Posted on July 4, 2016
“Some people are so anxious about growing old that they cannot help but leak that anxiety into every situation that calls for them to remember something – a friend’s name, someone’s address, the place where they left their keys” Ageless Body, Timeless Mind –Deepak Chopra.
You’ll be pleased to know that my little experiment with the mobile phone worked a treat. Well, most of the time. It took a few days to train my mind to focus on the phone but as long as I was aware of myself putting it down I always knew where I had left it. Amazing! I only ‘lost’ the phone when I was stressed or focussing on something else and therefore only aware of the current crisis.
So pleased was I with the results – and relieved that I wasn’t ageing as rapidly as I thought (and that others implied) – that I read around the subject in more depth and came to the conclusion that we age ourselves by relating every lapse, whether it’s tiring while running for the bus (this can be improved with exercise), putting on weight (this can be altered with a healthy diet) or losing various objects (which can be remedied with practised attention/mindfulness), to getting old.
A little exercise goes a long way…
We buy into the fallacy that with every passing year our bodies and minds are disintegrating but there is a lot we can do to stave off this deterioration and it starts with changing our expectations. It’s time to rebel and change our mindset. Certainly we shouldn’t allow others to tell us we are getting old on the basis we have forgotten to collect the dry cleaning!
Whilst researching the ageing process I came across an experiment conducted in 1981 involving two groups of 8 men in their 70’s. They were taken, at different times, to a converted monastery for a period of five days. Everything around them reflected they were in 1959. Both groups were tested before entering the monastery and various markers were recorded: hearing, sight, memory, dexterity etc.
The first group were encouraged to reminisce about the period of their past but that was all, whereas the second group were told to live the period. Talk about the politics of 1959 as though it was current. After the five days both groups were reassessed. The group that ‘lived’ 1959 showed marked improvement on their dexterity and sight as well as looking more sprightly and energetic compared with the control group. There was nothing specific to memory but a general improvement in all aspects was noted.
This experiment was replicated in 2010 by the BBC involving celebrities and the results were similar. The subjects were rejuvenated, completing tasks with ease that a few days before were deemed impossible.
These were people in their 70’s and 80’s!
YOU’RE NEVER TOO OLD TO BE YOUNG!
There are pockets of communities all over the world (Healthy at 100 by John Robbins) who ignore old age and are able to live active lives.
As a writer I listen and observe others and I constantly hear people in their 50’s and 60’s say they are getting old. Nonsense!! Stop making excuses and put in a little effort. Mindfulness takes effort. Learning how to use new technology takes effort. Exercise takes effort. Meditation takes effort. I know because I don’t make the effort! But knowing that something can be done is a start and being able to find my phone over the past two weeks has made me determined to make more effort on all fronts.
Posted on June 10, 2016
“The road to enlightenment is long and difficult, and you should try not to forget snacks and magazines.” – Anne Lamott
I made the decision a few years ago to step onto the path to enlightenment. I knew the journey would be long and arduous but I have to admit I was hoping to have covered a little more ground by now. Of course, it’s hard to know exactly where you are at any given time because there isn’t a map; no little arrow saying ‘you are here’ to enable you to see how far you’ve travelled.
And which direction do you take? The books tell you there are signposts everywhere but they appear to be very well hidden. I should have realised many years ago when I emerged crying after two hours in the Hampton Court Maze (age 35!) that my sense of direction in terms of ‘paths’ wasn’t sound and my husband will confirm that my map reading skills leave a lot to be desired. So what led me to believe I had any chance in finding my way to enlightenment?
If I’m honest, I didn’t really expect to reach such heady heights. I was more hoping that I would be able to get through the day without shouting at somebody or sticking up my middle finger to everyone who beeps me for crawling fifteen miles per hour up a gentle slope (with a 2003 clapped out Citroen C3 I really have no choice). I was hoping that meditating would leave me calm and in control, unflappable in stressful situations. It has worked to a degree – I’m extremely calm when I’m asleep!
