A couple of days ago I learned how to be happy -- in less than ninety minutes. Plus, I got to eat a terrific dinner and drink some excellent Oregon Pinot Noir during the lesson.
This was the first time Laurel and I had been to Woodburn's Wellspring Center for Extraordinary Living.
Yes, Woodburn, a city between Portland and Salem that few people associate with hip, cutting edge, philosophically profound integrative medicine.
When we entered the Wellspring building (a remodeled K-Mart reportedly), I thought "Wow!" The place looked like something you'd find in trendy southern California. Curving corridors, tile everywhere, Zen-like design touches. Tres slick.
I half-expected to see Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt wandering down the hall from the spa.
Sporting "I am happiness" t-shirts, they radiated energy, enthusiasm, and warmth. As did everyone else associated with Wellspring.
I don't like fakey New Agey personal development seminars and had some doubts about this one, which Laurel dragged me to encouraged me to attend with her. I had to miss my Tai Chi class, and anticipated that I was going to spend a couple of hours thinking "I'd be happier if I hadn't come."
Like spending four minutes speed-writing a bunch of stuff that makes me happy. I enjoyed being bluntly honest and not censoring myself -- which was one of the nine characteristics of happy people Daniel and Susan talked about.
Identification: assess what makes you happy, vs. what you're told by others should make you happy.
These characteristics came from a book by Rick Foster and Greg Hicks, "How We Choose to Be Happy." (naturally, they have a website)
Foster and Hicks say that they researched the book by driving around the country and asking locals, "Who is the most richly happy person around?" After getting a name, they'd head off to talk to the person and find out his or her secrets.
Here's a summary of what they found. I liked the initial item in Foster's blog post, given the crappy economic news that keeps on hitting us these days.
We may not be able to choose our circumstances or the events around us, but we do have the power to choose our reactions. And happy people take that special power and choose wisely. And, by the way, this is not denial - it's the choice to not let external circumstances over which we have no control guide our reactions.
I asked the first question after Daniel and Susan had finished their presentation. I said that their approach seemed to be somewhat at odds with the oft-heard advice (by Buddhism and other philosophies) that desire is at the root of our unhappiness.
I wondered, couldn't embracing these nine characteristics of happy people become another "to-do" that adds on to our list of unfulfilled desires? Perhaps flowing with whatever happens, what is rather than what could be, is the way to go.
At the same time, I said (brandishing my new love), some material things undeniably make us happy -- such as my iPhone. So, what to do?
Susan offered up a pretty good answer. It's fine to enjoy things, she said, so long as we aren't devastated when we lose them. Daniel added that each of us eventually is going to lose the thing that we're most attached to right now: our body. So we've got to get used to letting go.
One last "who knew?" observation. Who knew that there was such a great healthy restaurant in Woodburn? (not us, for sure) Our dinner was prepared by Vitality, which is just inside the Wellspring front door.
Wish the restaurant was closer to us. Salem is sorely lacking in creative good-for-you menus such as Vitality sports.
Guess I'll just have to keep on practicing detachment. And eating the tofu special at Venti's, my favorite Salem eatery.