What is this blog about?

There is no such thing as an expert on the topic of Life. We all have had our battles, our suffering, and our questions. Despite the uniqueness of our personal obstacles, we have endured them. We have endured them well enough to advise those behind us as to how to do the same. I have done the research on your behalf regarding the multitude of reasons why wisdom exists. My mission is to utilize the voices of the world's greatest thinkers and heroes to compose a guideline of life's wisdom so that you don't have to experience those trials alone.

If you have any questions, please tweet them to me @JoeSielski or email me at JJSielskiJr@comcast.net

(Please title your email with the word "Wisdom" so I know it will be for this blog.)

I will do my best to try and answer every question as quickly and efficiently as possible. Thanks.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Secret to Happiness... in 10 "easy" steps

Ok, this is it.  This is the essay you've probably signed onto this blog to find.  Happiness is that one thing we all want and yet can never seem to acquire. What is happiness?   Simply, it's the state of being happy.  There.  Easy, right?

I know, I know.   You're asking:   "How do I get there?"




This is A Life with Wisdom's Secret to Happiness...
in 10 "easy" steps.  

Firstly, let's identify what happiness actually is.  To understanding happiness is basically to define it.   Happiness is the state of being happy.  Happiness is a state of mind.   Happiness is reactionary.  Happiness is a form of knowledge. Understand that it's an emotion and that emotions are a choice.  Happiness is a choice.

Step 1: Choose Happiness

Since happiness is a choice, choose to be happy.   I know what you're thinking and yes, that sounds silly.  But that's also what makes it easy.   Being happy is as easy as deciding to be happy.   This is due to the reality that happiness is a perspective.

Imagine a coloring book. Allow for the outline of the image itself to represent the world around us. Then, allow the paint or crayons to be symbolic of our emotions and perceptions of the environment. The world wants us to believe that when we open that book, the colors have already been completed for us. Therefore, we're told that we have no control and we are instructed into how to perceive things. In truth, the drawing itself has always been in black and white, which grants us the privilege to decide how we want to interpret the world.  You are free. You have always been free. You are the painter. You have the ability to choose your own colors. You can utilize this knowledge to break free of the world's attempt to feed your own emotions to you.  That begins with a choice. 

Step 2:   Color your World

Many people expect happiness to exist only in grand moments like weddings, work promotions or childbirth. Yes, these are huge life events with a great and happy value, but happiness is not these events. "Happy" is an adjective. The word itself means nothing short of symbolically defining a feeling. Despite the callousness of this description, these events are inherently neutral. They have no color whatsoever.  

Naturally, we assign an emotion to these circumstances. We attach our reactions to these events. We decide how we want to interpret them. We have the ability to perceive these as happy events. We use our thoughts to assign that "happy" emotion to these events. We attach that adjective to that noun. If we have the ability to do that with some events, we can do it with multiple. When we utilize our thoughts and perceptions of things in such a way that we can re-interpret them so to genuinely perceive them as "happy," we are creating the state of mind that embodies happiness. If we can attribute that "happy" adjective to any given noun, we are intrinsically creating a happy environment for ourselves. We are creating a happier Self.  Despite how doubt tries to intervene and explain things away, give yourself permission to challenge this doubt so to experiment with the possibility. This is the moment, when I hand you a paintbrush, strip the coloring book of its color and assign you the responsibility to have fun decorating it.


Step 3:  Be Thankful

Anywhere and everywhere you look for advice on happiness, you will always encounter words that encourage gratitude.  This step is imperative.

"If one should give me a dish of sand and tell me there were particles of iron in it, I might look for them with my eyes and search for them with my clumsy fingers and be unable to detect them; but let me take a magnet and sweep through it and now would it draw to itself the almost invisible particles by the mere power of attraction. The unthankful heart, like my finger in the sand, discovers no mercies; but let the thankful heart sweep through the day and as the magnet finds the iron, so I will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings." [Henry Ward Beecher] 



Step 4:  Appreciate More

Gratitude is an act of affirmation. Gratitude is an act of discovery. Gratitude is a scavenger hunt for worth, for value and for goodness. Gratitude is an appreciation so profound that it becomes humbling.  Look around you. What do you see? (Go ahead, I'll wait.) Reflect on your day. What was your favorite moment? Your least favorite moment?  I'm asking you to be so mindful of your moments and all things within it that you can train yourself to find the value in them. To appreciate is to affix worth onto all things encountered, current or past. This is the act of assessing your life, your day, then appraising everything with a new sense of wonder. Therefore, even in the greatest trials of life, you can find their worth.