What I have discovered though is that everything comes down to ego. Everything is about how we respond to everyday situations. If we are to remain calm and reap all the benefits which a calm disposition brings a new approach to life is needed; a new way of looking at those daily problems that cause anxiety. We have to stop making everything about ‘us’. The person who bumped into you in the supermarket and did not apologise did not aim their rudeness directly at you because they don’t know you – so what is the point of getting upset?
It’s so easy to see the ego reacting in others, how they’ll try to blame someone else for their mistakes or lie to protect their integrity, how offended they come if criticised. We all behave in this way but somehow we’re unable to see it in ourselves because the ego will do anything to justify its actions and behaviour in an effort of self-preservation. The ego is supposed to be the major obstacle to attaining enlightenment and if that’s the case I’d better stock up on snacks and magazines because it’s going to be a very long journey.
Posted on May 24, 2016
Three women, all suffering with burns of varying degree, are brought together in a hospital room which has a policeman parked outside the door 24/7.
Anna Van Veen, recovering from a collapsed lung, cuts and burns, is a loner. She is ‘not a people’s person’ and ‘not really one for friends’. Although she married Nelis she much preferred spending time with dead animals (she is a taxidermist) than her husband’s friends and work colleagues. Nelis once told her that she had a dyslexic heart.
Vandersteen, a lesbian in her fifties, has recently separated from her wife who has taken their two children away as she can no longer put up with Vandersteen’s lies.
The third occupant, in her twenties and known as Tubby (she is considerably overweight), is the most severely burnt of the three women and does not speak to the others at the beginning. She refuses to reveal her identity, even to the hospital and, referred to as Ms X, she is something of an enigma.
The three women of the guarded room get to know each other and we learn that Van Veen is destined for a prison cell, Vandersteen is a habitual criminal and Tubby is afraid of being found. Each with their secrets, bonds form between them as they begin to trust each other. Van Veen can see they are all faulty is some respect and declares them members of The Dyslexic Hearts Club. She feels comfortable in their company.
‘All day long I found myself laughing at any old thing. I was inquisitive. I was cheerful. What the hell was wrong with me?’
They all begin to recover and when Tubby reveals how she got burnt, and how afraid she is of being discovered, they all decide it is time to escape before it’s too late. Once outside the confines of the hospital room they are forced to beg, borrow and steal for survival. As they make their way to an island where Van Veen’s childhood home stands empty, evading capture becomes difficult; news of their escape is all are over the newspapers and TV. Cracks appear in their friendships and Van Veen reverts back to her desire to be alone, realising that,
‘This club of ours was driving me up the wall…All my reasons for hating clubs so much began to rear their ugly heads’.
The story of The Dyslexic Hearts Club is told by Van Veen. There is a nice slow build up as the personalities of the women are revealed. They are all troubled in some way which draws them closer. It is an entertaining story filled with adventure and humour yet Hanneke Hendrix has also shown the difficulties faced by those who do not always follow society’s rules; that the world is not always a nice place for those who are ‘different’ in some way. Although we all play roles in society, those who lack the social skills to integrate easily have to try much harder at playing their roles.
The story also highlights how unkind people can be, forcing those on the receiving end to react with a vengeance brought on purely by the cruelty of others. Van Veen, as a child, was happy to be alone working on her animals but her mother thought she was strange, as did the neighbours children causing her to violently attack one of the children when they were nasty to her.
Hendrix reveals further insight into human nature when Vandersteen believes the nurse is insulting and rude to Tubby about her weight because it makes the nurse feel better about herself. Such subtle observations, slipped into the narrative, add a deeper dimension to the story.
It is an enjoyable book full of antics and adventure but beneath the light hearted exploits of Van Veen, Vandersteen and Tubby, Hanneke Hendrix has captured some of the flaws of the human condition. It provides food for thought with respect to one’s own behaviour when in the company of others who do not always possess the required social skills to fit comfortably into the expectations of society.
