Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Covid-Blues: sometimes it's not good to be happy

July 15, 2020, many schools in Maryland and DC announced a virtual learning year in 2020-2021 for  children. Major companies have extended  work from home for months. As if to compound the misery and anxiety, someone decided it was news (it is not, its been known for years) that squirrels carry bubonic plague. The news can't seem to get enough of people pulling out guns when asked to wear masks.  And it goes on and on.  It is overwhelming, anxiety provoking, gut wrenching. If you seep yourself in the news, it will steal your peace of mind, your sleep, and your well-being. You have probably already experienced this, and found ways to modify your diet of news.

At the same time, there is good news. A cure for COVID-19 may be in the works may be in our future, and maybe even a vaccine. You probably hear this news with caution. Perhaps you allow yourself to believe a cure and vaccine will come true,  and start to feel a little choked up. But then you probably reel yourself in.Then perhaps a flood of conflicting feelings comes up. In a way, you don't want things to go back to normal, but you do want the pandemic to end.

There have been silver linings to the pandemic. Life slowing down. Less traffic and no commutes - at least for most of us. A time to pause and reflect - even a time of retreat. A time to reconnect (virtually) with loved ones, and with oneself. A healing of the planet, with the air clearing and night skies sparkling like they have not for decades in cities, and the birds having a ball this spring. Pet shelters have emptied and puppies are filling the streets, happy to go on walks with their new human parents.

Sometimes it's not appropriate to be happy. But that does not mean you can't feel happy. There is so much to grieve about the pandemic. There is also a lot to learn.

What if we took this time to really focus on how we are feeling and to allow for feelings in their moment. Feelings make themselves known by how they come up in the body. You probably feel anxiety in your belly and chest - a racing heart, breathlessness, and tight stomach. Maybe a stomach ache. You probably feel sadness in your heart - that heart break feeling. A feeling of hope probably fills you with warmth in your chest, and a feeling of not wanting to lose something may appear with a pull in the muscles of your arms to reach out. The happiness you feel about reconnecting with loved ones may be in the belly connection to the earth, and if you got a pet, your love for the little one may fill your entire body with a tingling live feeling.

Feelings can be hard to discern, because the mind gets really active. The mind can try to explain, control, suppress or change a feeling. It can try, but never really succeed because feelings are truths in themselves. While feelings are ephemeral and do not define who or what a person or situation is,  they do define what they are and do not go away when the mind tells them to. Instead they go underground inside you, which often leaves the body with a feeling of numbness or disconnection.

We are complex. Feelings can be conflicting, which makes feelings even more confusing. You can feel anxiety and hope, love and dread, heart broken and calm, or any other combination. This can make it even harder to accept and learn from feelings.  Yet, feelings have a lot to teach us. A way to learn from feelings is to first accept and allow the truth of what they are in you, without having to change or act on them.

This is hard work. But it may be the most powerful way to get through this time, right now, when there is so little we have control over beyond our own actions.

So here is a thought. What if we are each of us a part of the expression of the universe, and what if how we expressed ourselves made a difference - even if we do not see it in the moment.  Then wouldn't we choose a universe that accepts all with love and acts in wisdom out of love, and so do this for ourselves?  Wouldn't we to aspire to love and accept the feeling that is arising right now, and in the next moment, and in the next? 

Maybe this is one small way we can find happiness amidst all this hardship, and maybe one way to fortify ourselves for the actions we take to help ourselves and others with all the heartbreak.

-- Laura Musikanski, Happiness Alliance

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

An invitation to share on happiness

What is Your Happiness and Health Wisdom?

Hi Friend, 

With so much in the news that is frightening, so much that is outside of our control, and so many people and organizations giving different advise, we feel it is important to reflect and learn from our own wisdom. So we ask:

What are you doing for your happiness and health?

Let us know by clicking here, and in our next newsletter, we will share your wisdom for how to be healthy and happy now. 

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Join a Happiness & Health Conversation - an Open Forum Hour on Wednesdays until Earth Day 

March 25 and April 1, 8, 15  & 22 (Earth Day)

12 pm PT/3 pm ET /7 pm GMT

In these days of physical isolation, it's important that we find new ways to socially connect.  It's also important to be able to name and talk about your feelings.

