From Stress To Happiness

“If you don’t trust life, the worst has already happened.”-Brother David, Benedictine Monk on Stress to Happiness Documentary

Yesterday I felt guided to watch a documentary on Netflix entitled Stress to Happiness.  The film pulled me in with the initial song by Paz that played in the background “I Am,” which is on my beloved Puzo’s favorite playlist.  It was filmed in Argentina and follows Alejandro, a 39 year old husband, father, and filmmaker who has had increasing amounts of stress. He is seeking mentorship and guidance from Tibetan Buddhist Matthieu Ricard, who has been named the happiest man on earth.  He earned this title after he was part of a 12 year neuroscientific study that looked on meditation and compassion.  

The one hour documentary was simple.  A brief description of the struggle Alejandro is facing, and his wife trying to support him on his journey of seeking a calmer state.  They host Matthieu Ricard as he travels their home country, and head to Patagonia and Mount Fitz Roy.  As they film and take Matthieu around, they pick his brain as to how to achieve this calmer state during these times.  

When they are in a small cabin by Mount Fitz Roy, they engage in a loving kindness meditation. Metta, or loving kindness meditations, encourage us to send loving thoughts to ourselves, loved ones, acquaintances, those we dislike, and the larger world.  What I found fascinating as Matthieu offered the meditation, the audience can meditate as well.  Background images of a fireplace is shown or a beautiful snow capped mountaintop. 

The film served as a beautiful reminder to focus on what matters in one’s life and to not get caught up on our attachments to things, situations, or people.  This is a prominent teaching in Buddhism, attachment is the root of all suffering.  There were numerous questions that Alejandro asked, and although not all were answered, what arose seemed to be the importance of reflecting on this.  

Why am I stressed? What is meditation and what is it for? How to get out of anxiety? How to get out of fear? What does neuroscience have to say about it? What is the purpose of life? How do we develop a life of purpose? How do we build trust? What is the best way to make use of our life? And what are the questions that really make sense to ask ourselves?

What seems most important is to sit with the following question, which poet Mary Oliver asks in her poem The Summer Day
 Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


Happiness is a Human Right

I was at a my first raclette party the other day filled with expats, who mention they may not return to the United States due to several things: healthcare, guns, and education.  “Healthcare is a human right, it should not be for profit.”  I cannot disagree with this statement, and it ruminates in my head as I live here, and ponder my future.  

Later that evening, I got off at the metro stop Varenne by the Rodin Museum (my favorite sculptor).  The Eiffel Tower was in the background shining, as I walked towards my apartment.  I was leaving a dinner with a new group of friends, I had just gone on a date that surprisingly went well the day prior, and had plans the next day to meet up with creatives to lead an Artist Way workshop.  I thought “this is my life!”  I’m shocked by this fact repeatedly.  Paris is my current hometown.  I live in a city people dream for years to visit, and I was doing it.  I was living in a town filled with delights in pleasure. But I couldn’t help but feel a pang of guilt.

Did I deserve to be happy?  I wasn’t working.  I thought of the judgements others may have towards my happiness that I was lazy, a freeloader, or a drifter. I even thought of so many people who are suffering, who may believe I wasn’t worthy of this emotion.  

I was setting limits on the bounty of my happiness.  

Why do I feel guilty for feeling happy?  It’s as if I feel happiness should be earned.  I felt guilty that I was not working in a job.  I had this false belief that I could only receive happiness if I clocked in 40 hours and received a paycheck.  

I was setting rules to how I could enjoy myself.  

But as I walked home, I battled that thought.  Happiness does not have to be earned.  It is a human right, just like health care is a human right.  We all deserve and have access to happiness.  It’s not a limited resource, or tied to profit.  I have the right to be happy.  And I will continue to remind myself this, as I live in the city of my dreams.  

“You stumble, you soar. And if you’re lucky, you make it to Paris for a while.” — Amy Howard