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Workshop teaches steps to being happy

Imagine waking up every morning without any fear. That’s what Patricia Pinckney tells participants to do at her “The Art of Happiness” workshops.

This absence of fear is what Pinckney, who has been teaching classes on happiness for 20 years, hopes to teach her students at her eight “The Art of Happiness” sessions at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, which started Jan. 11.

“We limit ourselves because of what other people think or because of the expectations we have about ourselves,” Pinckney said. “We should try to break the paradigm in our minds and go beyond what we think.”

“The Art of Happiness” sessions are every Saturday through March 1 from 10 a.m. to noon. Each session builds on the previous sessions, but Pinckney said attending at least six is beneficial.

The $140 series includes discussions about different theories of happiness. Discussion about participants’ own happiness often takes place, but people can choose to share or not to share.

The small classes consist of around eight to 10 people who participate in exercises and games to help them explore the many concepts of happiness.

“With these small groups we really have fun,” she said. “There is not only one way to be happy. We want to find out what makes us come alive and do it. And happiness is not always being in the high. It is like a joyful contentment.”

Though the workshop aims to help people of all ages, Pinckney believes college students have a special need to escape self-imposed limits.

“College life has many demands. Yes, it can be fun, but also there are different kinds of pressure — academic, social and vocational,” Pinckney said. “Young people can feel some burden of the future — ‘Am I going to make it? How is my life going to look like?’ Finding out what you want beyond limiting beliefs can give you a great jump start for the rest of your life.”

Sagar Bhika is a student at the University of Georgia who understands the need to make time to think about ways to achieve happiness. He said “Oprah & Deepak’s 21-Day Meditation Experience” inspired him to start meditating as a way to escape from the stresses of everyday life.

He said the online course asks for about 20 minutes of mediation everyday for 21 days. The daily routine inspired Bhika to keep meditating daily and keep a journal about his experience.

“I’d come home from a stressful day at work and sit for 20 minutes and meditate,” said the management information systems major from Cartersville. “I’d pay attention to my breathing, and my mind was taken out of this world.”

He said the meditation “absolutely” makes him feel happy and helps him eliminate external factors that can interrupt his day.

Though Pinckney’s workshop does not focus on meditation, she uses it in her daily life as well to help her live in the present moment and feel “totally alive.”

Pinckney said sharing her practices of finding happiness is one of the activities that makes her happiest and is one of the reasons she loves teaching so much.

“I love to share what I have found in my own life,” she said. “Seeing other people getting more in touch with themselves and their own happiness makes me very happy.”

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