We are hosting a weekly hour for open discussion on how you are feeling and why & what you are doing for your happiness just now. We will begin with short introductions, and each person will have 3 minutes to share how they are feeling and why, and, if they like, one thing they are doing for their happiness and health these days.

Join via zoom:
Meeting ID: 709 331 423
One tap mobile +16699006833,,709331423# US 
Dial by your location +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 709 331 423
Find your local number:

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What I am doing for my happiness and health: a message from Laura, our Executive Director. 

Here in Seattle we have been in self-quarantine for a little over a week. The parks are still open for walks, so I have been taking long walks everyday, and spending time among the trees, seeking and soaking peace from them.

Some days are worse than others, and I find myself feeling anxious, Yesterday I found this talk by Tara Brach to be particularly useful. 

As night, I curl up on the couch with my sweetie and we watch comedy shows, nature shows or feel-good movies. We have a news curfew, and also a Covid-19 discussion curfew. 

I have reached out to the elders in my life and helped them to learn how to use online meeting technologies, encouraging them to participate in online groups and have daily face to face online interactions.  

- Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of the Happiness Alliance 

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The Loneliness, Happiness and Health Connection

We do not know how long social distancing and self-quarantine will be necessary, but we probably all expect it to last a while. We also do not know if we or our loved ones will survive. This is so scary. Let's not bear this fear alone or let it rob us of our happiness and the enjoyment of our lives. 

We humans are social creatures, even the most introverted of us needs connection with others. Loneliness is not good for us.
Right now, quality of life - our happiness - is really important. 

We looked at data for people who are often or always lonely and people who are rarely or never lonely, and found a few similarities and a few differences. 

Self-perceived health is one place where there is a big difference, as well as feeling postive about oneself, satisfaction with life, and satisfaction with opportunities to enjoy nature. 

People who are not lonely are feel more positively about themselves, are more satisfied with life, are more satisfied with their opportunities to enjoy nature, and feel that they are healthier 

We think that some of these differences may be reflected in your answers to what you are doing for your health and happiness. 

We also feel strongly that we need to do all we can to not be lonely at this time when the threat to our health is so strong. This is why we are starting our Happiness & Health Conversations. 

lonliness graphic

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Health, Happiness and the Coronavirus

On behalf of Bliss Medical Center and the Happiness Alliance, here is short presentation with advice for staying healthy and happy in the face of the novel coronavirus.

A bit more about prevention: 

Sanitary techniques that prevent spread of infection including hand washing, hand sanitizing, not touching your face, and wearing masks and taking care not to cough or sneeze near other people remain important.  However, these measures and more aggressive measures (such as quarantine) have failed to stop the spread of the virus. 

As there is no vaccination, no definitive treatment, and preventative measures have generally failed to stop the spread, most people, regardless of their degree of interaction with other people, can be expected to eventually contract the virus.  And because the novel corona virus is potentially lethal, even in those who are otherwise healthy, it is easy to feel powerless and afraid.

While the following techniques will not prevent the spread of the virus, they are sound health advice that can help you maximize your personal health and maintain a positive outlook for you, your friends and family.

What does the data say?

We pulled data all the Happiness Index in 2019 for those who answered the question about their perception of their health (12,486 respondents). We separated the data for people who said their health was very good or excellent (2,975 respondents) from those who said their health was good, fair or poor (9,511 respondents). 

The visualization bellow tells a story.  Those who perceive themselves to be healthy are much happier as well.  When compared, those with a very good or excellent perception of their health scored higher in each of the other domains of happiness, by a wide margin of 14.2 points on a 100 point scale.

What does the visualization say? 

People who perceive themselves to be in very good or excellent health are more satisfied with their exercise and feel they live in a healthy environment. This indicates that a connection to nature and spending time in nature, when your environment is healthy, and spending time is good for your health.  These are findings that science backs up  (White et al., 2019)

It also says that  people who perceive themselves to physically healthy are also psychologically healthy. They are more satisfied with their lives, more likely to feel their lives are worthwhile, more optimistic and more likely to feel their lives have a purpose and meaning. They are also happier. 

What is more, these people are less lonely and feel more of a sense of belonging to their community.

What does this mean to you?

