Friday, May 9, 2008

30 Before 30

From The Happiness Project I came across this list of 40 things a woman wanted to do before she turned 40. I was inspired to do my own list: “30 Before 30.” My 27th birthday is in about two weeks so that gives me three years to tackle my list:

1) Finish my PhD.

2) Climb Longs Peak.

3) Finish knitting the red and orange scarf that is now in its fourth year of knitting.

4) Do a yoga teacher training course.

5) Travel to Brazil to see friends there.

6) Travel to any of the following with SV: Paris, Seattle or Iceland.

7) Go on a trip with my parents – maybe Alaska?

8) Paint a picture a year (at least).

9) Stay out of debt.

10) Start a retirement fund.

11) Publish 3 first-authored papers.

12) Take ballet.

13) Go to a slow food event in Edmonton with DM.

14) Sea kayaking around Vancouver Island and seeing RY.

15) Scrapbook more.

16) Visit Aunt L. a few times.

17) Have a dedicated yoga practice for one year. (hopefully, more!)

18) Have a dedicated meditation practice for 6 months.

19) Run the Bolder Boulder one time

20) Go to Ojo Caliente with friends. Yay!

21) Finish baby blanket for KVL.

22) Knit something for RY.

23) Knit hat and cowl for myself.

24) Have love endeavor(s)!

25) Paint and organize a space in the lab for my office. Something very cool. Very chic. Very organized; very me.

26) Get to know my parents more.

27) Play my violin more. Or at all. Have AM tune it first…

28) Find the 10 best breakfast places in Edmonton.

29) Write an article for the NYTimes.

30) Learn to make excellent chicken enchiladas – locate that recipe I used in New Haven

I realize some of these are pretty ambitious (mainly #29 and #3). The rest however, are realistic. Additionally, each of these touch on themes, people and the minutiae of my life that make me happy!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Mellow like a cello

As there is a constant undercurrent of happiness lately, I am finding it difficult to focus on happiness and write anything substantive. With regard to happiness that is. Hopefully my writing elsewhere remains substantive!

Simple pleasures fill the space.

Laughing with friends on the phone, around the kitchen table or while walking when a thought makes me smile is a key ingredient of happiness, a byproduct of happiness, or both.

Savoring a cup of coffee (just the one as opposed to several!) in the filtered light of a coffee shop is a rediscovered pleasure. I am working on reducing my caffeine intake as much as possible. Just two weeks ago I would have anywhere from 4 to 7 caffeinated hot drinks a day (coffee or tea). Now, I am down to two hot beverages a day. I must say that last week was not easy. A few afternoons I had terrible headaches. One day in particular I was rather cranky and moody (I was also in the world’s largest mall that day; that could have been a contributing factor). The real joy comes with fully enjoying my one cup of coffee sitting quietly thinking of the possibilities of the new day rather than gulping my one cup down as I sort myself out to face the day. The intention accompanying the consumption makes the difference.

Finally, an envelope with two CDs was in the post this weekend (Thanks SMV!). One was Nina Simone with the track “Sinnerman” (oh so good!) and the other was Alice Smith. I cannot recommend Alice Smith highly enough. If you like beats and melodies that are organic and fluid, and lyrics that invoke smiles of recognition, this CD (titled “For Dreamers, Lovers & Me) is a must-have.

Oh, no more blogging on Thursdays for me, however sweet of a nod to Steinbeck I think it is…This will be more catch-as-catch-can but hopefully once a week.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Joyful Challenges

Today there is a joyful challenge facing me in the form of a final exam. But let’s not dwell on that. It is snowing here in fair Edmonton. Again. At least the temperature is tolerable - there is something to be said for April! Let’s not dwell on that either.

At meditation last night the person speaking on the topic of meditation at one point said something to effect of: “wordswordswords…and that is happiness,” at which point I tuned back in. “Damn,” I thought, “there was the answer to what happiness is and I missed it because I zoned out!” The same thing happens in course lectures too, when the professor indicates that he or she has just summarized the entire essence of a concept. At which point I always wish they would reiterate what they have just said because those sign posts of “this is important and I have just distilled a concept with great clarity” really help anchor me. While I agree that all of a lecture is important, there is no way to process the entire stream of input so I do well with verbal signposts. I find this same phenomenon in life. As in, something happens, and clearly after it occurs, some realization or clarity happens although it isn’t always clear what the referent is because I have not been paying attention to everything preceding the onset of clarity. They say meditating is useful for increasing this awareness and focus. I hope so. Then, when I have a flash of “this is happiness” it will be possible to know what the “this” refers to and I won’t feel bummed when I miss the “answer” at meditation.