Well worth a read.
You can follow Hanneke Hendrix on Twitter: @AMHHendrix
Posted on May 20, 2016
As well as my blog about the struggles on the path to enlightenment and how difficult it is working towards self-improvement I have tried to offer new authors a voice by reviewing their books. Both topics are about striving to do well, whether it’s trying to improve mind, body and soul or working hard to finish a manuscript. I would like to offer a similar voice to a few young people I know to give them a helping hand with their new ventures.
The first is my lovely daughter Kat talking about her leap into the world of the self-employed and her exciting new venture. I have seen an incredible change in her self confidence because she has been thrown out of her comfort zone. Like any new business she has worked very hard, for little reward at the beginning, but her commitment is now paying off. Over to you Kat…
My dream for some time has been to work from home with the flexibility to work around commitments and family. I worked in London as a chartered accountant for 5 years until February 2015
I enjoyed my job but didn’t like the 9-5 commitment, the 3 hour commute each day into London and spending all summer in the basement of the office not getting to enjoy any of the sunshine! Also I have always wanted my own business and be my own boss, knowing that the harder I work the more I will benefit, rather than my boss!
The company I worked for regularly sent me to various parts of the country on business trips and my working hours were getting longer and longer. With the intention of starting a family in the near future, this was not something I wanted to continue doing. In May last year I left my job with the view to taking on some accountancy work at home while developing my new business venture with Forever Living.
I joined Forever in April and have had an amazing year of self development and a lot of fun along the way! In the past year my self confidence has grown and I have stepped out of my comfort zone and done things that I would never have believed I could do.
I love the freedom and flexibility that comes with being a Forever Living Business Owner and the high incomes that I am working towards. It involves a lot of hard work – as does any new venture if you want to make it work as there is no such thing as getting rich quick with most businesses. It requires commitment and a sensible outlook, plus some form of income while it builds. We now have a baby on the way, due in September, and I am happy knowing that when he arrives I will never miss a moment of bringing him up and can work my business in the nooks and crannies around him.
I am so excited about what the next year will bring, working towards manager, car plan and all of the free holidays that Forever offer us when we meet our targets. These incentives are in line with many large companies that offer rewards for hard work.
If you are interested in becoming involved with Forever Living I have put some links below so please get in touch.
Posted on May 17, 2016
A L Bird will be talking about The Good Mother at the FInchley Literary Festival on Friday 24th June at 3.15pm at Church End Library, Hendon Lane, London N3 1TR
A young girl gets into a car and is told her mother must not know. She is going to meet a man, who she has met before, who asks lots of questions about her family.
Susan wakes in a strange room. The door is locked. She has no idea how she got there, with her last recollection being one of opening the front door at home. Her greatest concern, however, is for her fifteen year old daughter Cara and she wonders if Cara is at home with her husband Paul.
When Susan meets her captor she begs for news of her daughter but her captor does not respond, leaving Susan desperate to know what has happened to her. When she hears Cara in the next room she is relieved and happy that her daughter is safe and, more importantly, with her.
“I’m overjoyed she’s here. She’s here and she’s safe and she’s with me. I’d much rather she were at home, safer, with Paul, but at least I have this comfort”.
Susan does all she can to keep her daughter safe and devises a system where she can communicate with Cara and works out a plan to free them. Her mothering instinct to protect is all-consuming and at times it seems that Susan is more obsessed with her daughter than a normal mother would be, even given the circumstances. She says that:
“She would be my desert island luxury, as I’ve often told her. I’ll never let her go”.
Meanwhile, Cara’s best friend Alice is interviewed at school by a private investigator, Mr Belvoir, who is working on behalf of Cara’s family. Alice knows where Cara was going but does not want to betray her friend’s secrets so does not divulge any information that will help him.
To avoid spoilers I will not elaborate any further on the plot!
The Good Mother is skilfully told in first person by Susan and the Captor, with some third person intervention via Alice. The use of italics during Susan’s viewpoint indicates she is possibly a complex character and hints that her past may somehow be connected with her current situation. Although Susan’s emotions are very powerfully expressed the empathy is not only with her. The Captor displays understanding, logic and compassion for Susan, even though he keeps her locked up, and there is the sense he wishes her no harm.
The Good Mother is a tense and exciting psychological thriller with a very unpredictable ending. The clues are all there, drip fed to the reader, challenging you to work out the puzzle. Despite working through many different possible solutions the ending was a surprise. All the clues are satisfactorily resolved by the end with none added to mislead. The plotting is excellent and original with the conclusion unforeseen. In fact, once the story has unravelled and it all becomes clear, there is still more. A superb twist which keeps you reading to the very last page.
Amy will be talking about her novel at the Finchley Literary Festival on 24th June 2016
The Good Mother is published by Carina UK (HarperCollins) and I thank them for the review copy.
Posted on May 4, 2016
When Roxy opens the door to the police her first thoughts are about her husband Arthur. She wonders if he has died of a heart attack as he ‘has all the risk factors’. She discovers Arthur is indeed dead but that he died in a car accident alongside his young female intern. Both were naked.
Roxy and Arthur were married for ten years and have a three year old daughter, Louise. Roxy met Arthur, a film producer who is thirty years older, when she was seventeen. During the weeks following Arthur’s death Roxy does not grieve like a normal widow and has strange relationships with the people around her. On hearing the news, her parents come to stay and Arthur’s assistant, Jane and the babysitter, Liza are there to help Roxy through this difficult period.
Right from the beginning we get a hint of Roxy’s complex personality when we discover that ‘she doesn’t like having strangers in the house’ and that ‘it’s rare anyone stays an hour.’ Although she’s averse to having strangers in the house she wants the police to stay a little longer. She thinks ‘they could be friends’ and plays out a scenario in her mind where she tells people they first met when they came to tell her that Arthur was dead.
At the beginning, some of Roxy’s statements appear odd and sometimes amusing but as the novel progresses they become uncomfortable. She laughs inappropriately, as a child might, when Jane is telling a friend of Arthur’s death and when the policewoman tells Roxy that her husband and the intern were naked Roxy asks: ‘Was his penis still attached? Or is it inside her? Would that be possible?’ Her social ineptitude causes those around her some concern with Jane finally telling her that ‘Arthur said you were disturbed but I didn’t know it was this bad.’
It becomes clear that over the years Roxy has been married to Arthur she has withdrawn into her own world and that she feels most comfortable when she is some distance from any given situation. Although there is no explicit suggestion of an abusive childhood there is evidence she grew up in a dysfunctional family. Her father, a trucker, had long absences from home and she would eat her dinner most nights in bed with her mother watching Countdown.
When three year old Louise wants to go on holiday, Roxy jumps at the chance and invites Jane and Liza to accompany them. They go to France. While they are away Roxy tries her hardest to please Jane and LIza as she desperately wishes to be liked but at the first sign of offence she considers them to be the enemy. The tension builds as we see Roxy becoming more distressed and less able to cope until it reaches a climax which, even given her unpredictable nature throughout the novel, still shocks.
It is an honest novel about a young woman with mental health issues who, at times, appears almost psychopathic. It portrays her unconventional relationship with reality with credibility. Although Roxy often behaves irresponsibly, especially towards her young daughter, it is easy to feel compassion and empathy for her as we get further inside her world. Her mental instability makes her vulnerable and it is difficult to feel too much anger towards her bizarre behaviour.
It is a well written book with every sentence carrying meaning and Esther Gerritsen gives insight, through Roxy, into the complexities that accompany mental health issues. An enjoyable read.
