Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How To Be Happy

Have you ever asked "how do I become happy?"

Do you often experience times when you are sad, lacking fulfillment, or simply seeking more purpose? I've pondered this question over the past ten years and discovered a process to help me reconnect with my own happiness to be a happy person that, frankly, works better than any antidepressant medical doctors can prescribe.

How WE Can Be Happy People:

Most people agree that there is either (a) a creator who created this Earth who is an infinite being and omniscient (often referred to as "God") or (b) an energy in science that runs through all things that causes all mystery and things to be connected (quantum physics). For the sake of this article, let's just call both of these energies the SAME energy, or "God" consciousness. Although I recognize other people's choices in deciding to call energy or science "God" or even to call themselves "atheists" who don't believe in any God at all, I find that at the crux of my own happiness is a faith in such a divine being. I also find my own path to happiness is usually connected with finding ways to connect with that source of power. If you can find faith in God, you will typically begin discovering happiness, or light, from whatever darkness you might be experiencing. Just as our eyes must adjust to the sun when we emerge from a tunnel underground, it may take a little time to adjust to the light. After you blink a little, you can see the brilliant colors all around you! In fact, your greatest happiness may follow the deepest trials and tribulations. But this energy is all around you, at all times. Faith in that energy is the first step on the path to happiness.

This "God" energy is everywhere. It is omniscient.

This energy is both the light and the darkness - it comprises the whole of everything. This concept of both side comprising the whole is an Eastern thought - in Western religion, we've been told that these two energies are separate. But in my opinion, the Eastern viewpoint is much more in alignment with the nature of how things actually WORK in the world. In order to have energy flow through our electric current that supplies light in our households, we need both a positive and negative terminal. This is also proven by a simple Duracell battery, with the + and - terminals. Our own bodies have positive and negative energy flow. The light and dark are required for a full day on Earth. Even in basic elements of life energy, there is a positive and negative, but they are both required in order for the ENERGY to flow.

Take positive WITHOUT the negative, there is no flow of energy. Therefore, both are required elements. Within each person is a light and a dark side. When we embrace both sides of our self, we are more complete and the love energy within us may flow more fully.

Let's also consider that this energy is ALIVE. Not only alive, but that one word: LOVE, can be used to define it. Therefore, our life form is comprised of LOVE. God is LOVE. We are at ONE with GOD when we focus our energy on LOVE.

In Algebra, we are taught that if A = B, and if B = C, then A = C.

Applying Algebra to LIFE, consider this:


That means no matter what life currently holds for you, love is all around you. Whether you are happy or sad, love is right next door to you. If you are feeling fulfilled or lacking, either way, love is right next to you. Love is around you whether you're seeing it or not. Love is actually WITHIN you even when you are unaware of it, too.

Consider this equation again as a possible formula for the Meaning of Life: if GOD is LOVE, and if GOD is EVERYWHERE, then LOVE is EVERYWHERE.

If love is all around you, and you, yourself, are filled with love, then you are connected with and can connect to that love. Embrace that love and happiness is immediately yours to discover. This is the secret meaning of life so many grapple for years to discover.