Spend time in nature.  Go for a walk in a park. Garden. Go skiing. Admire your neighbors garden. Go to the beach or a lake.  Take the time to do whatever it is you love to do in nature. 

Take good care of yourself.  Learn about how to change your habits (of thought and deed) and change your mind by developing happiness skills. Talk with a friend or a therapist about the things you feel ashamed about or have grief over - life is hard and most everybody goes through things that are too hard to process alone. Join an Al-Anon group if your life is affected by someone (past or present) with addiction. 

Spend time with the people you love. Taking precautions for your health does not mean you should isolate yourself. Follow good health practices, but don't isolate yourself for long periods of time.  Instead, spend extra time when you feel afraid for your health with the people you love and who love you. 

With love and our hope for your health and happiness,
The Happiness Alliance

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Who Trusts National Government in USA? Hmm...

One of the six factors that the World Happiness Report examines to understand what makes people happy is perception of corruption in government. 

Our Happiness Index measures perception of corruption, sense that public officials pay attention to what people think, as well as trust in national and local government.  

Who cares? 

Trust in government, sense of corruption and sense that public officials pay attention to what people think are more important to happiness than most people think (Ott, 2011).

A few propositions why good government is important to happiness:

Trust in government sets a tone. When you can trust your government, you are more likely to trust other institutions: businesses, schools and colleges, nonprofits.  When you live in a nation where you feel you can trust institutions, you are more likely to be trustworthy yourself and more likely to trust other people. 

Honesty (as opposed to Corruption) allows people to feel safe and secure. We all know that safety and security are basic human needs. Safety in our personal live is tied to safety in our systems, including governmental, economic and social. 

Paying attention to what you think is an important aspect of esteem. Esteem and respect are also basic human needs. A government that cares about what you think about has the information it needs to secure and protect your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This month's happiness report focuses on sense of corruption in local government and trust in national government.  We look at the data gathered in 2019 for people who responded that they live in the US. This comes to 4,687 people. 

In Most States People Think Local Government is Not Corrupt

sense of corruption in local government

State by State, Trust in National Government is Low

trust in national government states

Scores for sense that local government is corrupt are, for the most part a bit above neutral, meaning people generally do not think government is corrupt, but would not say with certainty that it is not corrupt.  The average score for all states is 51.9- not bad, but not good

Not so for trust in national government. The average score is 30.03, meaning people do not have confidence in national government. 

The Wealthy Think A Bit Better of Local Government

sense of corrpution by income

Wealthy or Poor, Trust in National Government is not Great

trust in national government by income level

Income level does not make a big difference when it comes to trust in national government or sense that local government is corrupt. There is a slight trend up, meaning as your income goes up, your trust goes up a little, and your sense of corruption in local government goes down. 

The average score for sense of corruption across all income levels is 56 out of 100. 

The average score for trust in government across all income levels is 30 out of 100. 

Men Trust National Government a Bit More than Women

Men trust government more

trust in national government by gender 3The question is:
Please indicate how much confidence you have in the following organizations:

National Government

(We ask the question for Local Government as well, and will focus on that in another report.)

The possible answers are:
  • No confidence
  • Not very much confidence
  • A fair amount of confidence
  • Quite a lot of confidence
  • A great deal of confidence 

A score of 0 would be the lowest, and a score of 50 would be for a fair amount of confidence. 

All Genders Are Fairly Neutral About the Question of Whether Local Government is Corrupt

Gender has little to do with sense of corruption in local government 

sense of corruption by gender 2
The question is:
State your level of agreement with the following statement:

Corruption is widespread throughout the government in my city or town.

The possible answers are:

  • Strongly disagree 
  • Disagree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree 
A score of 0 is the lowest score, for strongly agree that corruption is widespread, and a score of 50 is for neither agreeing or disagreeing. 

You can interact with the data by clicking the image or here.

Next month we will explore more data for happiness and government, and give you some suggestions for how to make a difference. 

In the meantime - Vote! 

& if you voted, Thank you!

About the Data

All of our data is from a convenience sampling. It reflects the people who took the survey, and may or may not reflect the general population, The more data we have, the better picture we get of the state of happiness.

In some states, we have very little data. 

How can you help? Encourage people to take the Happiness Index.  

Donate! Your Donation Makes Happiness Work.

