Today I am delighted to share energetic space with Galen Pearl.
“Happiness is a choice we make every moment. We can remember happy times in the past, and we can anticipate happy times in the future, but happiness can only be actually experienced in the present moment. So each moment is a new opportunity to choose. If we choose repeatedly to be happy, it becomes a habit, our default position. I think of it as resetting my Internet home page to my happy place.
By happy place, I don’t mean a place of unrelenting inner sunshine. I mean a place of refuge and spiritual sustenance. Of contented fulfillment. Home. A home that, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, I never really left. A home that, whether we know it or not, we all live in together. In that sense, our habits become not the way to happiness, but rather the way of happiness. Then happiness becomes, as Buddha said, simply the way, and the way we live.” – excerpt from the introduction of Galen’s book “10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There”).
Galen Pearl’s stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul and A Cup of Comfort anthologies, and her popular blog, 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There), attracts thousands of readers every month. Recently retired from teaching law, she regularly leads retreats and workshops on developing habits to grow a joyful spirit. A Southern girl transplanted to the Pacific Northwest, she enjoys her five kids and two Unity Schmidt grandchildren, martial arts, her cabin in the mountains, and mahjong.
J: Thank you, Galen, for sharing energetic space today! May I ask, as we consider energetic space, might you share some of the things that consistently nourish that space?
G: Thanks, Joy, I’m so glad to be here today. How lovely to reflect on what nourishes my energetic space. I have several practices that nourish my spirit. Most every morning begins with prayer and meditation, and inspirational reading. I practice martial arts – taekwondo, kung fu, tai chi, and qigong. Martial arts, to me, is meditation in motion. Besides these practices, nature, and especially the mountains, fill me with energy. I have a cabin in the mountains right on a creek. I like to spend time there as often as I can. And my family. Nothing lights up my spirit more than my grandson’s smile.
J: Beautiful, Galen! I can feel the peace emanating from your words :)
Let’s start with the basics, if we may. You are the founder of the site 10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). May you share with us a little about the meaning of these words and the vision for your site?
G: To understand what these words mean to me, I have to go back a little. The concept of “finding your happy place” is based on an incident a few years ago when my daughter told me that her very forlorn-looking friend was “looking for his happy place.” The words caught my attention, and I realized with gratitude that I have found mine and that I live in it most of the time. I reflected on the lessons I learned when I made a conscious decision years ago to change my life. The 10 Steps embody those lessons that helped my transform my life from one based in fear to one filled with joy.
The title itself is a bit misleading (not intentionally!) in that the steps are not as linear and sequential as the title suggests. Rather, they are habits that all lead to the same place, a place of calm abiding joy. Living in our happy place doesn’t mean feeling happy all the time. It does mean being rooted in joy that enhances our happy times and helps us be more resilient during life’s inevitable challenges.
My vision for my site is that it is a place where everyone is welcome, a place to pause and breathe, a safe place to share the voices of our spirits, which, at their deepest level, all sing the same song.
J: You so clearly have a specific message; may you share with us a little about how you found your voice, and how you continue to cultivate it as you create and connect?
G: This question stopped me for a moment. You observed that I so clearly have a specific message, but I had to think about what that is. When I try to articulate it, words seem quite inadequate. The song that our spirits sing seems more of a vibration, an energy, than something that can be voiced in the way we usually think of that term. The word that jumped out at me from your question is “connect” and perhaps that is the key. Everything that we do or think or say either manifests our deep connection or creates the misperception that we are separate. So perhaps that is the message – oneness.
As for how I found my voice, or how anyone finds their voice, that seems to be a function of befriending ourselves, of facing our fears, of dropping our stories, of opening our hearts. And once we find our voice, our natural impulse is to cultivate it. Although I began years ago to change my life, the last few years have blessed me with opportunities to write about these things, to lead retreats and make presentations, to read hundreds of books and blogs, to focus a lot of my attention and energy on “living in my happy place.” These practices and principles so permeate my life at this point that I’m not aware of anything in particular that I do other than to try to live out of this place of alignment and connection.
J: When you are creating and doubt surfaces (does doubt surface?) what resources do you rely upon as you continue to create?
G: Yes, doubt surfaces! In fact, a couple of months ago, I found myself reacting to a sudden trauma with fear and efforts to control what I could not control. Apart from the incident itself, I was shaken by my reaction to it and doubts surfaced about whether I was able, in the heat of the moment, to “walk my talk.” What I learned from this is that everything is workable, as the saying goes. I saw that I had choices to make, and the most important one was to “re-choose” to believe in the basic goodness of the universe, to trust that everything was perfect. I was grateful for the opportunity to practice non-judgment, compassion, and forgiveness.
The most important resources we have are right inside us. Whatever we can find “out there” to guide us, in the form of counselors, wisdom literature, classes, faith communities, and so on, is valuable only to the extent that it awakens within us our trust in ourselves at that level where the universal energy (by whatever name you wish to call it) unites us.
