Reasonably Happy

Some Good News

20190426_130614My friend David Gerbstadt is a local artist who shares messages like “Be Kind” throughout his community with signs, buttons and street art. He’s even been live streaming drawing lessons and what he calls the “art machine” where one can watch him develop new creations.

After David offered free signs for essential workers, he was asked by a nurse to make the sign below. She insisted on paying him but he refused. Minutes later . . . he began receiving payment for these signs from out of the blue! Strangers, neighbors and friends who saw his work on Facebook reached out and sent money to help David make even more art to comfort and inspire. He now has several commissions queued up! You can contact him at


If you are a fan of John Krasinski (Jim from “The Office”), you probably already know about his amazing web series, “Some Good News,” an idea we definitely need these days. There are several episodes including wonderful cameos from Steve Carrel, the cast of Hamilton and more.

So That I May Be Reasonably Happy

Many of us are familiar with The Serenity Prayer:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.


This reflection is full of Buddhist philosophy, highlighting the three poisons that keep us trapped in suffering – grasping, aversion and delusion. It is with acceptance, agency and deep discernment that we find our way to compassion and peace.

But did you know The Serenity Prayer has a second paragraph? Here is one version,
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
Taking this world as it is,
Not as I would have it;
Trusting that the Universe will make all things right,
If I surrender to its will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life.


I’ve spent much of my life caught up in duality. Either I was happy or I was sad. Relaxed or stressed. Frustrated or at peace. If I was 60% joyful and 40% insecure, I rounded up to all joyful. Or vice versa. This dualistic view of the world doesn’t leave much room for the concept of “reasonably happy”. It is reinforced by our questions when we greet each other, “How are you?” Usually, the asker is looking for a simple one word or one sentence answer. Our experience is always more complicated than that. And in challenging times, it may be difficult to move our level of happiness above the threshold for expression. Especially if that is the goal. As Ajahn Brahm says in the video below, perhaps the task is “to be happy being sad.”

I hope you’ll take this post as an invitation to be Reasonably Happy today! Try out the meditation below to cultivate and harness the joy that lives inside you,

Join Center For Self-Care online every Monday at 7:15pm EDT and Friday at 3pm EDT for Simply Meditation and Everyday Mindfulness. These drop-in workshops are full of teaching, practice and discussion to support you in your own journey (advance registration required).

Screen Shot 2017-09-14 at 9.20.19 PMOr check out Conversations on the Porch, a virtual discussion for men beginning at 7:30pm on Thursday, April 30.

Conversations on the Porch invites you into a new way of being and connecting. This is a safe, comfortable atmosphere to join together and experience authentic male friendship. Each gathering begins with a guided mindfulness meditation followed by a short teaching. Participants explore and write about their own experience and then share a story with the group. This invites us to step out of our small, isolated sense of self to rediscover a universal connection that has been there all along.

Empty Mind or Open Mind?

The point of meditation is not to perfect yourself but to improve your capacity to love.”
– Jack Kornfield

Familiarity leads to wisdom.” -Buddha

The best way out is always through.” -Robert Frost

This is the first in a series called “Meditations on Meditation.” They are intended to help beginning and experienced meditators consider their intentions and motivations as they walk a mindful path.

When I began to meditate, I thought of it as a new tool to help me figure things out, to fix or eliminate whatever was bothering me. I had all of these questions, “Why am I feeling so frustrated?”, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?”, “Am I past my prime?” I figured that as I became more focused, I would answer these questions and move on. I would literally meditate my worries away. But that’s not what happened. Thankfully, by sticking with it, I learned that this practice is not yet another self-improvement project but a way of living and thinking. The questions didn’t get answered but I was able to reflect on them without needing to figure them out.

This common graphic can easily be misunderstood as suggesting mindfulness is about blocking out everything that isn’t happening right in front of your eyes. As it turns out, our thoughts ARE in the present moment. Sure, we might ruminate on regrets of the past or opportunities in the future. That’s okay! What is most important is how we relate to them.

Should I “empty” my mind or be with what is?

