Magical Spring at The Museum of Happiness

Real Life Heroes, Kind Kids, the Happier World Conference & A Celebration of the Earth!

Every day we are blown away by the heart-warming stories people share, the beautiful connections people make, and the inspiring people we come into contact with who help make the world a happier, kinder, more peaceful place.

Over the space of the past two months the MOH has been particularly blessed with the Happier World Conference, an Earth Day retreat, a visit from two real-life heroes all the way from the US, and witnessing children unlock the kindness that’s already inside them.

The Happier World Conference was a dream come true for the MOH! It was an amazing community gathering which brought together change-makers from all over the world to explore how to make the world a happier, kinder, more conscious place.

Our youngest change-maker was little baby Asher, who was only a few months old. An adorable “sleeping baby” corner emerged, which became a spontaneously happy feature of the conference. And our eldest member was none other than peace activist and co-founder of Schumacher College, Satish Kumar - who had the most energy out of all of us!

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The secrets to Satish’s happiness and energy?

“Be a monsoon of love!”
Don’t criticize; cultivate gratitude…
Don’t compare; celebrate…
Don’t consume, create…

He went on to advise:

“Follow your heart”
“Don’t let fear hold you back”
“Have trust and faith in the universe”
“Don’t just be an employee, you have one life...do what really makes you come alive!”

The media portrays the world in such an horrific and negatively biased way. However after being at the Happier World Conference for 2 days, hearing all the amazing, inspiring projects and initiatives going on around the world, we now feel more hopeful than ever!

We had the honour and privilege of a visit from some real life heroes!

Dr Sri and Dr Phuoc, founders of the Heal Initiative, are an incredible force of hope, truth and devotion, shining so much light onto some of the darkest places and situations around the globe.

Sri and Phuoc met in the response to the devastating Haiti earthquake in 2010, which killed over 200,000 people and left many more injured and homeless.They were moved by the will and pure hearts of the volunteers, and recognised their real need for crucial training in order for them to be able to provide high-quality healthcare to the victims of the disaster.

They put their heads, hearts and hands together and a few years and their labour of love the Heal Initiative was born, overcoming some of the greatest hurdles in disaster response.

Both Sri and Phuoc live lives deeply rooted in service, helping some of the most vulnerable people around the world and empowering other individuals to touch the lives of many.

They've been recognised for their groundbreaking and heart-warming achievements, and have been awarded multiple medical and humanitarian awards from all over the world.

Their key messages were;

  • Stand up for vulnerable people who don’t have a voice; do whatever you can to promote fairness and equality wherever you go

  • We don’t all have to do these grand gestures, it can be these small acts with great love that transform the world

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Kindness is cool!

We spent the day with a group of young children on the Isle of Dogs who were struggling to show kindness to each other. We spent the day exploring ways to be kinder to yourself and others, made cards of gratitude to all the people who have been kind to us, and made “Capes of Kindness” for each other - a practise of writing kind things on A4 sheets pinned onto each other’s backs.

We also enjoyed a self compassion meditation, ending the day with a sharing circle. Our hearts were warmed beyond belief with what the children shared;

“Even if you’re feeling angry or sad it’s not ok to be mean or unkind to someone else”

“Don’t let others steal your happiness or kindness”

“If someone is mean to you it’s probably because they are sad on the inside”

“We aren’t going to do mean or unkind things to each other anymore”

“Help people to help themselves”

“Practice gratitude and kind acts to feel happier “

“We are all in charge of our own happiness”

 

Wow such wisdom! :-)

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Earth Day Retreat

What a nourishing day we shared at the ServiceSpace One Day Retreat, exploring boundaries in our relationships with ourselves, in our communities and with mother Earth!

Kush opened the morning circle with a question he's been holding - what is a meaningful way to contribute to society?  If we measure this as contribution to GDP, it's not always wholesome, but what if our metrics shifted and we made a meaningful contribution by meditating - how could that ripple out to benefit society?  

Vicky reminded us about how society has conditioned us to believe that we will be happy and fulfilled when x, y and z happen in our lives, yet the goal posts shift every time we get there.  In reality, we can find joy within ourselves and we are here to collectively to explore how generosity can help us to uncover this in our own hearts.

Nipun offered us seeds of inspiration to reflect on how we can deepen on our journeys of service through tuning into awareness and by expanding it to include seeing more subtle things in our context, which may otherwise go unnoticed.

Inspired by our guest of honour Satish Kumar, we held and explored the following questions;

Soil: if our global economy mandates 3% annual growth, which is unsustainable, what systems will allow us to create alternatives that honor our inter-connection with nature?

Soul: if our unhappiness levels rise with social media addiction, and simply being around our devices makes us dumber, what practices will help us cultivate inner transformation?

Society: when 3 out of 4 of us believe in pro-social values, yet 3 out of 4 believe that others don't care, it points to a tragic problem in our collective narrative. What is the new story and how do we embrace it?

We enjoyed meditation and stillness together, shared insights, took to the streets of Camden to spread happiness and ended with pledges to be kinder to ourselves and the earth.

