How to be happy even if you're English

what is happiness and how to get it

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Desires? Moi?





There’s a message in my inbox.  ‘Submit to your desires, Jane’ it says.  (I’m not kidding).

Ooh, I thought.  (What else could I think?) A melty feeling washed over me.  Nice.  I watched it doing it’s melty thing, recognising an unusual experience.  And in recognising it, the thought came in; ‘what desires?’

The thing is, as nice as the thought of submitting to them was, in that moment I didn’t actually have any.  I was desire-less.

It was beautiful.

Last year my values became my motto.  Authenticity and simplicity.  I’m aware it could sound pompous and lofty, but it works.  When I’m not sure, I go back to it.  I test my thoughts (my wants, generally) against it to see where they fit.

I’m a shopper, hands up.  I was trained by shoppers disguised as bargain-hunters (now there’s a skilful deception) and I’m left with a trolley-load of meshed consumer habits to unload.  I’m skilled and abhorrent about shopping.  It’s a tough life. A day shopping could feed a month in therapy for me.  But ‘authenticity and simplicity’ sorts the men from the boys.  It’s put the brakes on. It’s given me space.  Sure, old habits die hard.  But I see them for what they are, at least.  It’s a relief to walk away.

I have no idea what the content of that email was.  Or who it was from.  Some gifts are best left unopened so I pressed delete and sent it packing.  On this occasion, no content could have exceeded the packaging.  I’m a grateful receiver of a large slice of wrapped space with a label attached, like an illustration from Alice in Wonderland.  A sensual reminder of how stuff consumes me and how not pandering to it leaves space for a whole lot of other stuff, of a much better kind.



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The law of attraction – does it work? part 2

Odds are that once you’re open to a new perspective there’s a pull to test it out.
As a small budget holder with a ‘tread lightly’ philosophy I played a game which eventually dictated all my consumer activities. I used applied focussing to my purchases, big time. This is how I did it:
I would set myself a random purchase goal (bizarrely, even if it was something I didn’t need, purely to test the principle). A red light bulb, for example. Or a fluted salmon pink lampshade. To begin with I would peruse the shops in my locality, noticing where lightbulbs were stocked, checking the retailers, prices, quality and variants. Familiarising myself with the subject. It sounds alarmingly obsessive and materialistic, but was actually a profound exercise in focussing. Because of my budget restrictions I couldn’t just purchase the first one I found. It had to be THE one. At the best price. The one I had envisioned, no cheating.


I became finely tuned until I developed a kind of intuition. Instead of a list of ‘things I need to get’ there was just the one. And it had my full attention. I learned to work on the assumption that it was there, waiting for me; a game of cat-and-mouse. I had to find where my prize had hidden itself. And I always found it (purchase wasn’t essential, only the discovery).
As an artist I’m trained to notice. I’d use this training to try poundstores, independent retailers, high street stores, charity shops and flea markets. My awareness of my environment grew. You could ask me where to buy a random article and I could respond with several likely candidates and a price range, just through peripheral consumer vision. It was an odd talent with a curious merit, taking me into realms of perceived value, consumer snobbery, navigation and expansive thinking. It was no minor activity.
As the game progressed I limited myself to charity shops. It became a game of ‘which one is it in?’. A pretty silver teapot, a Hornsea sugarbowl, or single electric blanket. I’d focus, visualise, go through the charity shops I knew in my head (there are a lot in my town) and make a selection; nominations of 3 or 4. And I’d visit them in turn for a week or fortnight.
You’ll think I’m bonkers (and I thought so too, at times), but it never failed. Random items in random stores at random times, but it never failed. The prize was always there, and at a knock-down price.

A dental receptionist once looked me in the eye and said ‘there’s always help’ when I balked at the price of treatment, handing me a form for subsidy. This stayed with me. The charity shop game was a protracted exercise in finding help. And it worked every time, even with my ridiculous budget.


Focussing on my desires made the unlikely possible, noticing expanded my knowledge and resources, and application made it happen. Every time. If you haven’t already, try it.