I used to be a “happy when” person. When I was an actress it was, “I’ll be happy when I work at such and such theatre.” Then once I worked there it turned into, “I’ll be happy when I get a better role at said theatre.” This would soon turn into, “I’ll be happy when I can work closer to home,” or, “I’ll be happy when I get my Actor’s Equity Card,” or, “I’ll be happy when I work with a certain director or choreographer.” It was an endless cycle of wanting more every time I had achieved something that was supposed to bring me joy.
I think all of us go through the “happy whens” at some point. I feel that we are endlessly bombarded with the thought that happiness is a choice. And though I thoroughly agree with this, it’s probably the last thing you want to hear when nothing is going your way. At least once a week someone asks me, “How are you so happy and upbeat all of the time?” My reply is usually, “I do yoga.” Now you might be thinking that I am equating yoga to a happy life. That if you practice you will be a happier person, but that is not necessarily the case.
When I was stuck in the endless cycle of “happy when,” I was not doing anything to really feed my soul. Everything, and I mean everything, was about getting the next show, getting better at my craft, achieving that next goal that was supposed to bring me happiness. I ran 5-6 miles a day, took dance classes, lifted weights, went to as many auditions as possible, sent my headshot and resumes to multiple theatres and agencies, stood in line at print calls, sang my heart out at auditions, was constantly looking for new music to sing at auditions, memorized new monologues, took scene study classes and the list goes on and on. There was never enough time to achieve the greatness I new I was destined for.
Then I took a Bikram Yoga class. And honestly at first the only reason for going was to get a good detox and gain some more flexibility for the next dance call. It was part of this crazy actress regimen I was on. But as I continued to practice and eventually stepped up my practice to 5 to 6 times a week, I was changed. I was doing something not to just further myself in my career but simply because I liked it and it made me happy.
As my practice progressed I began to care less and less about what the directors, producers, and agents thought of me, but what I thought of myself. Because I took the time to take care of myself and do something that made me happy each day the outcome of the audition world had less of an affect on me. It was when I stopped trying to achieve happiness that it just simply happened for me.
Happiness is a perspective change. There is no good. There is no bad. We have decided to put those limits on any situation. Everything just is. Sometimes the situations that bring us such sadness and angst will in the long run be the vehicle towards finding joy, peace, or a better understanding of ourselves.
I often see the discontent of my students as they go through the Bikram Series. They fall out of a posture and glare at themselves in the mirror. They sit out a posture and that’s all they can talk about in the locker room. They didn’t go as far into the posture as they did in the previous class and they can’t figure out what’s wrong with them. The “happy whens” have set in. The endless barrage of, “I’ll be happy when I can lock my knee,” or, “I’ll be happy when I can hold 3rd part Awkward,” or, “I’ll be happy when Locust is no longer painful,” will never lead to being content with your practice. One of the most powerful things about this yoga is when you find the joy in doing the series despite what happens within the 90-minute class. What great practice for when you leave the room!
So, my advice when you have a case of the “happy whens” is to find one thing to do each day, whatever it may be, that will bring you happiness now. It doesn’t have to complicated or grandiose. It might be painting or sketching, writing a poem, starting a blog, going for a walk, reading a book, learning how to play an instrument, cooking a new recipe, and yes, maybe taking a yoga class. Find something that speaks to you – that feeds your soul. Because once you find your happiness now no one can take that away from you. You are the master of your destiny.
“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp, but which if you sit down quietly, it may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
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