I just spent a fantastic weekend in Victoria with friends and wanted to write on the happiness of friendship but will need more time to do so….now however, I need to turn my attention to my most immediate joyful challenge…

Thursday, April 17, 2008


In the past 9 years I have lived at 12 addresses (not including the more transitory ones of a month or less) in 6 cities in 3 countries on 2 continents. Needless to say, in all this moving, things are lost. But! This past week some things were found!

  • I lost my camera skiing in February. It was found and returned to me this past weekend!
  • There are a number of CDs that I seem to have lost along the way….I found two of them under the seat of my car on Monday!
  • Digital pictures – my old computer crashed (or something) – and I thought all of my pictures were gone. Many are – but some were recovered!

At times, all I see is how disjointed, delineated and fragmented my life is. It’s like looking at a Seurat painting up close and only seeing the individual dots of color and being confused at how a green dot, a red dot, another green dot etc., fit together. And then, stepping back and seeing a woman’s face emerge in a whole scene of leisure. Finding my pictures and some of my music allowed me to see the whole painting of my life. What I see is not so disjointed; the constellation of colored dots actually forms a coherent image of one woman journeying!

Also, I have found myself re-reading my roommate’s book, The Tibetan Art of Positive Thinking by Christopher Hansard.

Here is a bit on happiness:

Happiness exists of itself. In the same way that the sun releases warmth for our planet, happiness creates warmth for our lives. Everything is happy. The thought energy of happiness is already formed, we just need to accept it…Happiness is not to be found in the accumulation of material goods or particular events. True happiness comes from the sacred place within us and as we spend time in this place and increase our capacity for skilful thought energy, so we increase our capacity for happiness.

I myself am not versed enough to elaborate too much on skilful thinking but early in the book the author’s teacher tells him this:

“You are what you think. Thought directs all things. People pride themselves on how they think, but really it is thought that moves through people. Our thoughts create our lives, they make us sick, happy or successful. Our thoughts can pollute our planet through the actions we take. Thoughts on their own will gather like clouds in the sky, good thoughts coming together with other good thoughts and unskillful thoughts attracting other unskillful thoughts.”

Some things to think about.

May the day be sweet!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Pure Part of the Abyss

I’m back. I was in transition. (But when am I not?)

I may take time to reflect on the last year (it’s been almost that long since I blogged on happiness!) but today I simply want to share some happy things. My aim is to commit to blogging about happiness on Thursdays. And it is Thursday!

Happy Things
• Spring! It’s here! I can tell because the grass is variegated with new growth and the air smells alive.

• Feist. My roommate just lent me her new CD. So good. Feist is Canadian.

• People murmuring during meditation. I went to a meditation session last night. I didn’t understand all of it but at one point after visualizing rays of white, red and blue light and some chanting people started murmuring, with beads, and sounds of OM and AH and another sound…it evoked in me a mixture of awe and surprise. Like the first time I heard the trees creaking against each other on Vancouver Island.

• New ideas. There is the danger of becoming too narrow and developing tunnel vision in graduate school (or in life, I suppose). I am making a conscious effort to stretch myself and develop breadth in my thinking. Broad thinking makes me happy even if, at times, I find it intimidating and overwhelming.

• Laughter. The sound of it – especially from people I love. The feel of it – especially at the corners of my eyes.

• The sunset over the Saskatchewan River. To me this captures the infinite possibilities of my life. Five years ago, a year ago, six months ago, even, I never imagined I would watch ice flow down a river while the sun sank low in the sky over the first city I ever visited (who knew that at 6 weeks old I would be on the same campus where I would later pursue a PhD? Thousands of miles from where I was born and reared!).

Il Postino and Pablo Neruda. Here is an excerpt from Neruda’s Poetry that makes me happy:
I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

So, there are some happy things for this Thursday - may it be sweet!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Label Cloud

I have just added label clouds to my blogs. This makes me very happy. I had always liked the look of them and this code was easy to implement.

Clouds, real and vitual, are happiness!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Philosophy of Happiness

I am very excited to be traveling on from Turkey but I must admit, it would have been nice have been able to attend this year’s Philosophy in Assos conference. The conference sounds like a real joy in terms of location and atmosphere and this year’s program is all about happiness! The program is full of interesting topics and heavy hitters – Christopher Shields was at CU when I was but I didn’t have the opportunity to take any courses with him – registration ends June 30th and while it is aimed at philosophy professors and students, it looks like anyone with an interest can apply to participate.

Something I have been very interested in lately is how definitions of happiness have changed, if at all, through the ages, and the last time I read a classical text on the subject was in one of my philosophy courses in college. It would be interesting to look at these issues again after I have been thinking about happiness and what it is / means etc., because of my own intrinsic desire to examine this subject and not because it is in a syllabus. It looks like this subject is talked about in the proceedings.
Yes, the conference does look like a good one indeed! If anyone reading this blog, I think there are only two or three people who do, but in case someone who does read this, does go, please let me know how it goes!