted away in the gym.
Maintaining a good diet is part of ensuring your are using the right building blocks to construct your temple.  I was lucky enough that my daily calorie burn far exceeded my intake, no matter what I did.  I definitely wouldn’t be able to do that now.  The quality of the food you eat always plays a part in how you feel.

Enjoyable Career
While it might seem that this should be number one on my list, I honestly think it plays third fiddle to the other two.  I strongly believe that if you create a life structure incorporating regular devotional time with temple building any issues with your career choice will instantly be downgraded.  At the time, I was playing music, dancing, singing, acting, working with people I liked, and enjoying my job.
I will admit that even though I enjoyed my job there were stressful moments, as there will be in any career.  Filling my days with devotion and exercise helped me to handle these moments better, so I never stopped to consider the stress areas the job created - they were always secondary and less important.
Ultimately, I do believe the trio together will yield the best results.  Finding a career choice that fits your needs, goals, and personality is infinitely important.  Many times we choose a career based on external motivations instead of those that come from within.  We attempt to serve the supposed needs of society instead of our own.  We sometimes even get stuck in a job simply because we won’t stop to consider the possibility there is something better and more suited for us.

Putting it all Together
I will be the first to tell you that in the almost eight years since I left London, I have abandoned much of what made my life feel so right at the time.  On the surface, my life is vastly different than before; my responsibilities extend beyond myself, I have personal and financial commitments I am dedicated to honoring, and my personal needs have changed.  Despite all this, I think the three elements of a happy, peaceful life have not altered in the least.
I have the opportunity to create new habits every day I wake up.  I can choose to plan devotional time, temple building, and I can work to make my career choice fitting to my needs, goals, and personality.  Ultimately, it is a daily choice to reinforce how I prefer my life to be.
I invite you to follow the same path with your life.  Make the time to be still, pray, or follow whichever devotional practices you prefer.  Create time to take care of your body, whether it is walking daily (which can be devotional as well), running, swimming, biking, weight-lifting, etc.  Decide whether or not your career choice is fulfilling; if not, figure out if it can be or if you need to make a change.  
You are not condemned to a life of dissatisfaction and discontentment.  Find your happiness today.

No comments:

Post a Comment