By Jim Leonard
Happiness means enjoying life. Happiness is a skill. As with other skills, you can get better at it. There are two separate skills involved in living well. One is the skill of achieving your goals. The other skill is something most people never think of as being a skill: the skill of enjoying what you already have. Although getting what you want is obviously important, the skill of being happy right now is even more important. You’ll be more successful at achieving your goals if you know how to be happy at every step along the way. You won’t dissipate energy on friction. You’ll be alert to unexpected opportunities. And you’ll generate enthusiasm continuously, which will move you powerfully toward your ultimate fulfillment.
I am author of three books: Vivation: The Science of Enjoying All of Your Life, Your Fondest Dream and Vivation: The Skill of Happiness. Your Fondest Dream is about discovering what you truly want most in life and creating that. My other books and this article are about how to be happy with what you’ve already got.
First of all, what you’ve got is the present moment. That’s all you’ve got and that’s everything there is. That you exist to be experiencing anything at all is vastly more significant than any particular thing you might experience.
Within every human is the remembrance that our existence is fundamentally miraculous. Beyond the stream of activity and worries is a centered space of wisdom and perfection. The more we remain consciously connected with this perfection consciousness, the more quickly, and less stressfully, we gain the satisfaction that comes from living well.
In spite of this, most people think they can feel happy only under special circumstances, when everything is going their way. They expend their energy wishing things were different, struggling to make things different, or trying to escape from their feelings about things being the way they are. What a lot of needless suffering!
Your degree of happiness is determined by your attitude about what happens in your life, not by the things, themselves, that happen. Every adversity contains the seed of an equal or greater opportunity. Finding the good buried within the unpleasant is an art.
I have known many people with severe physical disabilities who were happier than most able-bodied people. I’ll never forget the time a college friend of mine, paralyzed from the neck down, told me that because of what he’d learned about life from being quadriplegic, he was grateful he’d had his accident! What he had learned is that existence itself is infinitely valuable.
Consider a man who believes that what would make him happy is to own a Mercedes. No matter how strong his belief, he is wrong. The truth is, only he can make himself happy.
The only thing absolutely necessary for your happiness is your own existence. However, you only experience happiness to the degree that you allow yourself to receive, in the depth of your being, the good available in the present moment, with everything exactly the way it is. Again, this is a skill and you can get better at it.
That people find so much to complain about is not a sign of how bad their lives are but a sign of how poor their skill of happiness is. What does it take to enjoy every moment unconditionally? What is this skill of happiness? Simply put, it is the skill of not making yourself unhappy. You don’t have to do anything special to enjoy something. Because your existence is miraculous, enjoyment is natural and available at every moment.
In order to not enjoy something, you must block your awareness of what is good about it, and block your awareness that existence itself is fundamentally good. People do this by insisting that what they are experiencing should be different from how it is. Doing so separates them from the reality of their situation and shifts their attention from the good in what they’re experiencing to the gap between how it is and how it should be. The term I use for this is make-wrong. You make something wrong when you compare it to an imaginary standard, such as how it should be, how you wish it were, what somebody else has, how good things used to be back in the good old days, and so on.
I’m sure you’ve noticed, by this point in your life, that things are not the way you think they should be. Things are the way they are. Your ability to be happy depends on your ability to be in harmony with reality as it is. This does not mean you give up making things better; quite the opposite. But consider this: Even if you succeed at making things better five minutes from now, that does you no good right now. Only your ability to improve your relationship to things as they are right now can make you happier.
Your relationship to what you are experiencing is called the context in which you hold the experience. Whenever you experience anything, you hold it in one particular context, just as whenever you look at something, you see it from one particular perspective. You can change contexts or perspectives quickly, but you can only use one at a time. It is impossible to think about anything without having a context. You can either choose your context consciously, or you can let your subconscious mind choose your context for you.
Everything about the way something affects you is determined by the context in which you hold it. You can hold anything in a context that makes you inspired and creative, or you can hold the same thing in a context that makes you helpless and depressed. You always have the choice. Negativity can be defined as contexts that reduce your happiness. A negative context is any context in which you compare something to an imaginary standard and decide that what you are imagining would be better than reality.
To clarify this point, you only make something wrong and cause yourself problems by telling yourself that what you’re experiencing should be different from how it is right now. Suppose you are building a house and are looking at a vacant lot with piles of lumber and building materials. There is no limit to how happy you can be as long as it’s OK with you that the house is in your future, and wood, nails, and plans for hard work are in your present. But if you tell yourself it’s July and the job should be done by now, then you are separating yourself from reality and needlessly reducing your happiness.
A positive context is any context in which you embrace reality as it is, without comparing it to an imaginary standard. A positive context not only makes you happier than a negative context, it also makes you more effective. When you are holding your current situation in a positive context, you are focusing on what’s useful, instead of complaining about how bad things are. Additionally, a positive context increases your motivation since it enables you to be motivated by enthusiasm. People often expect negativity to be a good source of motivation, but it is not. If negativity really motivated people, then the most negative people would be the most productive. What actually happens is that the most negative people commit suicide and produce nothing. Cultivating enthusiasm increases motivation and productivity. Every shift from focusing on what-isn’t-there-that-should-be-there to focusing on what-is-there-that’s-useful, produces a creative breakthrough, a quantum leap in effectiveness.