1. Connect with the source.

What are ways to connect to the love around us? I'll share a few ideas with you.
  • Meditation. Meditating is focused intention of quieting our "chatter" mind so that we might HEAR more clearly and in a more profound way. Find a way to get yourself quiet and then listen. Meditating and breathing allows the energy to flow through the natural chakra source in our body.
  • Walking (playing) in nature. Go into a garden. Go for a walk on the beach at the ocean or at a lake or river. Hike a mountain. Walk through a field of flowers. By getting into nature, we can find the source.
  • Music. Music is a form of connecting to our chakra, as well. When we play each note of the scale, we are playing each natural tone in throughout the chakra. That is why music makes us feel... to the extent that music is harmonious we will feel the connection of source through our chakra energy.
  • Paint or draw in color. Each chakra location in our spiritual energy is not only a note on the scale, it is also demonstrated through color. By focusing on various colors, we can attune our body with our spirit and be one with source. Try painting your dark side or things that make you feel dark. Then paint things that make you feel happy, joyful, and vibrant. Notice the colors you use. You may experience cathartic release and connect more deeply with your spiritual source and discover happiness through that activity.
  • Connecting with another being. When we connect with an animal or person, we can connect to the source. A friend of mine shares coaching through experiencing connection through horses. It is amazing what we can learn through an animal, or through another person. Be open to possibilities! Another friend loves her kitty cat and finds when holding a cat on her lap, with the cat purring in content happiness, she becomes more happy from the experience. What ways can you connect through animals? It is different with other human beings, but there are numerous ways to connect to spirit through other people. Whether a gentle touch of the hand, a hug, a kiss, or even more intimate gestures may lead us to happiness, as long as the readiness and willingness is present and appropriate.
  • Dance or Yoga. Through movement, we are able to connect to source. It depends on the type of dancing that you do. Partner dancing is a form of connecting to another person and source simultaneously. If you are seeking connecting to source on your own, dance solo like nobody is watching. Literally, when you move your body as if dancing for the universe you will open and unlock things you had not idea were closed off. I perform at a dance tribe with my sax every couple of months called the "YUM SESSION" - I do this because it is amazing to play music that helps people connect to that source - I love to help make it happen! (This is also why I'm writing this article!)
I love playing music to help people discover happiness. In working the energy of the room, I've discovered people experience the greatest release of happiness and joy when I first play something a little outside the scale - or discombobulated - causing their energy to shift and vibrate with the dark side...which would include the use of minor scales, then shift that back to positive energy, major scales. In doing the switch from minor to MAJOR, people experience joy and release! This brings happiness through music!

2. Consider others as yourself (The Golden Rule).

This may sound basic. The Golden Rule directly helps create happiness. If you want people to reach out to you, reach out to others. If you wish to play music with others, ask them to play music with you. If you wish to create wealth, help others create wealth. happiness starts with your first thought that may benefit another. Happiness grows stronger as you speak that which you think that is beneficial for others. Then happiness manifests with your actions that match the thought and speech.

The amazing thing about life, is that you often have to give some, to get some. In dating, a man will often show up with a present for his suitor. His gift is a symbol of affection. In sustaining the human body, we eat food in the form of animals or vegetables to maintain our energy. When we don't eat, we shut down and wither away. Energy from one life form is required to get more energy for our life form. GIVING is a secret to success. Sharing with each other helps us build happiness.

I recall reading a story in How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, a book by Dale Carnegie, about a man who visited a woman who became despondent with worry and loneliness. While the man visited her, he noticed beautiful African Violets throughout her home. He suggested to her that she start to make new starts of her plants and then give them away to people in her community. When the woman passed away, hundreds of people attended her funeral. What happened to this lonely woman that she connected with so many people? Through her gifts of African Violets, she became known as the "African Violet Queen" - who touched so many people with the beautiful flowering plants for their celebrations and various life occasions. She gave love through her care with the flowering plants, and in return she received love from these people. 1

This is how life works. When we put aside our concerns over our fears and anxieties and embrace ways to love one another, our life truly rocks!

I'm not suggesting to love everyone without boundaries or without regard for "yes" or "no" - but to simply give when you have the thought to give. Reach out, connect, and share beatiful moments with each other and your life will be happier.

Spend time in nature. Embrace your artistic side. Find ways to transform from the dark side to the light through art and forms of expression. Then share your insights with others, remaining open to how others might share with you. Do all of this and watch how your happiness grows through repeat experience over time.

1 - Carnegie, Dale. How To Stop Worrying and Start Living. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984. Print.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maximize Dining Out Experiences


As with any tip in Elegant Simplicity theory, I always look at things we use or do often, and evaluate the way to get the VERY BEST EXPERIENCE from these action or possession choices.


