Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

The Pororoca lives in my memory now. In Brazil however, twice a year, the wave rolls on. Sometimes ridden by an inquisitive surfer, sometimes with no one to watch it.

Every time it builds up, it passes São Luis – the bustling town that lies near the mouth of the river.

It rumbles through the region of Maranhao where population dwindles and buildings become huts. As it approaches narrow banks and shallow water it builds up and passes by the lives of local Brazilians regardless of their problems.

It twists as the river curves and finally nears Arari, the town I used as my base for the expedition that put my problems into perspective.

You see, nature continues as we experience the events that seem to matter so much. As each full moon waxes and wanes, the lives of every person on the banks of the river wax and wane too. As I write this, the full moon tonight is the same one that greeted me in my early morning trips up river to meet the wave of my lifetime. Tonight’s full moon however greets a different me. I’ve changed. I look different. I think different. I’ve grown.

But I’ve changed because I wanted to. I could have returned to my life and struggled but as Robert Frost said, I took, “the road less travelled”.

And like Frost, it did make all the difference.

Now I don’t try to beat the world’s longest wave. In many ways I took the Pororoca home with me. I’ve made decisions since then that have allowed me to ride more waves. I moved so that I am minutes away from nature and waves and forest. I watch the ocean, the wind, the swell and yes, the tide.

I’m happy doing that. I found that the waves I dreamt of as a teenager do exist. I went to the end of the world and found that happiness is under my feet. Do I still struggle? Yes, but that is just part of being human. 40 years of wanting to do something better than before led me back to the place where I don’t feel bad about standing still.

I went from a human doing to a human being. Feels better.

 

Choosing a surfboard for a wave in a river is difficult.

As a river is freshwater it is not as buoyant as seawater. A surfer needs more foam underneath him to keep him moving. This newly made surfboard was now sitting in the cargo area of a plane flight that had just delivered me to São Luis, a town near the banks of the mouth of the Amazon river. Although the exact time of the wave’s arrival was known, 7 AM on Saturday, exactly how it would break was not known. We would have to travel up river the day before with a stick to test the depth as the sand bar shifts as the river curves through the Amazon jungle.

The adrenaline was pumping and I was full of the wonder of being in a new country and preparing myself for the experience of a lifetime. Even though I didn’t speak the language I was learning Portuguese
bit by bit. One conversation I will never forget. As we were moving up river in the early morning before the wave, one of the tour guides taps me on the shoulder and points to the river bank and says ‘Jacare’. I followed his direction to a three meter crocodile lying on the muddy bank. My eyes open wide. I turn to him. All that comes out of my mouth is, “Crocodile”.

He smiles and looks at me nodding and repeats, “Crocodile”.

Even thought the wave is due at 7am, we can hear it at 6.45am. Standing knee deep in mud on the banks of a river, waiting for a wave is not something you would expect on a Saturday morning.

The surreal nature of surfing in a river with crocodiles, piranha and anaconda hit me full force. You see, it’s not the experiences we have in life that changes us. It is the moments in between the experiences when things sink in. Therapists call them ‘teachable moments’. Only problem is that they usually occur when there is not a therapist in sight. That leaves just one person to make sense of it. You.

The wave itself is a sight that leaves even the tour guides initially speechless. The water is the colour of iced coffee. Branches and debris are pushed in front of the wave making it twice as hard for the surfer to negotiate his line.

In the event of falling off, I am instructed to wave my board over my head as the Jacare may wander over to see this new Australian addition to their menu.

The wave lasts about 2 hours. It is rideable most of that time which means the time you stand on your board – when added up – means you surf for nearly an hour. This probably equates to a 10 kilometre wave. A novice could learn to surf in just one wave.

At one stage we are told to get in the boat as we have to negotiate around a whirlpool that has developed on the bend of the river. A whirlpool? No one told me about that.

I ride the wave past towns and local people who have lined up on the bank to see the twice yearly sight. I lift my hand above my head to wave. They wave back. I surf on. They return to their lives.

Rising early

Final part comes out tomorrow…

Ridding yourself of negative thoughts is impossible. As parents we know this when our child is crying. We make them laugh or show them something that interests them and within moments they are laughing. They have at least forgotten the trauma.Real mud

As adults we must replace negative distractions with positive obsessions. You see, by concentrating on defeating something like depression your focus increases the subject of your thoughts. That is, depression. It’s like trying not to think of your father. Instantly his face springs to mind.

To combat depression all you need is an idealistic goal to chase. Victor Frankl, the psychiatrist who found himself in a concentration camp, accepted his place in the world, he just didn’t focus on it. He focused on the difference he wanted to make. He looked at how he could make a difference even though he was confined to Auschwitz with death all around him.

Okay, you are not in a concentration camp. But as the saying goes, “Man can make a hell of heaven or a heaven of hell”. So it’s up to you. It’s up to what you concentrate on.

Mud

Do you see burnt trees or new growth? If you have read this far, you know that the intended answer is new growth. The trick is realising that the fire caused the new growth.

It’s all about perspective.

