The Pursuit of Happiness - Essence Magazine

  Photo: Michael Rowe, Stylist: Lauren Taylor, Makeup: Bethany Garity

Photo: Michael Rowe, Stylist: Lauren Taylor, Makeup: Bethany Garity

Janet Jackson is covering the July/August edition of Essence Magazine dubbed “The Happiness issue”, and opening up about finding her joy through the years. The issue includes a timely article entitled, “Happy Talk” highlighting women from ages 23 - 50+ who reveal simple acts that have brought them tremendous joy. The article features a full-page photo of Get Your Sol creator, Leslie Gordon, along with some inspirational words from incredible women who opine on what happiness looks like for each of them.

Read below to find out how Leslie found her joy: 

I made a seemingly small decision to step out of a world of chaos I created for myself by being in the wrong job and finding myself in the wrong situations with the wrong people. I summoned the courage to make significant shifts in my life and it all started when I decided to go on a spiritual retreat to Sedona, Arizona a little more than a year ago where I began a meditation practice that I fell in love with. 

I knew I needed to make some real changes immediately because I was frustrated with so many things in my life and desperately seeking peace. My job had me traveling 70% of the time, I was stressed out and fighting off depression, particularly in the cold, gray winter months. I decided to surrender and really listen to myself. But first, I had to quiet the noise around me and begin to stiff arm people who were coming at me left and right requesting my time, my energy and my sanity. I’m sure there are people who felt some kinda way about my my radio silence or my decision to say no when they would try to engage me — whether to attend an event, consult on a project or even meet for coffee — but I had to say no because for me it was about self-care and self-preservation.

I had to figure out who I was outside of the many ways the external world defined me and I couldn’t do that without taking an enormous step back and getting honest with myself.
— Leslie Gordon
Leslie Meditating.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sedona, Arizona

The change has been life-affirming and truly transformational. I spent five days in Sedona, Arizona where I learned to meditate with a meditation teacher in a breathtaking area called Angel Valley. Prior to that, I would attempt to meditate but I couldn’t get through 10 minutes without struggling and giving up, saying to myself, “One day I’ll figure it out.” When I went to Sedona, I made a commitment to be still and learn the whys and the hows of meditation. What did I have to lose? Everything else around me felt like it was falling apart so I seized the opportunity to completely surrender and discover that the peace I was seeking was always there but I had to find it within.  

It was a beautiful experience and I learned that there are five essentials of meditation which is explained perfectly in a book called Soul Centered by Sarah McLean: 

  1. It’s okay to have thoughts when you meditate
  2. Don’t try too hard
  3. Let go of expectations
  4. Be kind to yourself
  5. Stick with it

The biggest lesson for me is that the nature of our minds is to think, and thoughts during meditation are normal. When you allow the thoughts to come up, you can acknowledge them, bid them farewell and return your focus to your breath over and over again. Each time it gets easier and easier to quiet the mind and embrace what you discover in the silence. This understanding opened me up and allowed me to slowly but surely receive the full benefit of my practice. Some days are better than others but I have never given up and meditation has revealed things about me that I would otherwise have never learned. It’s deep!

I began to feel a difference in a few weeks. I trusted the process. I decided to get disciplined in order to meditate for longer and longer periods of time and to deepen my practice. Today, I feel completely off-balance when I don’t sit and meditate for at least 20 minutes a day. The practice restores and energizes me and I am now walking in my truth. I am attracting some incredible people and experiences I wasn’t necessarily open to or ready for before I began meditating. My entire life has shifted — for the better and I began meditation teacher training this year. Once I finish my coursework and an 8-day intensive in Sedona, I will be a certified meditation teacher and I plan to teach as many people as possible to meditate. It’s a game changer.

The joy I feel from learning to meditate is profound. I am calmer, kinder and I am slower to react to nonsense. The peace I feel when I meditate has spilled over into my every day life and every day interactions with others. I am able to make much more reasonable and rational decisions both personally and professionally because now I know myself and I am tuned into want I want and need. The true joy lies in the fact that I am 100% clear about my intentions and I am able to walk through life being fully present. It’s a beautiful gift.
— Leslie Gordon
Janet Jackson

Real talk: Women need this form of peace in our lives. Many of us are suffering, depressed, overwhelmed, on autopilot or disengaged altogether and we’re afraid to confront the truth that we’re not happy. The demands of our lives keep piling up and there is absolutely no way to live a happy life without finding a way to put ourselves first and do the work to make sure we’re whole. Meditation is only one way to become the happiest, best version of ourselves but I am an advocate for every woman starting a meditation practice. It will make you better for yourself first and foremost, and for the people you care about.

To read words of wisdom from each woman featured and Miss Jackson's piece on finding her own happiness, pick up the July/August issue of Essence Magazine, available now!