Monday, July 20, 2015

Happiness and Learning

The general theme of my blog is 'happiness and learning'. What I am trying to do is think aloud, and be led by the conversations I have with my friends. Happiness, for me, is a combination of a question and a practice. The question is the bit that links with learning. How we arrive in the world, and where we find ourselves is pretty random. If you know where someone comes from, their age, their race, their religion, their wealth and their gender, you can probably narrow down their philosophy on life pretty quickly as a generalisation. We think in groups. The more we can expand the group we believe we are a part of the less random our ideas will be. The more we can benefit from the learning of everyone.

The practice bit comes in that you can't always be questioning. You can't always be doubting. You have to act, and I think small actionable things both matter, and add up. So you can practice happiness. I started Yoga in 2009 at a very traditional centre deeply soaked in Indian culture. At first I was quite sceptical of the fact that it was run by what seemed like very religious people - monks. These Swami's wear orange and devote themselves to the practice of Yoga believing "an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory". 

Swami Vishnudevananda knew a thing or two about happiness and learning

I backed myself as able to take the bits I found useful, and remain sceptical of the bits I didn't. It turned out this was very consistent with the philosophy, and the Yoga practice was very different from my introduction to religion as being more focussed on the philosophical side of 'what is truth'. Yoga isn't a religion. At the heart of the Yogic philosophy was the admission that we don't know. Our understanding is limited. The closest we can come to understanding is Ishvara. Since we think in stories, this will be different for all of us. It will just be a framework to help us think. To calm our thought. Whether you are a Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist or none of the above.

In the meantime, we can practice well-being. We can eat well. We can breathe properly. We can exercise. We can learn to relax and manage the energy we have to approach the things that matter to us. We can try understand how powerful our minds are at influencing the way we experience the world. We can try think positively. We can remember to look after those we care about. We can find something to do that challenges us and keeps us engaged. All these things are very practical.

We can get a little done and learn a little. Add time. Simmer. Then taste.
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