In this case, let's evaluate dining out. When we dine out, we often wonder what to eat. We're presented a menu we hope is attractive to our palate. If we're restaurant shopping, we might even look at their menu BEFORE sitting down to eat. That is usually not the best way to pick a restaurant. Not only that, but once we're inside, how can we know our choice is the BEST choice on the menu?

Answer: poll people who eat there!

There are three ways you can poll the people who've dined at a restaurant.

1. Stop someone coming out of the restaurant you're intending to dine at and confirm they enjoyed their meal. You can ask a simple question "Excuse me - we're trying to choose a good place to eat for dinner and evaluating this restaurant. How was your dining experience, was it enjoyable for you?" and then decide after you hear their on-the-spot review.

2. Read a review. I love reading reviews about a restaurant. You can usually find reviews on the Internet, in food journals, in the newspaper, in special print newspapers, in books, and in travel coupon books. The reviewer will often describe their full meal experience, from service, to food quality, and anything special. If you're looking for something unique, a review will often give you insight into new ideas of where you might go to find a fun and enjoyable meal.

3. Ask friends. Your friends, if they have similarly good taste, we can hope will recommend good restaurants to you. I like to ask people "what are your favorite three restaurants you like to visit" and then ask them to take me there. Sometimes, people will have established relationships with the ownership and staff at their favorite restaurants. And, these relationships often end up in getting something extra - extra portions of wine, food, perhaps an item left off the bill - you just never know. So, take advantage (with dignity, of course) of opportunities when friends invite you out to their favorite haunts.

Okay, so these are all good ways to choose your restaurant.

But what about increasing the experience of pleasure while you're there?

1. Picking optimum time to dine. I like to be either slightly ahead of the rush hour, or slightly behind it, so as to ensure the wait staff will have the time to serve me. When placing a reservation with a maître d', ask them when is a good time to receive optimum service. First, this places in the maître d' mind that service is important to you. Second, they'll recommend times AROUND when that big corporate party is there, or times when they know their staff can best serve you. Too many people make the mistake of setting a reservation around THEIR needs, and forget that the establishment serving you has their own schedule they're trying to manage, too. Ideally, work around the host establishment's schedule and you'll optimize your experience. If a maître d' offered you especially good service, or routinely gives you an optimum seating table, consider slipping them a $5 or $10 spot through a handshake and say "thank you" on the way out the door. (Don't tip them before you get seated, as that may be looked at as a bribe and is a bit tacky.)

2. Knowing the menu. If, at all possible, you can preview the menu BEFORE you visit the restaurant, you will have an advanced idea what you might order. This is good, because you really don't want to spend much time ordering your food. Save the chit-chat for the back half of the meal so that your food is ordered as quickly as possible when you first arrive. Otherwise, you run the risk of hitting their rush hour traffic, or their "dead time" when they just want to go home. By knowing the menu, you also make it easy to order first.

3. Order first. This might sound odd, but people will generally choose what sounds best FIRST if they're given the opportunity to order first. However, when they order second, they are more likely to order something DIFFERENT just to prove they are "unique" in their choices. In his book, Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely mentions that the person who orders first is usually satisfied with his choice, while the person who orders second or third, sequentially, might be dissatisfied with their order and experience regret. The other way to handle this problem of expectation is to allow everyone to order with a piece of paper without telling everyone else what they are eating. Maybe that is going too far. So, my rule of thumb is to look at a menu immediately, choose what I most want, and decide that is what I am ordering.

4. Go with your first choice. Typically, you'll be happier with your first choice than any choice that might follow.

5. Read the reviews. Usually, in a restaurant review, the person reviewing the restaurant will recommend a meal, too. Keep in mind that the meal they recommend was also often recommended by the OWNER of the restaurant. The owner knows what they cook the best (usually). So, reviews are highly useful. I like to read three or four reviews before visiting a new restaurant to give me a well-rounded look at possible dining experiences.

