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Quiet mind, calm mind and the search for meaning

This month’s PRESS mantra card says The MEANING is in the search for meaning.

The MEANING is in the search for meaning. July PRESS mantra card

This statement sums up my happiness project that I began a year ago today. Over the past 12 months I have read a number of different books defining happiness, describing happiness and recounting personal searches for happiness. I began with Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and followed it with a number of others. These seven books are my favorite of the bunch–especially The Happiness Hypothesis.

  • Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer
  • The Now Habit, Neil Fiore
  • Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert
  • Train your Mind, Change your Brain, Sharon Begley
  • You Learn by Living, Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations on and Off the Court, John Wooden
  • The Happiness Hypothesis, Jonathan Haidt

During six of the past 12 months, I used a chart to keep track of my daily habits, very similar to Ben Franklin’s Thirteen Virtues. My daily goals get at many of the same concepts but through some very basic behaviors, for example floss my teeth could be equated with cleanliness. If having a regular flossing practice is the only thing that comes from my happiness project, well then, I will feel like it was worth while!

But ultimately the practice has helped me work towards being more mindful, considerate, timely, productive, introspective and involved in my work and community. It has told me that I don’t nearly spend enough time in my studio, except in December when I did my Advent collage practice. It reminds me often that when making decisions I must choose carefully and consider how they contribute to my well-being, my family, and my artist soul, and not always in that order.

In February, one of my students gave a presentation on Stefan Sagmeister and his Happy Show. I was able to see a variation of it at the Jewish Museum in NYC in May. (Which, BTW, is open until August 4, 2013, so go see it!) This show was based on The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt, as well as the work that Sagmeister did to create his Happy Movie. All of this reflects much of what Sagmeister talks about in the Ted Talk: Seven Rules for Making more Happiness and of course features his amazing typographical treatments.

At the Jewish Museum he shared five videos and one sculpture based on these six phrases:

Lately it seems like happiness is being discussed everywhere. Perhaps you saw this week’s Time Magazine about it. We as a society are looking more and more for what it means to be happy.

What I really think we are looking for is meaning and connection. Many things that make me “happy” are really hard work, and require supreme amounts of patience, practice and perserverance. This is why The MEANING is in the search for meaning resonates deeply with me. Happiness is not about kicking back, it’s about digging in to living. To be involved, present, willing to get dirty and messy with the emotions of life for self and for others.

I will continue my charts, hopeful that my daily goals direct me more and more towards quieting and calming my mind, and finding meaning in all that I do in this world.




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