Happiness is like a fish tank

happy habitsWhen I first moved into my place the previous tenants had a fish tank that they left there. It was very badly neglected. It was full of fish so I decided to clean it up. And trust me, it was not easy. The glass was so caked with slime and algae that you couldn’t even see IN to the tank.

I started by doing an initial scrub of the glass. This pulled a pretty thick layer of algae off so in some spots you could kinda see through the glass. But there was another layer that I had to scrub harder to get off. After a couple weeks I finally got through that layer and you could really see through the glass then. But it still looked cloudy because there was one more layer of algae, or I don’t even know what it was, some growing stuff, that was near impossible to get off.

Mind you, I didn’t have a lot of time to just stop my life and take a week to completely overhaul this fish tank. I had to do it a bit at a time, a little bit every day. And those poor fish, they probably wondered what the hell was going on, lol. Anyway, it took months of fastidious scrubbing to get this final layer of scum off the glass (oh, I should also mention that I’m kind of a hippie so avoid using chemicals whenever possible).

The only way to tell if I was making a difference was to pick just one spot to work on and scrub and scrub and scrub. It was kind of boring so I tried many different approaches. What’s funny, I found that if I used a certain pattern of scrubbing up and down, then left to right, then in circles, it actually got the scum off faster. Yeah, that’s how bored I got. Finally, with lots of patience and consistent effort I got all the scum off. At times I had thought it not possible.

To avoid ever having to go through that again I made it a habit to do just a little scrubbing every day. Just a couple minutes of scrubbing a day kept the scum away.

You probably think this analogy is pretty obvious…

…And it is. Your mind is like the fish tank. The fish are like the thoughts and emotions swimming around in your head. The plants in the bottom would be like habits — they’re tougher to change around but it’s possible. You would hope that most of the fish and plants (thoughts, feelings and habits) are the pretty, happy kind, but that’s not always the case.

The glass represents your vision of reality. Is your vision clear, or is it muddied by the buildup of neglect? Negative emotions and judgments, unrealistic expectations, attachments and living life for all the wrong reasons will cloud your vision, make you unhappy and frustrated and will build up. If you neglect your negative emotions/judgments/expectations/attachments/etc. long enough they will become hardened and impossible to see through.

It’s time for a happiness overhaul

Finding happiness is like cleaning the fish tank. You may have to dig through several layers of scum. You have to be consistent and fastidious, never giving up hope. Your own brain may wonder WTF you’re doing?! But finding happiness is like an instinct, you just have to go for it every day. As your vision gets clearer you will see that some fish and plants (thoughts, feelings & habits) need to be switched out for better ones.

Happiness is a habit

Whether cleaning up emotional scum or just keeping it away, you have to work on your happiness every day. We all have a monkey in our head (monkey mind) that is constantly stirring up trouble and getting into mischief. We have to reel our monkey mind in and train it to perform happy habits, daily.

This is the end of this analogy. I’d like you to take some time to reflect deeply:
How clear is your tank?
What kind of fish are swimming around it?
What kind of plants (habits) are deeply entrenched in it?

Now, ask yourself, What can I do today to clean things up?

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