Did you know we are a 100% volunteer organization. And it takes money to keep us alive. Your donation is necessary for us to continue contributing towards world change. 


Friday, January 31, 2020

Happiness Index Scores for 2019: Not So Happy

Was 2019 a hard year for you?  If so, you are not alone. 
Happiness Index Scores for 2019 are in & it's not looking so good.  

In most every domain of happiness - community, education, health and many others, Happiness Index scores declined between 2017 and 2018. Particularly concerning are the declines in satisfaction with life, psychological well-being and community because these are the domains, in simple terms, matter most to a happy life. The domains with the lowest scores compared to the other domains - government and time balance - saw a smaller downward slope, but there is little solace in this.  Interact with the scores here. 

Happiness Index Scores in 2017 in many domains took a dip down, with some recovery in 2018.  We asked our newsletter recipients for their happiness wisdom with the question: What do you need for your happiness? (You can answer too)

Some of the answers we got were:

  • More Connection.
  • More planned community activities (and better advertising for these events and gathering).
  • Shift the news both on TV and in the papers to a more positive perspective. Until that happens, though, just stop watching TV news and buying newspapers.
  • Improve housing opportunities for the poor. 
  • Safety, access to green spaces, transportation ease in order to spend more time with family and friends instead of commuting. 

We will share more answers in our next Happiness Report Card (sign up for our newsletter so as not to miss one). 

In 2019, data was gathered from 12,480 surveys taken, with about 68% of people living in the US. The data is from a convenience sampling, meaning people chose to take the Happiness Index

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Announcing: The Happiness Policy Handbook

Happiness is and should be the purpose of government. The word government comes from Greek κυβέρνησις  meaning to steer a ship. Inherent to the idea of steering, and governing, is the notion that there is a destination.  The north star of those steering, or governing, any nation, is the happiness of the people.  

But how does a government steer the nation towards happiness when, for most, the concept is fuzzy at best? The same way anyone finds their way when they are lost. By tethering themselves to something they know.  Sometimes you have to look back to find the way forward. 

For some, government seems like a ship lost at sea, bobbing about this way and that with the tides and storms. They need a chart. They need a way to understand whether people really are happy or not, who is suffering, and how to alleviate misery and safeguard happiness.

Looking backwards to the founders of modern democracy, in the words of John "the happiness of society is the end of government" (meaning the purpose, not the demise - in fact, when happiness is not the purpose of government, it can start to feel like the end of opportunity and quality of life). 

Looking back at the work we at the Happiness Alliance have been doing since 2010, working with small and national governments, with community organizers, researchers and businesses, and looking forward to a future where happiness is not only the purpose but also the business of government, we wrote the Happiness Policy Handbook. 

It is choke full of lessons, experience-based knowledge and tested tools and resources for transforming how we think about- and do- business.  

We hope you will buy this book and feel empowered to change your town, city, region and nation for  world were all people have equal opportunity to be happy, and no one is left in misery.  Buy on Amazon, or directly from our most wonderful publishers, New Society Publishing,

Sunday, July 14, 2019

5 guides for mindful embodied happiness

5 Guides for Mindful Embodied Happiness 
by Laura Musikanski

In the teachings of mindfulness, called the Dharma by Buddhists, there are five guidelines. These are called the five precepts. The guides are intended to help you life your life without causing yourself misery. After all, life is hard enough. We don't need to put stumbling blocks in our own way to happiness. Like the ten commandments, they are still relevant today when understood in today's context.  Like the ten commandments, they are easily lost when translated literally or with ancient understandings. Let's do an experiment to see if this is true.

Let's start first the nervous system first. Where ever you are right now, notice the state of your nervous system. Are you tranquil just now, or slightly on edge? Perhaps you feel at ease, but your shoulders have a slight ache, or there is a tightness in your jaw and front of the neck that you would like to go away. Just notice the degree to which your body is tense, tired, uneasy, relaxed, calm or at ease. Now, if you can, close your eyes or allow your eyes to lose focus of any particular thing. Take three deep breathes, making the inhale and exhale last as long as you can. Allow there to be a slight pause between in breath and out breath, without holding your breath. If breathing does not work to calm you, imagine yourself in a place especially for you. Somewhere safe and beautiful. Perhaps this is a valley in the mountains, where you can see everything around you, and there is nothing but beautiful nature. Perhaps it is a summer field, with wind blowing through the blossoms, or on a lake. Allow yourself to be fully there, fully embraced by your peaceful, safe place.