Roxy is published by World Editions Ltd and translated by Michele Hutchison
Thank you to Diana Morgan at Ruth Killick Publicity for the review copy.
Posted on April 22, 2016
Each time I visit my father he has a small pile of newspaper clippings for me to look at. He usually saves anything to do with writing or any medical articles he thinks may be of interest. On a recent visit he presented me with an article about angels.
‘I thought it was your kind of thing,’ he said. (I do drag him around those ‘funny’ bookshops in Glastonbury every time we go there for a wander, which probably gave him a clue).
The article was about a man who noticed small, white feathers in unexpected places after his wife died and, discovering others had undergone similar experiences, believed they were feathers from angels. Gloria Hunniford has spoken in the past about the same thing. Since her daughter, Caron Keating, died she has found hundreds of tiny, white, fluffy feathers and believes they are sent from her daughter, watching over her as a guardian angel.
Are these experiences likely to convince the sceptics? Not one bit!
But if you give it some thought it does make you wonder.
How often have you found a tiny white feather in your handbag or pocket, your wardrobe, bathroom or on your pillow? Not often, I bet. Okay, I’ll go with the pillow for now – if it’s a feather one – although thinking about it I’ve only ever felt the hard, quill part sticking through the cover into my cheek and the feather only appears when I pull it through. I’ve never found one just lying there and those I yank out are usually of a brown colour – never pure white and fluffy.
Many deride these experiences and put the finding of feathers, and the belief they come from angels, down to the grief of losing someone they love and their wish to believe their loved ones are in heaven and cared for by loving angels but I’m not sure their experiences should be lightly dismissed.
I believe in angels (as the song goes) but I have never seen random tiny, white, fluffy feathers in unexpected places – and I keep a lookout for the signs as I would love my guardian angel to communicate with me.
I got very excited recently when I saw a white feather on the kitchen floor near the door. I then spotted one on the lawn quite close to the door. Then another in the flower border. I followed the trail…I’m sure you know where this is going! It led to a rather large pile of feathers behind the garden shed. There was no evidence of a body – no doubt safely inside the stomach of a fox or cat – and even I could not convince myself a choir of angels had decided to moult behind the shed.
Small white feathers in the garden, or inside the house near a window or door, can easily be explained and are clearly not evidence of angels. Even one in your handbag or a coat pocket could have slipped in while out walking somewhere like a park. Discovering one in a wardrobe or bathroom once every ten years may be unusual but could be accounted for (unless of course it happens once every ten years on the same day each year…).
Assuming someone is not playing a cruel trick, to see feathers regularly where they would not usually be present must be given some credibility. People that have these experiences are generally normal, healthy and well balanced. Even allowing for the fact they are grieving, which could disturb their usual rational equilibrium, does not logically explain how these feathers appear where they do.
For me the thought that angels exist is wonderful. To know they are looking out for us during the difficult times is comforting and if I found tiny, pure white feathers in unexpected places I would be overjoyed. How else are the angels supposed to make contact? Let’s face it, even if you saw one appear in your lounge (which some people do) nobody would believe you. To receive any evidence of the existence of angels is such a personal thing and is a gift. It is unkind to mock or disbelieve those that have these experiences even if you are not a believer. Hopefully the angels will make themselves known to all of us in the future.
Posted on April 14, 2016
Grant Morrison is determined to uncover the secrets surrounding two mysterious deaths that occurred over forty years ago. In 1972 Grant was on holiday in Cornwall with his family. It had been a tradition for some years for a group of families to meet up at the same hotel every August. The summer of ’72 was no different – at least to begin with.
One day Tom Youlen, a night porter at the hotel in which they were all staying, was found, collapsed in a country lane, by some of the hotel guests. He whispered a message to one of them but never spoke again before his death five years later. The same week that Tom Youlen was discovered in the country lane a body of one of the guests staying at the same hotel was found washed up on the beach. Although there were many suspects nobody was found to be responsible for either of the deaths.