 

Insights from the retreat:

  • We are all earthlings and we are ultimately ‘one earth - one family’

  • Be like nature

  • Let’s make a conscious effort to deepen our relationship with nature and with each other in an unconditional way

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What an amazing month!

With love and blessings,

The Museum of Happiness (with special thanks to our lovely volunteer Anya for editing)

Moonlit cacao and the sweetness of doing nothing

Do you like to party? IDOH!

The Museum of Happiness took on some multicultural flair on March 20th for a very special International Day of Happiness party!

Our community gathered together to explore the secrets of happiness from around the world. Forms of mindful movement have enormous followings, particularly in India and China. Many turn to the natural world, whether it's rising early and listening to the dawn chorus in Sweden or enjoying the beauty of spring Cherry blossom in Japan. And in Croatia, they have a word for the sweetness of doing absolutely nothing - Fjaka!

Throughout the evening food was shared, new friendships were made, gratitude bingo was played, an enormous hand-made happiness flag was born and some rather fierce shapes were thrown on our silent disco dance floor! All in all, a beautiful evening of sharing, love, kindness, insights and smiles. Not bad for a Tuesday!
 

Our first ever wellbeing residential!

We recently had the privilege of teaming up with London Youth and Rap Association to run our first wellbeing residential for young people.

Eight youth clubs with members from an enormous diversity of different backgrounds and circumstances gathered for a weekend of happiness, kindness and self-care. Together, we explored practical tools and techniques that can be implemented in everyday life to improve wellbeing.

The young people were greeted by handmade gifts left on their pillows before an evening of ice-breakers and meditation to prepare everyone for a fun packed weekend ahead. Morning yoga was followed by a wide variety of workshops including Understanding Feelings, Cultivating Confidence, and Building a Happiness Toolkit. A real highlight was a beautiful nature walk in the forest, concluding with reflections over hot cacao around a moonlit campfire!

It was incredible to see the compassion and acceptance amongst the group, the love and commitment from the youth workers and the kindness and support all the young people showed one another. Excitingly, many shared plans to spread happiness in their own local communities after returning home!
 

Learning to handle pressure in just one day

It was fantastic to welcome a lovely group of Chevening Scholars to the MOH for a wellbeing day earlier this week. The order of the day was to explore strategies to handle pressure and avoid burnout.

We started by examining the amazing power of gratitude to rewire the brain and how focussing on just three good things each day can make a significant difference to long-term happiness.

We discussed the importance of treating ourselves as a good friend and asking ourselves the vital questions- 'what would a wise and kind person say?' and 'how can I best take care of myself right now?'

We then demystified stress by examining its biological and psychological effects on the body, before the group used this new-found knowledge to create personal stress-management plans.

Along the way, we meditated, made happiness pledges and shared insights with one another. After just one day together the students were already feeling happier, calmer and better equipped to tackle stress!

Sharings and journeys at the Winter Happiness Festival 2018

“It’s almost like you could feel the love in the room”

On Sunday 4 February, the Museum of Happiness wrapped up its 2018 Winter Happiness Festival with a celebratory Gong Bath. Approximately 2,000 visitors attended during the two-week festival, which started on Saturday 20 January. The festival’s highlight was a ball pit filled with over 30,000 white balls and loads of soft blue pillows. The rest of the Museum space was filled with installations and activities intended to inspire happiness and happiness workshops and talks were held throughout the festival.

“We wanted to create an event that brought people from different backgrounds, where people can come together and channel their inner child,” said Vicky Johnson, a Co-founder and Director of the Museum.

The timing of the festival was meant to lift the mood and inspire happiness at a time when people are feeling the most down.

“Blue Monday [generally the third Monday of January] is supposed to be the most depressing time of year,” Vicky said. “And winter can be quite a depressing, lonely, isolating time of year in general.”

Sasha Mattock, a London resident, first came to the museum for an Awakin Circle meditation event and she was so charmed by the experience that she came back again on the final day of the festival.

“It’s been really lovely and welcoming,” she said. “Everyone just invites you into the space. I like it because everyone is really open and honest with the way they interact. I realised that’s what’s been making me uncomfortable in London and how different a space is when you can really say how you are and aren’t being shut out.”

The Museum of Happiness operates thanks to the help of many dedicated volunteers. Extra hands were brought on deck during the festival to meet the needs of the increased volume of visitors. The volunteers interacted with the guests, welcomed them into the space, sat down to chat, made tea, and worked side-by-side with them on activities.

One Arlington House resident, best known at the Museum as James the Poet, was a regular fixture at the museum throughout the Winter Happiness Festival. In addition to making tea and chatting with guests, James wrote and shared his poetry. He often asked visitors what they’d like to read a poem about and then wrote it there, on the spot. By the end of the festival, he estimated that he’d written about 150 poems in the span of two weeks.

“I come down and write my poetry and let other people see them,” James explained. “If they’re feeling down, hopefully, it makes them feel better. It’s helped change my life.”

James’ inspiring story touched many of the attendees. On the opening day of the event, James shared the hardships he’s been through and read some of his poems for a group of attentive guests, seated on the cushy astroturf floor.

“If it wasn’t for Rosa and Vicky, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now,” James said.