J: May you share a bit with us about what you would consider is this source of your power?
G: A Course in Miracles says that “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” Where does that power come from? I read a wonderful analogy recently about putting water in bottles and throwing the capped bottles in the ocean. The bottles are in the ocean, but the water is closed off and separated. But if the bottles are open, the water pours into the ocean and becomes the ocean.
The source of my power is the same as the source of yours, and everyone’s. We can call it by different names and describe it in different ways, but that does not change its nature, any more than calling water by different names in different contexts or languages changes the nature of water.
The Tao Te Ching says:
The way that can be told is not the eternal Way
The name that can be named is not the eternal name
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth
The named is the mother of ten thousand things
That is where our power comes from – the nameless beginning of heaven and earth.
J: You have written a book “10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There). May you share with us a bit about your decision to write this particular book?
G: Ah, an easy question! The book grew out of my blog. A number of people encouraged me to write the book. My sister said that if I did, she would design the cover. I did, and she did! That is her lovely painting gracing the cover.
I also wrote the book as a way to support Edwards Center, an organization that serves adults with developmental disabilities, including my two sons who have autism. My sons live in one of their group homes and work at one of their work sites. Edwards Center is a wonderful organization. All the proceeds from anything associated with the 10 Steps, whether through publishing or speaking, are donated to Edwards Center.
J: May you share with us a bit about the process of incorporating these steps into our life? How do you vision the reader applying the overall message and incorporating the individual steps?
G: To me, it’s important to have useful techniques that we can incorporate into our everyday lives. Few of us have time to find an extra hour in the day or a weekend in the month. If the techniques require us to separate ourselves from our everyday life, we won’t use them. So the 10 Steps are about habits that we can build by consistent application of easy to remember and easy to use reminders and techniques. These habits will change the way we think about ourselves and how we interact with our world and the people in it. The point is to shift to a new “default” position or homepage so that we are rooted in joy. This joy will manifest through our thoughts and words and actions.
J: What might the reader expect to “takeaway” from the experience of this book, and how might this enrich their life?
G: I hope it helps most of all by example. I don’t have “the answer.” Or rather, I do have it, and so do we all. Living in our happy place is a worthwhile and attainable way to live. We don’t need to go spend years with a guru on a mountaintop (although that is a fine thing to do if that is your path). What I have tried to show with my own story is that there are simple techniques for changing our habits, techniques that we can weave into our everyday lives. And if we do, we’ll discover the happiness that has been within us all along.
J: If the reader felt overwhelmed with the idea of taking ten steps, what is first step you might recommend?
G: I’m so glad you asked this question, because so many of us approach something like this by starting at the very beginning to put pressure on ourselves to get “better” and to get better fast! It’s intimidating and overwhelming. I’ve tried, I hope successfully, to reassure readers that we are all on this path together. It’s not a race or a contest. We all start where we are and wherever that is, is perfect.
Having said that, it’s fair to say that some steps are more challenging than others because some of them ask us to look more deeply at our fears–never a comfortable process! So if you want to ease into some of the ideas, you might start with Step 9–Develop an Attitude of Gratitude. There is nothing hard or scary about this. It is all fun. There are techniques you can use immediately and get an immediate benefit.
J: May you share with us, what has been a “memorable moment” for you, regarding the creation and publishing of this book?
G: I’ll mention two. The first is when I started my blog and my sister said that when I wrote my book, she would do the cover. My sister is a very talented artist. Her encouragement and support so early on was very meaningful to me. And she did as promised. That is her lovely painting gracing the cover, which she also did the layout for.
The second is when I got my first copy of the book. I called the editor and exclaimed, “It looks like a real book!” I still couldn’t believe it.
J: Thank you for sharing your beautiful spirit! In closing, may you share with us one of your “favorite” quotes on happiness?
G: “There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.” –Thich Nhat Hanh
I love this quote because it reflects happiness as a way of living, not as a destination or something outside ourselves.
My thanks to you and your readers for welcoming me here today.
Galen has generously gifted this site with a signed copy of her book “10 Steps to Finding Your Happy Place (and Staying There)”. To win this copy, please answer the following question in the comment section. The winner of the raffle will be chosen from the names of those who comment. The drawing ends November 16th 9p (PST). The winner will be chosen then, and contacted through email.
**Tanya Levy is the winner of the signed copy of this book! Congratulations, Tanya..and thank you to all who shared support of Galen through comments and the purchase of her book**
Question: May you share with us, what is your “happy place”, is this a feeling currently in your life, and what do you do to cultivate it (or how might you cultivate it moving forward)?
Thank you, Galen! Thank you, dear reader! *Excellent*, indeed!
Much peace and abundant love,
Reminder: Experiment. Explore. Experience.