Here, in this place and state of calm, we explore the first guide. This is called the guide to not be intoxicated, or, more precisely, the guide to be calm and aware in the present. With your imagination, envision your nervous system, how it travels your entire body with its nexus in your brain. Now notice how your entire body feels right now, without going into detail about the different parts. Notice how your mind is working, without going into details about the thoughts that are occurring. Bring your imagination again to the nervous system, and envision it.

Now cast your mind to a desire for something to eat, drink or do that will change how you feel.  Coffee is an easy one. Remember how it feels to need a coffee. The sluggishness of the brain. How the muscles feel like they are being dragged by some force outside yourself in order to move. Allow your body to be filled with the feeling of the need for caffeine. Now cast your mind to something else, perhaps something a little less socially acceptable that you regularly use to change your mood. A cigarette, alcohol, weed, sex or something else.  Imagine the moment when you are wanting or needing it, when you have made the decision to light the cigarette, pour the drink, etc. Now, envision your nervous system with this desire. How does it feel? How will it feel once you indulge? Different?  Better? No longer on edge. No longer desiring. The brain will calm down. The body will relax. You'll get some relief.

The first guide for mindful embodied happiness is to train yourself to be calm without the drink, smoke, or whatever your favored intoxications are. It is for relief and ease to be your normal state of being. To get here, think of this guide (like all the others) as a learning process.  The way you learn is by noticing as often as you can:

  • When you are calm without intoxication, how does your nervous system (and the brain) feel?
  • When you are desiring something to change your mood, how does your nervous system feel?
  • How does your nervous system feel once you have partaken of your favorite intoxicant?
  • Does indulging in the intoxicant really make things better in any lasting way?

This may be the hardest of all the guides, but if you cast your mind to the times when you were calm and not wanting to change your state, you will see that in those moments you had a capacity to be present and loving, and you were less likely to do things you regretted later, or wish you had done differently or not at all.

The first guide is in the head, specifically the brain and nervous system, and it is to be calm, without intoxication, and so to be present in the moment.

credit for image Dr. Clancy

For the second guide, we go to the throat.  The throat is where we speak from. Bring your attention to your throat, specifically, to your voice box. If you cannot envision your voice box, put you hand on your throat just below the chin where a little bump is. Just feel into that part of your body. When you speak, words are formed by all different parts of your body. A sight or sound may give rise to a thought, or something someone says may trigger a feeling in your gut and memory buried somewhere deep inside you. The mind and body work together to form words, but the words come out through the voice box.

Keeping all this in mind, imagine what your body feels like when you hear words or sounds that feel good. Someone saying they love you, someone reassuring you, a pet purring or happily panting. Then bring to memory how your body feels when someone says something hurtful or mean to you. Without going into it, remember how the mind starts to think, and remember the feeling in the body. Likely the shoulders tense, maybe the right arm too, in a reflex to strike back. Maybe it feels like the wind has been knocked out of you.

Now imagine how it feels when you say unkind things or speak in anger, even if you feel it is justified or needed. Again, without going into it, remember how the blood rises or how a sense of strength, conviction and righteousness fills the body when you speak out of indignation, anger or fear.  Last, bring your memory to times when you said words you know were loving, kind and healing. Perhaps this was to a small child or pet. Remember how these words effected your body, and how you felt while and after you said these words.

The second guide in the throat, and it is not speak lies, or more precisely, to not use words that cause harm. One of the keystones in following this guide is learning that any words, when spoken in any shade of anger or fear, from indignation to rage, concern to terror, can cause harm. This does not mean that you don't speak to stop harm coming to yourself and another in the moment when not doing so would be harmful, like yelling stop when someone is about to crash, but that you train yourself to refrain from any speech that could cause harm. 

