Whoever has traveled the Himalayas might remember the joyful and seemingly content people who live simply in remote areas, in relative poverty. The religion on which their culture is based posits that life is naturally intermingled with suffering. As we reflect a little more we might recognize that seeing the appearance of suffering in our life, free from any kind of self-blame, lets us face it in a much better way.
Often we are not able to enjoy the beautiful and happy aspects of life with ease. In moments we are able to do so, we access a source of self-regenerating life energy that can fuel our daily activities. Joy is free. In nearly every life circumstance, people have been able to access this positive emotional energy. The good news is that we can cultivate this ability.
On the one hand, life is not free from challenging situations. On the other, we can be surprisingly resilient. Joy is much closer than we think.
Whether we know it or not, we are always heading in some direction. What is our North Star? What’s guiding and motivating us? What is calling us, making us go or holding us back? Only we ourselves might know the answer. Do we have a vision or an aim for our life? Do we have more than one? How do they make sense and give meaning to our days? And actually, what is happiness for us?
Answers to these questions determine what we do and how we act in the current phase of our life. Often it’s much easier to think about all the things we don’t like or that bug us right now. We can easily complain and worry, but rejoicing and feeling grateful don’t come that easy to us. This is built into our biology. We have only evolved to this point because we have an eye for danger. Taking some time to observe our mind and moods can be the beginning of a new, more conscious relationship to our inner orientation. Beautiful moments and states of joy are always around the corner. Even in the midst of misery, we can allow ourselves to notice positive energies in ourselves and the world around us. The illogical unceasing flow of different states is part of the natural functioning of our mind. It’s only with our conscious and habitual focus that we highlight certain states.
If our inner logic is that suffering should not be happening, then when it comes it hits us hard. We tend to reject it and feel bad about it. Also, we can have trouble believing that we can be authentically joyful right next to it. But these states can be close neighbors.
According to psychological research most people are not clear about their vision and goals. But nevertheless our choices are motivated by something. Even if the motivation is half-conscious or unconscious, our goals inform our actions and direction in life. For example, working just to make money might lead us to experience an eight-hour workday as a long and boring stretch. However, if one of our goals is to enjoy our days, we might find many special moments along the way. If fact we might design the entire 24 hours to be nourishing and interesting, and to look especially in our work hours for little jewels.
Does this sound too hard? It can start quite easily. We can observe how our mind feels lighter in some moments and not in others. What tends to give us freedom and pleasure? We might come up with a list of energizers and another with drainers. We can use our lists to make simple changes in our days. This process can become surprisingly creative:).
The human mind is naturally open, pliable and free. I think it’s liberating to know that our focus does not need to be oriented towards potential dangers and challenging situations, even though we might notice this tendency at times. It was important for our evolutionary survival to have this ability, but in our daily lives it can cause an enormous loss of energy. Having a vision that encompasses an orientation towards the experience of spaciousness, joy and ease can bring us much closer to our natural potential. This can feel like the light at the end of the tunnel.
In the following I’ve collected some links, first a beautiful talk from Vipassana teacher Tara Brach:
I believe you already see many possibilities for surprises, joy, ease and more in your daily life!
Have a beautiful week and enjoy the spaciousness in your experience!