Once people have decided that something is bad or lacking in some way, they often have difficulty changing to a positive context. The purpose of this article is to describe a simple method for making this shift quickly and reliably, a process you can use in your day-to-day life, a process called Vivation.
Vivation works at the feeling level and thus bypasses the traps of mental processing. Just as we have a variety of senses through which we perceive the world around us, we have parallel senses through which we perceive our thoughts and memories, our inner world. Everybody is to some extent internally visual, internally verbal, and internally feeling. All these internal senses are interconnected and operate continuously, whether or not you are aware of them. Let’s explore the feeling sense, since that is important in Vivation.
You have feelings about everything. Whenever you give your attention to a particular thing, be it external or internal, you feel something about it. The feeling you get is specific. You get a different feeling for each different thing you consider. For example, when you think about different people, you get a different feeling about each one, and you get yet another feeling when you think about a plate of spaghetti.
Whenever you make anything wrong, you simultaneously make your corresponding feeling wrong. This simply means that whenever you find fault with something, you get an unpleasant feeling in your body. However, when you stop making that thing wrong, your corresponding feeling not only stops hurting, it becomes a source of pleasure. Here’s the most important idea in this whole article: By changing your relationship to your feeling about something, you change your relationship to the thing itself.
Vivation gives you the skill to tune in your feelings, experience them vividly and enjoy them! Enjoying an unpleasant feeling is much easier than it sounds. People talk about their negative emotions as though they don’t enjoy them, but they act as though they do enjoy them. For example, most people would say they don’t like feeling afraid, yet scary movies do billions of dollars of business every year. If people didn’t enjoy sadness they wouldn’t listen to sad songs. If they didn’t like feeling angry they wouldn’t watch the news. Words like sadness and fear are only labels, anyway, applied by the mind to a physical experience. The feeling of aliveness in the body is always pleasurable, even when the aliveness takes the form of an emotion provided you don’t resist feeling the emotion. By feeling your emotions honestly, while enjoying your aliveness unconditionally, you produce tremendous benefits for yourself.
Emotions are like everything else: when you don’t make them wrong they contribute to your benefit and pleasure. Ceasing to make an emotion wrong causes the feeling to integrate into your sense of well-being. All the unpleasantness spontaneously disappears and you gain a fresh and positive perspective on whatever the feeling was about. Because Vivation causes something that had seemed bad to integrate into your sense of well-being, we call the result of Vivation integration. Integration means giving your attention to what you have been making wrong and receiving all of the good it has for you.
You can integrate anything in your life that has been bothering you and you have a choice about how you do it. You can integrate something mentally by choosing a positive context for it. Or, you can integrate it physically by embracing the feeling it produces in your body. Integrating at the feeling level is better in many ways. Feeling is immediate and thinking is not. You can feel and integrate your emotions about something instantaneously, whereas using your mind to try and figure out what’s good about it might take a very long time. A benefit of working at the feeling level is that feelings are inherently honest. Mentally, you can confuse yourself for years at a time, but your honest feelings stay with you. Another benefit of processing at the feeling level is that you can feel the integration happen. Mental processes often leave a lingering doubt about whether you have done enough to achieve a lasting result. In Vivation, you focus right on the feeling that has been troubling you and you feel the exact moment it integrates. Finally, a tremendous benefit of working at the feeling level is that you can use breathing to enhance your ability to integrate your feelings.
Vivation utilizes a specific breathing skill to connect you consciously with the good that is present in all your feelings. The breathing itself does not cause the result; integration is caused by exploring and embracing the feeling. The breathing skill helps enormously by developing an energy-level rapport with the feeling. Learning to harmonize your breathing with each feeling as it comes up makes exploring the feeling and enjoying it much easier.
When people don’t know how to integrate their feelings, they suppress the feelings they find unpleasant. Suppression does not make feelings go away. Suppressed feelings remain active in the mind and body, causing behavior and situations that recreate the very emotions the person is trying to escape. Vivation enables you to gently and voluntarily experience your suppressed feelings and integrate them.
The Skill of Vivation has Five Elements:
- Circular Breathing
- Complete Relaxation
- Awareness in Detail
- Integration into Ecstasy
- Do Whatever You Do Willingness is Enough
The people who teach these skills are called Vivation Professionals. There are Vivation Professionals throughout the world. Every Vivation Professional has the goal of teaching you to us Vivation by yourself in your day-to-day life. In your first Vivation session, your Vivation Professional will lead you through some experiential exercises to teach you the Five Elements. Then, with his or her support and guidance, you will Vive, giving yourself a fascinating and deeply pleasurable experience. At first you’ll Vive lying down or sitting. After a few sessions, you’ll learn to Vive while engaging in other activities, which is called Vivation in Action. From then on you can use Vivation anytime, anywhere to cause emotional resolution and creative breakthrough. Vivation also makes what you’re already enjoying even more pleasurable.
Jim Leonard was the originator of the Vivation process. During his life he conducted more than 45,000 Vivation sessions in 22 countries.