6. Ask other patrons. Asking patrons is useful if you're already sitting, and you look over and SEE their food, and it looks particularly scrumptious. In that instance, asking them "Hey, that looks great, I'd love to know what it is to help me decide ordering, what is it you're eating there?" may not be rude, depending upon whether you're in a five-star french restaurant or some place a bit more casual. If you're dining formally, refrain from asking. I've made new friends simply by asking someone if they enjoyed their particular order. My guess is the introverts will probably pass on this one.

7. Ask the staff. I like to ask the staff what their favorite dish on the menu might be. Then I ask them if they're a vegetarian or some other question to determine if we have similar dining taste. If they don't have the same taste as me, I'll order something different. Otherwise, I follow their recommendation. Be careful asking the staff, though, because they're paid to serve you, and also guided not to play favorites, in many instances. If they say "everything is good here" which obviously doesn't help decide, follow up with the question "What would you order for your best friend if they were here?" This will give you a more accurate insight into their favorite dish.

8. Outside in. When dining at fancy dinners such as corporate meals or wedding dinners, I used to struggle with which utensil to use for which dish. Can you relate? There's a rule about how they set your table for you, and as long as you know that rule, you'll never grab the wrong fork again. Top utensils are used for the soup and desert. Left utensils are used for the spoon and fork, right utensils are used for cutting and spreading, such as knives. Always work OUTSIDE IN. As long as you grab a utensil on the outside first, you'll be doing fine. Soups are usually before the salad, so that's what that big spoon is doing there. The desert will usually be the small fork or spoon on above your plate.

9. If you a coupon to present, ALWAYS tell the waiter about your coupon up front before they bring your bill - otherwise, they might have to re-ring this and that is extra work for them. Don't be rude to your server! In addition, make sure you have the coupon with you. A friend of mine became upset at the restaurant for not honoring a coupon that she FORGOT to bring! I told her she was silly to get upset as it was her fault in forgetting it. You'd be surprised the number of times that restaurants print fine details of their coupon offer on the back - such as hours, restrictions, and such. Read them BEFORE going to the restaurant to eliminate arguments with their staff. There is no reason to create a bad experience by demanding something that is not reasonable to the ownership.

10. Events and meals. If you're attending an event after your meal, ALWAYS tell the waiter (the person who takes your order, not the bartender or table server who brings water) about your event, so they can help keep an eye and not serve you slowly. Also, if your event is cutting it close, you might ask to order your meal to go, right from the get-go, so that you can eat it later if the meal is served too close to the time of your event. Don't make the restaurant responsible for your schedule. They might try their best and still cut it too close for you to make it on time.

11. Order water. You will eat less if you drink a glass of water prior to your main meal. Try not to fill up on bread and butter, or on chips and salsa, as these food choices are higher in carbohydrates and more likely to make you gain weight from dining out. Order wine if you truly want wine, but do not feel compelled simply because they ask you if you'd like a drink. Keep in mind that the prices on wine are marked up between 2.5 to 5 times the cost of the product. The restaurant's best margins are on the bar tab. Any time you can minimize your bar tab, you're likely to get a better value for your meal.

11. If you do order wine, and like "good" wine but not "excessively expensive" wine, I've usually found that the second wine up on the list (by the glass) is the best value for the money. If you're unsure which wine to choose, because you're unfamiliar with the winery, for example, then just choose the second from the cheapest. You'll pay between $8 and $10 a glass, which isn't too costly, and it will probably taste pretty good.

12. Doggie bag or "to-go" boxes. It used to be considered "tacky" to ask for a doggie bag. Not any more. Today, you can simply request "I'd like the rest of this to go, please" and any decent restaurant ought to help accommodate your request. If they bring you the box, you dish it up yourself. If they take it and do this for you, express a "thank you" for their effort. I often take half of a meal with me to eat later. There is no reason to overeat just because the food is served right then.

What are your ideas on maximizing dining out? Share them and help us all improve our dining experiences!


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