Grant was only seventeen at the time of these events and has always been concerned that his mother may have been involved in some way. Although his mother died in 1995 it was not until her twin sister died in 2012 that Grant felt he could investigate the happenings of 1972.
Grant travels to Cornwall and although he is keen to uncover the truth, others do not feel the same way. He finds many of the people that were present in 1972 determined to impede his investigation and the ‘Spooks of Zennor’ try to scare him away from Cornwall and back home to London. An invisible girl singing ‘Half a pound of Tuppenny rice’ tries, but does not succeed, in deterring Grant from his mission.
As the plot unravels and some of Grant’s questions are answered another death occurs. Finally, when you think the story is all over a mysterious visitor to a funeral leads you to question if it really is the end.
Half A Pound of Tuppenny Rice has many twists and turns as Grant sets out to find the truth. The first part of the book is a little challenging trying to remember all the names of the people involved. As the story moves into the present day the characters become clearer and the plot easier to follow.
The story is interesting in that it highlights the way people change over the years. How you remember people from your childhood days are often not how they are as adults as their life’s experiences alter their views of the world.
I am sure there will be more books from David Coubrough in the future and wish him every success with Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice.
Half a Pound of Tuppenny Rice is published by Peter Owen (April 2016)
I would like to thank Diana Morgan at Ruth Killick Publicity for the review copy
Posted on April 9, 2016
When Alice Fleming receives an invitation to join an old university friend, Karen Morley, on a two week vacation in Scotland she is delighted that her friend has got in contact again. It has been six years since they left university and they have had no communication since. Alice remembers Karen as being kind and a good friend and is chuffed to have been asked to spend the holiday with her.
When Alice arrives at the cottage, which is in the middle of nowhere and nothing to see but snow, she is not expecting quite what she finds. The cottage is very cold with no modern comforts. It has no telephone land line and an unreliable signal for a mobile phone.
They are pretty much cut off from everything and Alice wonders why Karen has chosen this remote location – especially as Karen’s nine month old daughter Mel has been unwell in hospital and needs an oxygen mask to breathe properly.
Alice is even more surprised when two other people from their university group arrive – Jodie and Mark. She is peeved by their appearance as Karen had not told her there would be anyone else there; she expected it to be just the two of them.
As they settle into an uncomfortable routine problems begin. Mark’s behaviour is erratic and he is very controlling of Jodie, his girlfriend. He tells lies and keeps secrets. Jodie shows two sides to her personality. She is compliant and subdued in Mark’s company but becomes independent and enthusiastic about her dreams for the future when he is absent. Karen, Alice realises, is not the person she was at university.
At one point Alice asked herself “what were we all doing here?” She realises they are all strangers now, forced together by Karen, with her own reasons for wishing them all to be together.
Back in their university days Alice had a deep desire to be liked and Karen and Jodie exploited this by using her for their own needs. However Alice has clearly come a long way in shedding her downtrodden personality and manages to stand up for herself a lot more than she used to and Karen feels her plans threatened by this change in Alice.
When Alice meets Stuart the mystery begins to unravel and Alice gets closer to working out the mystery and the reason why Karen has invited her old friends to join her for the holiday.
In No Longer Safe AJ Waines’ experiences as a psychologist have led to interesting and clever plotting with lots of twists and turns and the occasional red herring. The story is narrated mainly by Alice and occasionally by Karen and towards the end you begin to question who is telling the truth and who is lying; who is sane and who is unbalanced.
The characters are all very distinct and work well for the story, although Alice can sometimes be a little frustrating in her naivety. There are a few aspects of the plot which I hoped she would latch on to a little sooner but perhaps that is just her personality.
A great book to read – one that you’ll not want to put down until you reach the final page.
AJ Waines was born in 1959. Before becoming a full time novelist she worked as a Psychotherapist for fifteen years – spending some time working with ex-offenders from high security institutions. The experiences she gained in this work have given her a comprehensive understanding of criminal and abnormal psychology.
