Adverse Childhood Experiences and the path towards healing. You are not alone.
I share my trials, my victories, and my stories with you in hopes that if any of you were ever touched by childhood abuse or neglect, as I was, you will see yourselves in my experiences and feel strengthened to voice what you had not been able to before. I hope we can learn together why we respond to life through a particular lens, and that there are ways to climb out of this prison of pain, silence, and shame.
My name is Bess Hilpert

What is Happiness to You?

A Fearless Heart…

My husband and I have “chat time” each evening over a glass of wine. It is our favorite time of the day. We stop all our work, stop all our busyness, and just be with each other. We share our day, our thoughts, our musings, and our love for each other. One evening this past week he asked me “What makes you happy, Bess?” I immediately felt my face stretch as the smile spilled across my face. I felt the warmth in my chest rush through me. I felt my breath deepen. It was a glorious moment. 

I told him that this moment made me happy. I told him that exploring new places with him made me happy. That feeling my grandchildren’s arms around my waist made me sing with joy. That swimming all those laps one after another made me happy. And those unexpected phone calls and texts from our children filled my heart to the moon and back.

Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “What makes me happy?”

He asked me “What is happiness to you, Bess?” I paused, pondering that question for a moment or two. I told him happiness, for me, was being able to be present to the moment at hand. It was releasing the past and the future worries and relishing this moment and this moment and this one. I shared it was when I was in an inner space of courage and resilience. When my open heart could feel compassion for myself and all those I encounter, leaving judgement behind. Happiness is the past is not present and the future is a non-thought. Happiness is in the now. As Franciscan monk, Father Richard Rohr calls it: “the Naked Now”.

We both held hands and smiled.

Take a moment to ponder this question, “What is happiness to me?”

He next asked, “What does happiness feel like to you, Bess?” Ahhh I had to dig even deeper for this one. It feels safe. It feels easy. I feel whole. Yes, I feel whole. I feel grateful. Grateful that I am here. That I am breathing the same air that my ancestors breathed and the same air all those yet to come will breathe. I am part of a larger whole. And the larger whole loves me. I am loved. Deeply treasured. That knowing fills my spirit and that knowing is what happiness feels like to me.

Take a deep breath and tenderly explore, “What does happiness feel like to me?”

American psychologist and author, Tara Brach PhD, says “In any given moment, no matter how lost we feel, we can take refuge in presence and love. We need only pause, breathe, and open to the experience of aliveness within us. In that wakeful openness, we come home to the peace and freedom of our natural awareness.”

The Buddha begs us “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate on the present moment. The Way is not the sky. The Way is in the heart.”

We do not always have to hold onto the ideology that our brokenness defines who we are. That it has the final say.  To fully surrender ourselves to healing we need to go on an extended journey, a trust walk, a gradual letting go, unlearning, and handing over. Experience an “identity transplant”, as Father Richard Rohr describes the transformative power of healing through our willingness to surrender. The gradual healing and reconnecting of head, heart, and body so they operate as one open field. Happiness can be found in that open field.

 Vietnamese Monastic and spiritual thought leader Thich Nhat Hanh challenges us to, “Live the actual moment. Only this actual moment is life.”  And this life is ours.

Finding, experiencing, and surrendering to our own happiness is us bravely living with what Tara Brach PhD calls “a fearless heart.” Let us add that to our toolbox, friends. Until next time, friends.

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