Prior to moving into the hostel, James had been homeless and caught up in gang activity. He was stabbed and nearly lost his life last year. Life has never been easy for James and he said he considered giving up many times. But he met the staff and volunteers at the Museum of Happiness who engaged with him and welcomed him into the space.

“When I first moved into the hostel about three months ago, I was still agitated about my stabbing, and I used meditation to help get over it and get out of the gangs,” James said. “It really helps… I’ve found my family here.”

Another festival attendee and featured guest was Baba Jay, a formerly homeless musician, who came in on several occasions during the two-week festival. He first found the Museum of Happiness by accident, a few days before the festival began. Baba was on his way to find a nearby music studio when he stumbled into the museum thinking he was at the right place. He saw Vicky and assumed she was the music tutor. She ended up inviting him to come play his music during the Winter Happiness Festival.

On the opening day, Baba Jay performed a few songs he’d written, along with some covers. He said he felt instantly at home in the museum.

“When I came here, it was really like meeting long lost friends even though they’re all strangers,” Baba said. “There’s a nice warmth and you feel safe. The main thing was I felt like I wasn’t weird. I’ve gone through my whole life feeling different.”

Baba Jay has also faced many challenges in his life. He’d lived on the streets as a young man and struggled with alcohol addiction. He says music helped get him out of trouble. Baba shared his own story to inspire museum guests, before performing his songs.

“Before I came here, I used to go around smiling at people, and people [were] thinking I was weird… But when I came here, they actually understand,” Baba Jay said.  

The Museum of Happiness is always filled with like-minded people who are working towards positive change and pursuit of happiness.

Another volunteer, Katie Bell, of Kingston, said she found the Museum of Happiness at a networking event focused on mindfulness, fitness and social enterprise. She had recently quit her job, because she wanted to be a part of the bigger picture, working alongside a community, toward a shared goal. She found what she was looking for at the museum and knew right away that she wanted to be involved.

“You could instantly tell that everyone here was doing something to work on themselves or with other people,” Katie said.
 

The Winter Happiness Festival may now be over, but most of the activities and installations set up for the celebration remain in place for visitors to enjoy. The events calendar is filled with classes, talks and workshops that will continue to spread joy among all those who pass through the Museum’s bright yellow doors.

“It lives up to its name — the Museum of Happiness,” Baba Jay said. “I feel blessed and I feel grateful that I found this place just by chance.”
 

Written by guest blogger Anna Marden
www.annamarden.com

Festive fun and frolics!

It’s been another amazing month here at the Museum of Happiness. We’re now truly getting into the swing of things at our new home and feeling very grateful to be able to dedicate so much of our time to spreading happiness!


Peace, love and PARTYING!

It’s been a bit of a party-filled extravaganza down at the MOH during the run up to Xmas!

We hosted our first Inner Peace Party - thanks to all who attended this absolutely joyous occasion! The ecstatic dance session saw the museum transform into a disco dance floor - we will be sure to hold another session soon! A huge thank you to all our wonderful speakers and session leaders. As always, it was so lovely seeing people connect and forging friendships.

We were also lucky enough to help Yulife and 3FaithsForum to celebrate the holiday season and learn some stress management tips in the process! Thank you to all those who participated and for being so open and getting stuck in!

It was also our absolute pleasure to host a birthday party for one of our biggest supporters, Natalie, for her epic contribution to our crowdfunder campaign. If it wasn’t for her there’s a huge chance we wouldn’t be sat here writing this!
 

Experience is the teacher of all things

We’ve just launched the new Museum of Happiness Experience and the sessions so far have been really magical. It’s been a real privilege to give all kinds of people a taste of gratitude, laughter yoga and mindfulness with a liberal sprinkling of the science of happiness! The feedback and support we’ve received for this new and experimental offering is truly touching and we are really looking forward to bringing the experience to new audiences next year!


A photograph is the pause button of life

The recent Mindful Photography workshop was an absolute hit due to Menka’s amazing facilitation style! Her Just Looking Instagram community is all about connecting and inspiring each other to use photography to slow down, notice more and connect playfully with the present moment. Check out some of the great snaps from the day below!


Happiness is homemade

We’ve been doing lots of training and community work with residents here at Arlington House, including confidence workshops and creative writing courses! A big shout out to James the poet for all of the help he’s given us with the work of keeping the Museum running!

We’re really looking forward to Arlington Christmas Fayre! We will be handing out presents to the Residents of Arlington. These gifts were very kindly donated by our friends at Sunday School Yoga who recently hosted their Christmas Party at the Museum of Happiness


Last but certainly not least!

Our first Awakin Circle at the Museum of Happiness was a beautiful gathering. We feel blessed for time to meditate with the community, share insights and have diner together. We’ll be hosting more next year so please do come down and get involved if you’d like to :-)

Finally, a big, big shout out to Heather Mason who is working tirelessly to make an impact in using yoga as a preventative health measure and is working hard to raise awareness in Parliament about the benefits of yoga.
 

We wish you a wonderful and happy festive season and hope to see you in the New Year!

Sending love and smiles :)

The MOH Team