Also by AJ Waines: The Evil Beneath, Girl on a Train and A Dark Place to Hide
You can follow AJ on Twitter: @AJWaines
Posted on April 6, 2016
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s our duty to society to be happy. At face value it seems self-centred and indulgent to seek happiness when there’s so much suffering in the world. It seems like a ‘blow you Jack, I’m alright!’ type attitude. However, the more I think about it and watch life going on around me, the more I believe that if we could make it our priority to be happy then the world would be a much better place.
During a recent visit to a supermarket a woman barged into me with the force of a rhino (I’ll refrain from commenting on her size!). Slightly winded and taken by surprise I found myself apologising – as you do! (For some reason the British have this strange habit of apologising for things they haven’t done. There is a wonderful book called Watching the English by Kate Fox which investigates English behaviour – and the author spent an afternoon bumping into people and discovered that over 80% apologised to her for bumping into them!)
I obviously didn’t apologise loud enough – or perhaps the woman was deaf as well as bloody rude – and I found myself on the receiving end of a barrage of abuse. “Don’t F…..g say sorry then” she yelled as she shoved her trolley into mine, grazing my knuckles in the process. Stupidly, despite her obnoxious behaviour, I began to explain that I had apologised even though she had in fact bumped into me but she stormed off, leaving me mumbling to myself like a crazy lady.
No longer in the mood for shopping, due to indignant outrage, I picked up a few more things and headed for the checkout. No points for guessing who was at the checkout next to mine. Yes, the charging rhino who was now venting her anger at the poor man at the till.
She was clearly not a happy bunny and I felt sorry for whoever was waiting for her at home.
Observation tells me that unhappy people tend to be self-focussed, rude, difficult and antagonistic. I’m not talking about sad unhappy but miserable unhappy. Miserable people make it their mission in life to make everyone else’s lives on par with their own. Happy people on the other hand tend to be more tolerant, flexible and generally nicer people. Happiness is infectious. Being around happy people makes you feel good despite your own problems.
So, how do we seek happiness and fulfil our planetary duties?
A new car…that would make me very happy! A month in the Caribbean…how could I be miserable sunning myself on a beach there? Obviously it is my responsibility to be happy so Lastminute.com here I come!!
But do these things really make me happy? Momentarily, yes. Then I revert to my baseline level of happiness. The level that is me. The level that, whatever the problem or pleasure, I revert to in everyday life. Once I’ve overcome the awe of sitting on a Caribbean beach for a few days I get a bit bored and think how nice it would be if I could wander around an art gallery and get out of the heat!
My daughter has travelled a lot and worked as a volunteer in small villages in Uganda and Cambodia and she tells me that the people there seemed happy with life. Despite having very little, they were happier than many that she meets at home. (Home as in England – not home, home…we’re not generally a miserable bunch). They were always willing to share their evening meal, which consisted of a few floating bits in a watery broth. They had more than their fair share of problems, as you can imagine, but their baseline level of happiness was higher than many who have acquired an abundance of material goods.
“Happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by eternal events” The Art of Happiness, HH Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler.
The key is not to confuse happiness with pleasure. Pleasure comes and goes but the aim is to achieve a higher baseline level of happiness. We clearly need the basics of a roof over our head, food in our stomachs and clothes to wear but does all the extra bits really make us happy? It’s all about our attitude to life and we can do a lot to change our expectations in order to achieve greater joy.
I truly believe it’s our priority in life – our contribution to the planet, if you like – to seek happiness. It’s neither self-indulgent nor selfish. Hard work it may be, to express more love and affection and smile at everyone; sometimes nearly impossible to show compassion when you’re angry and frustrated but the more it’s practised the easier it becomes (so all the books say!). Over time, less things irritate and annoy – and this raises the baseline level of happiness. .