To follow this guide, you train yourself to first notice how you are feeling before you speak (or email, text, tweet, or message), and when you are feeling a shade of anger or fear, you stop and ask yourself, could these words cause harm? If there is any chance they could, then you train yourself not to say or send them by first noticing the harm they cause when you say or send them anyway, and later, as you learn, by not sending or saying them.  As you are learning this guide, you will find that you will say or send words you should have known were harmful. When this happens, you learn this guide more deeply by reflecting on the feelings of shame and regret, without punishing yourself. When you reflect on these feelings, you learn how to predict when future words would be harmful and refrain from speaking or sending them.

For the third guide, we go to the heart. The heart is the home of love and life. We go to the heart because this guide is to do no harm. In Buddhism, it is the first on the list, and is taught as not to kill any living thing. This way of teaching is often interpreted as being a vegetarian and not going to war, but Buddha is said to have ate meat when it was given to him (he even is said to have died in his eighties from eating a meal of bad meat) and most people do not get to control whether there is war or not. Instead of struggling over how to interpret this precept from Buddhism, we can understand this guide in a different way by going to our heart.

In our heart, we know when we are hurt and we know when we are loved and loving. Bring your attention to how your heart is feeling right now. Imagine it pumping blood, taking in the blue blood starved of oxygen, pushing out the red blood full of oxygen, over and over.  Now bring to mind a time when you were safely and fully in love. It does not matter how that love turned out, just keep your mind on the time when you felt completely in love. It may be when you fell in love with a partner, when you were a child or just had a child, or a memory of a cherished and long departed pet. Allow the feeling of love to fill you, and sense how your heart feels. Feel the expanse of the heart, how it feels big it is in your chest. Breathe into that expanse, not allowing the mind to wander away into thoughts, but keeping it focused on the expanse of the heart. Close your eyes and stay with that feeling as long as you can.

When you recognize that the memory is gone, perhaps because your mind strayed, you fell asleep or something disturbed your thoughts, bring your mind to the opposite.  Remember a time you felt betrayed, hurt or heart broken. Without going into the details of the memory, notice how your heart feels right now with this memory. Were you betrayed? Did you feel stabbed in the back? If you did, it was in the heart region, because in the heart is where we feel betrayal, hurt and heart broken. We feel it in other places too, but the core of the feeling is in the heart.  That is how it feels to have harm done, and that is how it feels when we do harm.

From the heart we can learn to follow the third guide: to do no harm. It is at the center for all five guides, and so we put it between the other four guides and situate it in the heart.  To follow this guide, you train yourself to become more and more attuned to your heart. As you learn to recognize the pain and harm others do to you with their actions and words, or inactions and silence, you learn also how to recognize when your actions, words, inactions and silence are doing harm.

To use this guide in your life, you can use the golden rule, and ask if you would want to be treated the way you were treating someone else. If you are not sure, have a habit of treating yourself harshly, or expect yourself and others to be tough, you can use a different form of the golden rule, and ask yourself if the other person would want to be treated in such a way.

For the fourth guide, we go to the belly. The belly is the most vulnerable part of our bodies. This may be because when animals eat each other, they bite into the belly first. Bring your attention to your belly. When you do this, you may have a reflexive feeling of shame, or fear. Maybe your belly is a place in your body you do not want anyone to touch or look at. Or maybe you feel proud of your belly, or feel that your power comes from your belly. Allow your attention to rest on whatever your feeling is about your belly.

Next bring your attention to your stomach. How hungry are you? Does bringing your focus to your stomach bring rise to an idea that a little nibble of something would be nice just now?  Or did you just eat, and feel full, or eat too much and feel stuffed? Perhaps you are hungry and have decided not to eat for a while. Notice how feelings of being hungry rise, and then pass, and then you feel satiated for a little while without eating anything, and then feelings of hunger rise again.

The belly is where want comes from. Someone who can't be satisfied, in food, money, success or anything else is said to have an insatiable appetite. We depict greedy people as having big bellies not because of body size, but because want that cannot be satisfied is symbolized in the body as a belly that can never be full. A more apt description might be a skinny belly that no matter how much it takes in, cannot be filled.

When you eat too much, you have discomfort. If you eat more than too much, you will have pain in your belly and wish that you had not eaten so much. When you eat too little, or starve yourself, you will also feel pain in the stomach, and desire for food will dominate your mind.  If you and your loved ones are starved too much and for too long and survive starvation, you will likely find yourself unable to feel you have enough, no matter how much you have.