The reason for this advice is to help you to remain continually aware of why concepts are appreciated. With gratitude being a discovery of goodness, this attentiveness to the blessings, even ones that you had once considered to be mere minutiae, helps the mind to appreciate nuance and detail. Again, look around. Those gifts are everywhere so assume the responsibility required to discover them! Be the magnet that finds those tiny particles of iron. Even when pondering grateful moments amidst a walk in the park, stay cognizant of specific sources of gratitude. The benefit of explaining these elements of gratitude is key in explaining those definitive details within the Self that guide our very thinking. No matter what transpired, whether good or bad, death or celebration; we must always look back and find the ways in which we are to be grateful.

Step 5:  Want Less 

This is the step that's gonna really hurt where it counts.  This is where most of us seem to slip up and when happiness becomes difficult.  

"Happiness is the absence of striving for happiness." [Chuang Tze] 

Many voices have been quoted referencing that happiness is the state of no longer wanting. This is the act of accepting that all in existence, in this present moment, is just as it should be.  Many of us have been taught that money is representative of happiness. We learn that we can utilize it to obtain "stuff." Subsequently, we have attached the happy feelings or the expectation to receive happy feelings if we intend to spend it later. Happiness does not always rely on the attachment to objects. In fact, in most instances, it's quite the opposite. However, we value happiness so much that we are willing to pay for it. "Man does not possess wealth. Wealth possesses man." [Benjamin Franklin]

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want."  [Psalm 23, the Holy Bible]

Step 6:  Expect Nothing

This also, is another difficult step.  Oh, the things I could say about the danger of expectations!   Actually, I already have mentioned it, at least once:   A Day without Anger  

Expectations are terribly detrimental for one's happiness.  Due to our expectations, we open ourselves up to allowing these expectations to fail.  When an expectation fails, we can become angry, disappointed, and depressed.

 The act of wanting is rooted in expectation, which itself, takes root in the ego. By establishing expectations of how we believe life will transpire, we are also establishing a proposed desire for how we'd like for it to appear. Therefore, the ego is once again at fault for feeding us an illusion of happiness.  The act of wanting causes us to be conscious of things or experiences that are not with us in the present moment. This will prompt us to neglect that for which we could be grateful. By addressing moments before or after this present moment, we lose sight of that state of contentment and we rely on our expectation to create a false sense of hope.  To make an example out of the ego, its act of wanting might prompt us to resent and grieve, convincing us that the state of acquisition is synonymous with happiness. Gratitude has a means of transcending time which allows for these past events or achievements to brings happiness to us in "the now."  Many people want happiness, but cannot define it; therefore they don't know when it is present.

Step 7:  Forgive

Oh, how I love forgiveness so very much!   
Just like the essay on Anger, there is already an essay here at A Life with Wisdom for Forgiveness:   A Day for Forgiveness

In brief, forgiving releases the expectations.  While discussing Forgiveness, I mentioned how it is a tool utilized to encounter various changes in life. This is due to the reality that we set expectations for how we anticipate life to happen. Again, this is when we think we can predict future outcomes. When things don't coincide to how we had envisioned them, we can become disappointed or frustrated. None of these qualities lead us toward happiness.  When we become angered, we have allowed our ego to trap us into falling away from happiness.  When we judge others, that bitterness halts our centered happiness and only feeds our selfish ego.  Forgiveness enters to sacrifice the ego and free us from its bind.   

Step 8:  Foster Happiness

One of the benefits in knowing who you are is that you inherently know what you favor. This knowledge provides the talent to preserve our own happy moments.  I call this "fostering happiness." 
This begins with the awareness of your own unique and personal sources for happiness. Consider your favorite music. Is there a certain park or restaurant you prefer? Do you know a particular friend who inspires you? "Let us be grateful of people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." [Marcel Proust] The act of fostering your happiness begins with the awareness to that which makes you happy. The reason for this awareness is so that you can remain mindful of your happiness amidst the absence of happiness. Happiness exists in a spectrum, or in a continuum; there are many segments to happiness. Therefore, if one segment becomes tarnished, you can utilize other realms in your knowledge of happiness to nurse you through that sorrow. This will allow you to maintain a healthy homeostasis of your happiness.

"When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I'm feeling sad; I simply remember my favorite things and then I don't feel so bad." [lyrics from 'The Sound of Music']

Step 9:  Enjoy

Ok, so you've chosen to be happy because you understand happiness and what makes you happy.  Now what?   Enjoy it!  Enjoy life!   Be thankful for that knowledge and celebrate it.  Something that makes celebration unique from happiness itself is that there is enthusiasm. Often this is called "joie du vivre," or joy of life. In this celebration of life, there is wonder and there is awe. This act of celebrating is a means of pausing to make time to identify your appreciation. If there is a party, we appreciate our time together. If there is a funeral, we appreciate the value of the individual who passed. If a goal has been met, whether by us or a friend, we appreciate that victory. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of this potential for continuous happiness. It is a great error that we perceive happiness as a thunderous flash of excitement. Our search for that flash blinds us from seeing happiness present in every moment. Happiness has a natural ebb and flow like the nature of breathing. Just as we must take time to grieve, we must also take time to celebrate. However, we still have the ability to make a decision to breathe in the same manner that we can take the time to recognize our happiness and admit our appreciation. That ebb and flow occurs between the experience of one celebratory moment and the quest for the next. This is how it feels to be "in joy" or rather to enjoy that moment. In every moment, there is always a reason for celebration.  

Every day is a celebration. Happy today! 

Step 10:  Love

Finally... Step 10! It would be pointless to describe various sources for happiness and then ignore Love.  And yet, one of the greatest paradoxes of love and happiness is that we are often willing to sacrifice our own happiness if it can produce happiness in another person.   

"Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." [Robert Heinlein]

"Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness is never decreased by being shared." [Buddha]

 What is there really to say about love apart from the very real truth that love feels good and makes us feel happy.   Like gratitude, love is also born from an appreciation.   Love is a profound appreciation of the relationship between the self and another entity.  Most times, loving is more than knowing, we must feel that appreciation. Like an infant seeing its face in a mirror for the very first time, we are granted self-awareness. This is the initial moment when we are introduced to Love.

Once we've been attuned to love, loving becomes easier.   As described earlier, sharing happiness generates more; also that the happiness of others is valuable for our own peace of mind.  We call this kindness.     Kindness has also been featured in its own essay, very early in the existence of this blog.  See here:  A Day of Kindness   One can foster happiness by doing random acts of kindness and creating happy days every day.   Every day is a great day when you're in the proper mind.


So there, 10 easy steps to discover happiness.   Reflect on them. Pay attention for your expectations so that you can quash them when you see them manifest.  Then do it all over again.


Thank you for your time,
Joe Sielski
(Aug. 1, 2014)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Day to Remember that:



You are surrounded by love.
It is everywhere, 100% around you at all times.   

More often than not, we get distracted and neglect that it's present.   This makes it our responsibility to remember that we are indeed surrounded by Love.   



“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”  [Rumi]

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Day for Confidence

Why is it that when others judge us, we feel bad for ourselves?
We become embarrassed. It digs into our insecurities. We feel powerless and afraid, terrified to be alone. Subsequently, we begin to avoid certain activities that might later result in further embarrassment. So what is it that we're afraid of? Take a moment to reflect on that question. Someone jokes about you; then what? What happens? You feel embarrassed; then what happens? Are we afraid of other people? Not as much as one might think. Truly, what hinders us is the embarrassment itself. We are afraid of a feeling. Now having said this, what makes this such a brilliant epitome is that in the end of the “then what?” series of questions, one realizes the answer becomes “nothing.” After judgment and feelings of embarrassment, normalcy is once again established. You have the choice as to whether you will feel embarrassed, therefore you have the choice to thwart your personal embarrassment from affecting you. 

Here's the trick: other people don't embarrass us, we embarrass ourselves. Remember how to celebrate your uniqueness, don't ever forget it. Half the reason why the attentiveness to an idea is considered wise is because there are moments like this one. If ever you lose sight of your extraordinary ways, you allow the toxic criticisms of peers to sneak in and affect you.


"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"
 [Eleanor Roosevelt]






Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Day to Do Something

Whenever you have passion for something you will set aside time so to focus on it. Wisdom is about the tenacity to remain continually aware. Well, if you're continually aware of how to make time for things you value, you have lived.

"We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give." [Winston Churchill]

When you open a history book, a biography, or attend a funeral, you witness how we celebrate life. It is a full documentary of the ways in which others have made time. Whether it is through hard work, sharing kindness, painting, composing music, even those who have done evil deeds; we live by setting apart time so to make manifest our passions. In life, if something matters to you, you will make it a priority. If something is a priority, you will do it. It's that simple.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Day without Anger

Anger is an emotional state of rage due to a lack of contentment. Anger is born from the unexpected. Things will happen that we don't like and when we are surprised in a negative way, anger often ensues. By nature of establishing expectations, by creating a perceived framework of how we intended things to transpire, we are also increasing our likelihood to encounter anger. What this means is that various situations will happen, situations over which we have no control. In response to those unexpected moments, it is prone to our nature to occasionally flare up in anger.



