Finding Joy

This post is dedicated to my dear friend Jeanna.

I actually wrote this blog yesterday and let it simmer overnight, to make sure I had said all that I wanted to say in the way that I needed to say it.  This morning, the following arrived in my inbox, from a co-worker who signs up for the daily “Pause for Beauty – Reflections of a Wild Artist” at http://www.herondance.org/.

 

I am sometimes tempted to think that my life should be easier, that I should exist in a state of perpetual enjoyment, that I should move from one triumph and success to another.

That’s just not how it is. Or meant to be, I don’t think. Life is movement in a resistant medium. That’s how we grow; that’s how we appreciate the little things. That’s how life wears us down to the point where we learn acceptance.

Trees in the woods struggle for sunlight, for water, for the ability to reproduce. In the process, they grow.

Birds living on islands without predators sometimes lose the ability to fly.

Wildflowers grow most beautifully in low nutrient soil, I’ve been told by a horticulturist friend.

Art, created by someone who has experienced a lot in life, a lot of ups and downs, tends to be deeper, more meaningful (although not necessarily more beautiful) than art created by someone who has had an easy life.

Journal question: Do I think my life should have been easier? Why? If my life had been easier, would I have been a better person?

I think this fits perfectly with what I wrote yesterday:

My favorite cookbook author and animal activist, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, talks a lot about being a “joyful vegan.” She uses this phrase to describe herself and the vegan lifestyle and uses this phrase frequently in her podcasts at http://www.compassionatecooks.com. Being vegan is not about trying to be perfect or viewing yourself as better than everyone else. Colleen says that true joy and peace come “with being fully awake and open”. The root of the vegan lifestyle is in compassion and the metamorphosis you go through mentally when you eat and live compassionately, which ultimately leads to a more joyful life. Colleen refers to the transition into the vegan lifestyle as an awakening of sorts. I occasionally find myself feeling down due to the state of the world. There is so much pain, suffering, abuse, and neglect. People treat other people horribly. We steal from one another and kill each other. You have only to watch the evening news to be left feeling hopeless at how many things can go wrong in just 24 hours. We hear about injustice so often that we want to give up. What good can we possibly do that can outweigh all of this evil? Sometime it feels easier just to live in the moment and have instant gratification than to do what’s right and consider the consequences of our actions.

I want to talk a bit about being “fully awake and open,” regardless of your diet (It just so happens that I have learned these lessons from giving up the consumption of animal flesh.) I want to talk about finding peace and joy within yourself, no matter what is going on in the world. These are things that some people seek and can never seem to find. Others may find balance and then feel they’ve lost it, over and over, throughout their lifetime. You may feel you have a firm grasp on things, and you set out into your day with bright eyes and a smile, only to feel crushed when you receive bad news in a phone call, when you turn on the TV, or when you see someone do something out of hate, jealousy, or spite. What we have to realize is that evil exists in the world. There will always be bad people doing bad things, bad things happening to good people, etc. But if you dwell on these things, they will pull you down. You will find yourself depressed and angry. It will affect your mood, your life, and your loved ones.

In my mind, I picture myself standing in the middle of a see-saw, both sides perfectly balanced in the air so that the see-saw is parallel to the ground. This is the place where I am happy and peaceful. I am content with my life and aware of all of my many blessings. I have set reasonable goals and am working toward them. I am being good to my body, eating well, resting, and taking time to myself to do the things I enjoy that benefit me. Now let’s say something happens to throw me off kilter. I may slide to one side or another, and if I don’t set myself right (or if I am not aware that it is happening), I may fall even further away from my ideal state. If I don’t work to correct this, I may fall off all together, and worse, I may stay there, miserable. If this happens, my entire life is affected, and so are the lives of the people around me. I am down and I start to bring others around me down.

This slipping, sliding, and falling don’t happen because someone is a failure or because they are a bad person. It happens to everyone. What you do to restore yourself to your center is what makes you who you are. The simple fact that you are AWARE of what it means to be centered or at least that you are aware that you aren’t centered is saying a lot. Many people go through life off kilter or lying in the dirt and don’t even know what it means to be their ideal self. They are unaware that there is anything better to strive for or that there is a need to strive for it. They have no idea how much better their life could be. Some people are aware that something needs to change, but they try to change the wrong things. They think that they need to lose weight or find a better partner or buy a new car or go on an expensive vacation to feel better, but these things only bring us temporary pleasure.

If you are centered, no matter what your situation, you will have a buffer to help you deal with things that come your way. I’m not saying you’ll walk around smiling and happy all the time or that nothing bad will happen in your life, but you will act, react, and recover better when you are centered. It also helps to go by the saying “look on the bright side.” When you concentrate on negative things that make you sad or angry, that is what you will tend to think about as you go through life. You will have a tendency to see all of the bad and none of the good. Complaining, arguing, and being upset will become habit and you will start to react to most situations in this way. Make a conscious effort to note the good things that happen throughout your day, count your blessings (seriously!), and recognize the good in others. Bad things continue to happen in the world around you, but your focus will be on people, actions, and events that uplift and inspire you.

Surround yourself with like-minded people, volunteer somewhere to make a positive change (and observe others who are volunteering as well!), and take time to reflect on the positive things in your life. All of us will go through life sliding left and right. Very few of us will get centered and stay there. It’s not about worrying whether you’re going to slide, but knowing what to do when it happens. I truly believe that if you practice this thinking and work toward this state of mind, you’ll find that you don’t slide quite so far away when you do slide or that you don’t fall quite as much. Know that the struggle to return to that ideal state is what makes the difference. The decisions we make at this time are crucial and make us who we are. Being conscious of this means you are closer to being fully awake and open.

Peace and joy, my friends!

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