The way to make a massive difference in someone’s life is to give them good advice and to show you care.
Here’s an example…
I was witness to a serious case of bullying last year. Actually it was more of a full blown assault than simple bullying really. As I was the witness I was standing in the Principal’s office with the main offender. He had been caught red-handed. I expected the principal to show him the consequence of such a serious breach of school rules. I expected a dose of old fashioned discipline. 

What happened next showed me the power of personal relationships. The Principal looked at the boy and said, “Has your mum had the baby yet?” (He knew the boy’s mother was expecting.) The answer was, ‘Yes – yesterday.’ 
The Principal’s next reply was classic. He said, “When you leave for home today, take some roses from the school garden for your Mum.” 
The boy nodded. 
He then said, “Now, tell me what happened.”
Call this compassion, call this a pattern break, call it what you like. It worked. The boys tough exterior melted and he told the truth.

The Dalai Lama was right.

Nothing beats compassion.

The number of people who blame their childhood on their problems is huge. They say, “If I had a better start in life I wouldn’t have all these problems”. Well, every day you get a fresh start but it isn’t that easy. Our childhood trauma lingers in the form of memories that trigger the original feelings that we experienced. 
(more…)

In writing a book on Depression I have been comparing ancient wisdom – that of Buddhism, Bushido and Red Indian philosophy, with current wisdom from the last 100 years. The following section, compares the quest for happiness (Freud) with the search for meaning (Frankl). At this point, I turn the draft over to you for feedback. Sometimes the best ideas are yours as they rebound back at you. Please use the comment bar below to offer your response. (more…)

Image

The picture itself is 15 years old. I remember it like it happened yesterday.  (more…)

3 days later
It’s my birthday in 13 days.

My first birthday.

Actually the truth is I am 51 but it will be a year to the day that my heart stopped for four hours. On purpose.
You see to replace part of a failing heart with titanium, it has to be stationary.
So now as a heart valve recipient I have a new lease on life physically but a massive change came over me emotionally after the operation. I suppose many people who have had a life or death experience feel the same. (more…)

I am looking for some company …. Online company.

No, its not what you think.

I know I’m not alone but right now this page tells me I am. My ‘page of meaning’ outlines 3 areas of my life that I really care about.

More importantly it outlines what I’m doing about it. You see, mental problems are a result of looking within yourself. Looking at your opinions of the world.
Focusing on others overrides inward focus on self.  (more…)

I’m looking at the diary of the darkest period in my life.

Page after page of negative thoughts, complaints and aggression.diary

As the months have turned into years since these dark days, I look back at this time and it seems like a dream. I remember the feelings … but that is about all. They are just a memory.
A friend reached out to me recently and asked how I got through this time. You see, it’s his turn now. He is struggling.
This article is my effort to shine some light where there is none. To make sure others can follow advice that worked for me.
But when it comes down to it, my Mother gave me the best advice. “Put one foot in front of the other,” she said.
Smart lady.
Logic
Through counselling, I looked at emotions from a logical point of view. I was asked to imagine that I firstly was a lawyer fighting for my opinion. Why I was right. Then I would list the reasons why I was entitled to feel that way. Then I would be the defence lawyer arguing why my assumptions were incorrect. Why I was not entitled to feel that way.
Writing a journal.
Writing a journal of your thoughts and feelings does two things. Firstly it allows you to get intrusive thoughts off your chest and onto paper. These thoughts often happen at inappropriate times. For example, when you are trying to sleep at night. I looked back at the diary of my worst days and looked at the times I wrote many of my posts. 2, 3, 4 and 5 AM in the morning.
Putting these thoughts down on paper allowed me to go back to sleep. Even if I was only to wake up an hour later I would still write down what I was thinking. The second reason is that in the light of day, you look back at what you have written and can balance your emotions better. You realise that feelings are transitory. They rise and fall sometimes with a mind of their own. In my darkest days I seemed to only be experiencing lows. Then occasionally I would feel slightly better and record that. This helped me realise that if I could have one good period, then I could have more.
“Don’t do the things that cause you to get upset”
I remember deciding on this. I traced why I was feeling negative and realised that sometimes the cause was something I had control over. I committed, if at all possible, to stop doing things that created negativity in my life. This is a lesson I learned that helped me pull through the darkest period. But as an unexpected benefit, I still use this mantra 10 years later. My experience of depression is behind me, but I realise that it is the small things we do on a daily basis that make a massive difference in our future.
Small seemingly insignificant habits that reap a massive return years later.
So there you go. Writing a journal, logic and not doing the things that cause you to be upset. I used these three techniques to get me through a period of time that seemed to go on forever.
One more thing. A counsellor asked me at the end of that period why I had never done anything fatalistic. To end my life. My response was that I didn’t think it was in my make up. But I suppose no one who takes that final step would say it is in their make up. One thing was that I have always wanted to leave a positive legacy as a result of my life. This intent allowed me to look into the future and see something worth working towards.

In conclusion, I remember reading about a conversation between a student and a teacher. The student asked, “How will I know if I haven’t achieved my life purpose?

The teacher responded, “If you are still alive, your life mission is still in front of you”.