If you eat when you are hungry, and eat until you are satiated and not more, you will not be possessed by thoughts of food, or find yourself always trying but never able to fill a metaphorical empty belly.  This is the same for all the other things in life. When you work to have enough money to buy the things you need, and then rest instead of working more to buy more than enough, you take from yourself and the world no more than what is needed. Similarly, when you collect enough things to have the objects you need to enjoy your past times, and then spend time enjoying yourself, instead of collecting more than you need or confusing collecting things with enjoying yourself, you take no more than is needed. Conversely, you do not deprive yourself of food, things, or ways of enjoying yourself in healthy and harmless ways because it is not ecologically sustainable.

The forth guide is to take only what is needed to be healthily satiated. This guide has been interpreted as not stealing but it is possible to take something without stealing and do harm. This is the case with excessive consumption, use of natural resources, and manufacturing of things in harmful conditions. This is why we go to the belly to follow this guide. To follow this guide, when you are going to eat, buy, or use something, you ask yourselves if you need it, how much of it you need to be satiated, and if it will bring you joy.  You can also ask yourself if you do not need it, or if not having it will bring you sorrow. You ask these questions lightly, without judging yourself harshly for needing things, and seek for the answer in a feeling in your belly. You give yourself permission to have enough of everything, and set a boundary for yourself for having too much. You can do this with everything that buy, consume, use and dispose of; seeking always to have just enough to be satisfied, and never so much that you are too full.

The fifth guide is situated in the loins. It is a guide for our sexual nature, our strongest drive. This drive is so overpowering that if we do not train ourselves to manage it, we make a mess of our lives. It is a confusing drive, because speaking openly about it is forbidden in many circumstances. To understand this guide, first bring your mind to the area of your body we call the groin. Noticing the feeling in the groin, notice the energy in this area. Now, bring your mind specially to the part of your groin that identifies your gender to you. Putting aside your sexuality, bring your mind to your gendering organs, and allow your mind to rest on awareness of your organs as organs.  What ever gender you were born, and what ever gender you identify as, without getting carried away by thoughts of gender, notice that you have gender organs. Next, bring your mind to the feeling of life in your organs. Notice what that feeling is for you, whether desire, lack of desire, or any other feeling. Notice how quickly the mind goes to thoughts about what is or is not desired, or memories and fears, and bring your mind back to the sensation in your loins. Notice how strong the feelings and thoughts are, whether positive, negative, or numbness.

The fifth guide is to use our sexual nature in ways that are loving and never do harm. This guide means we do not violate, force or exploit someone into a sexual act, or behave in oppressive or biased ways against people because of their gender, gender identification, sexuality or choice of partner. It also means we do not use our sexuality in ways that are unfair or manipulative. This guide applies to all genders of all sexual orientation. We can explore this by contemplating our assumptions about our own gender, both the dark side and the good side, and about other genders, both the good and dark sides, and by ultimately realizing that each of us encompasses all of these aspects, good and bad. When we see our assumptions more clearly, we put ourselves in better state to make better choices about how we act.

To follow this guide, we also contemplate deeply how our sexual drives and gender assumptions effect our actions and ask ourselves if any of our actions are disrespectful or harmful to others. This does not mean we do not take direct action to protect someone who is being violated if they are clearly needing help, or if they are being harassed and have expressed a desire to be protected. It also  means that when we act to protect, we do not do so in a way that causes harm when no harm is necessary, do not exact revenge on someone because of their gender, or justify harming others based on gender or sexual orientation.  We treat women, men, trans, gender fluid, non-binary, and all other genders without intent to harm, and with intent to be loving, kind, and caring.

The five guides are:

From the brain and nervous system, to be calm and aware in the present.
From the throat, to not use words that cause harm.
From the heart, to do no harm.
From the belly, to take only what is needed to be healthily satiated.
From the loins, to use our sexual nature in ways that are loving.

When we follow these five guides, we are less likely to create misery in our lives. We are less likely to do things we regret, and that cause harm to others and to ourselves.  We sleep better. We need intoxication less. We treat ourselves better. We eat better. We exercise in healthy ways for us. We are better friends and lovers. We are more likely to find happiness.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Laura Musikanski