Many beginning meditators come to Center For Self-Care feeling overwhelmed or at their wits’ end. Others have a basic familiarity and want to learn more. Either way, there are some common pitfalls that can make the benefits of meditation elusive. It is worth considering what the “point” of meditation is. In the early days, I’ll hear complaints like “I can’t stop thinking,” “This is just making me more frustrated,” or “I’m afraid I’m doing it wrong.” If you are thinking these thoughts, you are probably doing it right!

9532e2b906530d839aad60b465ab7ae3For me, the point of meditation is not to empty one’s mind or reach enlightenment, or even become more focused and productive. It’s about feeling what we are feeling while we are feeling it. It’s about being aware of what’s happening in this moment and relating to it with kindness. Ultimately, this allows us to respond thoughtfully instead of reacting habitually to whatever arises. The good news: relaxation, stillness, clarity and happiness are wonderful byproducts of intentional and consistent practice

Below, I’ve listed some of the motivations our clients have shared as they come to meditation. Take a look at the right column to consider a different way to approach these questions. Allow yourself to rest in these questions without needing to answer them or get them right.

If you’re hoping for this . . . . . . try this out instead
I want to feel relaxed

I want to empty my mind

I want to figure it out

I want to get it right

I want to be happy

Can I pay curious attention?

Can I let thoughts come? 

Can I become intimate and familiar?

Can I just put my body there? 

Can I cultivate resilience?

This work takes practice. Consider three components of a vibrant mindfulness practice,

The Four Noble Truths: There Is Suffering

You have probably heard something of the story of the Buddha’s enlightenment and what led up to it*. Before he became the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama lived two very different lives, neither of which brought contentment or peace. He was born in to royalty and before long was prophesied to be either a great king or a great religious leader. His father, hoping to extend the “family business,” sheltered him from the drudgery and challenge of everyday life. He built walls around the castle and gave his son all of the luxuries of life. But the son was unhappy. He wanted to see outside the walls. So one night, his servant took him into the village. What he saw there shocked him. Imagine living 29 years and never seeing a sick person or even an old person! He saw these in spades in addition to the homeless and even dead bodies. Next week, I’ll continue the story into his life of austerity but suffice it to say, the experience in the village brought him insight to The First Noble Truth, There Is Suffering.

By User:Sacca – Picture of a painting in a Laotian Temple, Public Domain,


There’s a way,” writes Jack Kornfield, “in which we all deeply long to do the work of the heart, but we forget, we get so busy, we might get caught. We forget to ask what needs attention.” I often find myself so caught up in commitments and obligations, that I forget to feel. So busy crossing things off my to-do list, I forget to notice and wonder if what I am doing aligns with my heart. This is the human condition. Our culture even encourages this because if I live in delusion and distraction, I will look for a fix. Tara Brach calls this “the trance of unworthiness,” which drives us to try the newest drug,  cosmetic or shiny new car in order to be happy. We push away our suffering, constructing walls both literal and figurative, to shelter us from the reality of illness (think hospitals) and old age (think nursing homes).

The First Noble Truth urges us to stop, if only for a moment, and not run away from unpleasant sensation. We all have our own stories or narratives for “how things are” or “how they should be,” but what does it really fell like to acknowledge and feel the uncertainty and what comes with it? Great wisdom can come from asking, “What is asking for my attention in this moment?”


Join Center For Self-Care this and every Monday at 7:15pm at Balanced For Life Yoga in Devon, PA for Simply Meditation. This drop-in class includes a short teaching, a guided practice and time for discussion. A perfect way to support you as you apply the wisdom of meditation and mindfulness to your own life. Contact us or register online today.  September 2019 features an exploration of a new Noble Truth each week!

Insight Meditation is a form of practice that invites such a reflection through ancient but universal instructions. Jack Kornfield, who was my inspiration for the meditation below, describes this as the first task – to acknowledge and stand in the center of our experience, to “be here now.” The meditation below brings one in to the body, the mind and the heart, gently touching what needs attention or click here for a longer version with an introductory talk.

*Check out Jack’s Kornfield’s wonderful Meditation For Beginners audiobook for more on the integration of The Four Noble Truths into one’s life. For a great, brief description of the Buddha’s early life, check out The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson.