Last year I was fortunate to win tickets to ‘Happiness and Its Causes’, an annual conference on happiness and wellbeing. Now I’m sure we’ve all seen people return from a conference or workshop (and maybe it’s even happened to you – it’s definitely happened to me) and they’ve called it a ‘life-changing experience’ and are gung-ho about making changes in their lives… a few days later nothing has changed and the experience is buried under everyday life, and the enthusiasm once felt has quickly been forgotten.
For me, this conference truly was a life-changing experience.
I’d been working through a few difficult things. My relationship of five years had ended around nine months prior. I’d been through a period of depression. I found myself in an environment where you’d pass someone you knew in the corridor and they’d look down at their phone rather than engage with you. I thought the world was a bit of a grey place.
And then the wonderful Langley Group ran a competition to win tickets to the conference. My entry was a photo on Instagram where I wrote about gratitude, and when I found out that I was one of the winners I reached ‘dance around the house’ level of excitement.
What an amazing experience it was. The conference was held at Luna Park in Sydney, and featured speakers such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ruby Wax, Gretchen Rubin, Ben Lee (including a live performance), and Barbara Fredrickson. The talks and workshops were thought provoking and at times very emotional.
Also present at the conference were the Gyuto Monks of Tibet, who performed blessings, chanted, and spent two days creating a sand mandala. At the end of the two days, they performed a dissolution ritual, ending in all the sand being swept together. We were each given some grains of sand that are believed to promote healing, peace, and love because of the work the Monks have done with them.
So many lessons about how the journey and the process are far more important than the end result and any material possessions. It was a true honour to have seen this first-hand.
One of the most positive parts of the conference was just being among people whom I felt I fit in with. I really felt like I’d found my tribe. I realised that those people I pass in the corridor each day probably have their own stuff going on, and that’s OK because they need to travel their own path. But that’s not what the entire world is made up of. Suddenly the world seemed a lot brighter.
I came back home knowing that I’d had a truly life-changing experience. I had a stronger sense of compassion, a renewed sense and understanding of love, and a deep feeling of calm. I knew these feelings weren’t going to fade. I felt a sense of clarity throughout my entire being.
I’d been reminded who I am and what my core values are.
Ten months later and I’m getting ready to go to the next Happiness and Its Causes conference. The change in mindset has stuck. A friend asked me the other day why I think it has stuck so well and what the difference was this time compared to others. I reflected back to when I was learning to manage my perfectionism and the times when it all seemed like too much work. I wondered why I had to create a whole new me and was tempted to just slip back into letting myself worry about insignificant details and taking notice of everything that’s wrong in the world.
Then I read this quote:
‘Unfuck yourself. Be who you were before all the stuff happened that dimmed your fucking shine.’ (Padhia Avocado).
And that’s what hit home for me. I wasn’t always a stressed-out, highly-strung person that others avoided because they were scared they’d say the wrong thing. Yes, I’ve always noticed spelling errors around me (and probably always will), but in the past I didn’t waste time and energy worrying about them. Somewhere along the line, I’d gone from being a cheerful, positive person into someone who was a walking bundle of stress from concerning herself about things that ACTUALLY DO NOT MATTER.
Once I realised that it was all about returning to who I am at the core, I was able to strip back all the garbage that I had LEARNED. And my experience at the conference was just another reminder of who I really am, and what my core values are.
I haven’t created a new me; I’ve just gone back to being the original me.