I decided to categorize Anger as something to belong in the chapter on Forgiveness in my book.   Why is anger featured in a chapter about forgiveness? The answer lies in the very definition of forgiveness itself; it's virtually formulaic. I'll take one part the definition of Forgiveness, one part the definition of Anger, and the solution will become quite evident. How is that solution found? Consider the following: Anger is an adverse reaction to a failed expectation. Also, Forgiveness is the act of accepting that which we cannot change. Therefore, to forgive oneself of anger means to first acknowledge the circumstance in the past as unable to be altered . Finally, by accepting the source of anger as immutable, we can let go of the feelings of Anger themselves. It is always helpful to address the offending circumstance in such a way that we also release any hope about it changing. This realization will provide a beautiful home for peace, love, and acceptance to reside. There is an exception however, one that is quite valuable and useful: social injustices. When we feel culturally wronged, we can utilize anger as impetus to benefit society on behalf of equality and create change. The awareness to one's own anger is key in helping to address it at face value as immediately as it is encountered. 

To continue with the mentality of feeling wronged, a common source of our anger is other people. We are all individuals, making our own decisions. Sometimes we disagree. This can lead to an argument. Often times, an argument is the result of a lack of communication somewhere. Whether that somewhere was poor phrasing, the omission of truth or a full-blown lie, arguments will happen. It is a common belief that there is only one way to express one's anger in such a circumstance: aggression. Take a moment to reflect on what we know as “road rage” and how that is relevant to both anger and aggression. By showing aggression, it is often assumed that dominance is gained and the argument is finalized. By showing aggression, it is also assumed that Hammurabi's Code of “an eye for an eye” has been established and that justice has been earned. It is often assumed that revenge is an appropriate answer due to the presumptuous belief that aggression is an appropriate teacher. There are many quotes from advice-givers that exist to divulge these assumptions about anger. One of my favorites comes from the voice of the Buddha: “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone; you are the only one who gets burned.” This quote so beautifully describes the truth behind the manifestation of anger because it addresses the assumption of aggression and continues by depicting that anger only harms the thinker. 

 

Anger is toxic. Anger is addictive. Anger can also be contagious. Anger is not eliminated by more anger, it is eliminated by Love. Please try and remain mindful of this notion as you move forward in life. When feelings of anger arise, treat them like feelings of grief. Identify them as merely a feeling. Examine them. Examine their source. Try to understand that the anger was brought to you and that it is an entity separate from you. By comprehending that Anger is not a manifestation of you, then you will find it much easier to free yourself from that anger. You release it, you let it go, you forgive it. Be aware that anger will try and reach you from outside sources; therefore, by being attentive to it, you can deflect it with wisdom and love. Also consider ulterior sources of anger such as being hungry, tired, embarrassed or being in physical pain. This attentiveness will prove beneficial by helping you to think beyond your weary, hungry mind after you identify the origin of the anger. As an example, if you consider yourself to be someone who frequently experiences anger while driving, maybe you can focus your attention onto your anger now with the intent on eradicating it. By understanding that Love conquers anger, you can then fill yourself with so much Love that the anger has no room remaining to exist within you. There have been times, when I've noticed my own anger. In these moments, I pause and reflect on what the expectation was that I had assumed. Generally, once I can identify that the failed expectation that sparked my anger, my anger quickly begins to dissipate. In the midst of driving, you might not expect another vehicle to surprise you which might illicit anger. Address it, accept it as the present moment, then continue in your travels. You have the ability to love every person and every circumstance you encounter. Through this comprehension of love, angry perceptions of wrongdoings will evaporate. Anger will vanish, and in it's place: mercy. Forgiveness is an awareness that we are not entirely in control. As mentioned in an earlier essay on Forgiveness, I love the metaphor of the weather. Anger seems moot if you are angry at the rain. The weather happens outside of our control, just as others will make choices outside of our control. We need to remain open to these new future circumstances so to not let them surprise and enrage us. This awareness to Anger and willingness to constantly forgive is best known as Patience.

There is no sin on this earth that gives a man such a foretaste of Hell in this life as anger or impatience.” [St. Catherine of Siena]