Einstein was right. Relativity is a big deal.
Every two weeks I have the pleasure to privately teach two students who have been studying with me for years. I got excited about a year and a half ago when they were interested in delving into philosophy more. While I smiled on the outside, I squealed on the inside because I live for exploring, reflecting on, and discussing big questions about life, why we are here, and what we are up to anyways in this adventure called life.
We’ve been working through Alan Watt’s book The Wisdom of Insecurity. A favorite of mine that I first had the pleasure of being exposed to when I was living in the monastery, then immediately devoured, re-read, and recommend to countless individuals all the time. Seriously. This is a life changing good book. But it’s not an easy read. Just one sentence from Alan could have me in contemplation for lifetimes. It’s deceptively simple.
As we read out loud we “listened” to Alan speak about how reality is constantly in flux and changing. Including our consciousness. How often do we make the “I” of who we are solid? Like it’s a wax figure hanging out in a museum protected by perfectly temperate temperatures to ensure the wax does not melt, harden, or shift outside of its original casting. What Alan suggested is that in fact, the trick of memory in our mind gives us the illusion that “I” am solid. But in reality, “I” am just a stream of changing experiences, sensations, and feelings in motion. Constantly.
So then I got thinking, if “I” am not so solid, what’s the difference between a good day and a bad day if everything, including myself, is changing. So often post-defacto we have this idea that a good day was a solid good day. All the experiences, the sensations, the feelings, added up to good. They created this cohesive “good day” story. And on bad days, the experiences, sensations, feelings all add up to bad. Like all of the particles singing and marching in motion declare that today has sucked. But is that true? What if the only difference between a good and a bad day was that you decided it was so? And that’s it.
Well that sounds deceptively simple and scarily responsible because now I am basically at the whim of whether I decide it to be a good or a bad day. Everything rides on my mind deciding. But guess what, it’s true.
Whatever we decide is true, our brain packages up and creates a nice gift box out and hands it back bow and all. If we decide it’s been a bad day, our brain strings the pieces together to create a perfectly packaged story labeled “bad day.” And then from that point forward we decide that this Monday was indeed a very bad, no good, day. Or maybe we even think Monday originally was a good day and then after contemplation our mind decides it was a bad day.
This means two things. First, we have the freedom to decide we are having a good day whenever we want. And second, if we have decided it is a bad day, at any given moment we can choose something else.
Play a game with me for a moment. Find the most recent day that your mind decided was a “good day” and one day that was a “bad day.” Reflect on each day and ask yourself, “how different were my experiences, feelings, and sensations?” And then ask “how was my mindset?” It’s likely that both days you experienced ups and downs in your mood. Diverse sensations in the body. And fun, boring, and irritating experiences. The only difference is your mind’s decision and solid label.
Every day we will experience a myriad of thoughts, emotions, sensations, and feelings. What you tune your mind to determines whether it is a good or a bad day.
Which brings me to this…happiness is relative. Think about it. My idea of happiness may be different than yours. What makes me happy may make you miserable. And while I’ve decided I’m happy one day, my mind could create a different story later about that happy feeling and call it a bad day.
One morning I found myself frustrated with how much time I was taking to complete my morning routine. Dear lord. This has got to change. I thought to myself. Another regular morning as I was completing the exact same routine I found myself saying this is what I live for!
Each meditation had moments of focus, insight, and moments of distraction. Each journaling practice had moments of insight and moments of babble. And each day went on to include varied experiences. If I allowed myself, my mind labeled one morning “relaxed and inspiring” and the other “frustrating,” maybe even “unproductive.” Was my meditation on the “good” morning that much more inspiring or centered? No. Was my journaling more insightful? No. The ONLY difference, when I am honest with myself, is my mindset.
The truth is we often have great stories about “good” and “bad” days that are…simply stories.
Have you had a day that should have been a “bad day” but it wasn’t? A “good day” but it wasn’t? The only difference is how your mind is relating to your experiences. I’ve had days where nothing seemed to go right. My schedule was shuffled multiple times, the metro broke down and I was stuck in a tunnel, the client forgot to complete their invoice and I have a bill waiting. Yeah. That day. That day ended up being a great day. You’d think looking at all that was happening that I could have declared it to be a bad day. But I didn’t. I choose to have it be a good day.
For this week’s Joy Tip Wednesday, I want to invite you to practice choosing “good days,” here’s how:
Intend to have a good day. Do this from the moment you wake up. Just decide that it is a day where you woke up on the right side of the bed.
Pay attention to your ENTIRE experience with an eye towards what’s awesome. You know when you want to buy a Honda Civic and then can only see Honda Civics wherever you drive? You’ve tuned your neuro receptors to a wider view of reality so that now you actually see the Hondas that have been there all along. In this practice you are agreeing to be more aware of your entire day with special attention to what you can celebrate, be grateful for, and cheer on so you don’t miss the awesome parts that are already there.
Notice when your mind tells you the day is starting to suck and choose something different. In the moment when your boss irritates you with the 500th task they’ve put on your plate. When your partner moves your computer and charger chord once again. When your new puppy pees on the carpet. Whatever it is, when the train of life seems to derail, catch yourself. In those moments I like to tell myself something like “I see that I’m irritated right now and that’s ok, but I want to choose something different.” And just by telling myself that I want to choose something different, things start to shift.
Etch the good day in your mind. Memory. That thing that creates a beautiful package out of everything. Use it to your advantage. Reflect at the end of the day in a meditation, with your journal, with your roommate, partner whatever works for you, about how great your day was.
Repeat and see what happens.
The best part about choosing good days is that according to neuroscience you are basically blazing the trail of “good days” in your brain. When you do this enough, this trail that you’ve hiked with your thoughts becomes more and more familiar and your mind is more likely to follow it. Hello, brain rewire. Now that’s magic and real. Now go have fun creating your good days.