How happy are you, this minute, and, who is interfering with your joy? The interactions we have daily, by circumstance or by willing participation, impact us to such a degree that entire books have been written just to dismiss this very fact. Statements like, “I don’t care what anybody thinks,” are proof that, yes, we do care. We don’t walk around saying, “I’m not wearing a hat today!” if, indeed, we’re hatless. It’s not necessary to announce to obvious. It’s natural to voice that which we resist. If given a choice, most of us would not choose to be in opposition with humanity as we live out our lives. Resistance inspires change. Even if it takes years to alter our behavior, we eventually grow weary of the battle, and we change or we bail. The goal, either way is to move beyond the sphere of futility that often becomes the familiar. The norm is different than the familiar. The two are sometimes used interchangeably, but there is a vast difference. The norm can be familiar, but the familiar can be eons away from normal. Our normal, natural state in this human condition is simple, yet we insist on making it so complex that we are overwhelmed with daily life. We think we’re too busy, we think we are stressed by demands of responsibility, We believe we’d be happy “if only…” Ask a thousand people to complete this sentence and you’ll likely get a thousand responses. Here’s the spoiler, if we cannot find joy exactly as things are, as others are, even as we are, happiness will not suddenly increase once that dreamy day arrives. Focusing on the lack of that “thing,” or that characteristic we crave in our romantic partner, our family members, our friends, and all those who know us best, places us in a constant mindset of scarcity. We just don’t have what we need to be truly happy. What follows is more lack. The most simple truth is we naturally operate in a realm of joy. There’s no shock in this knowledge when you consider the ease of life in the moments when joy is present. It IS the path of least resistance. The human experience comes complete with the range of emotions and mindsets we all know well and none of which are to be discounted. Emotions are valid. No one needs to offer a stamp of approval for your feelings. Only we can decide where we are willing to operate. Over time, moods become a personality, be it one that attracts or repels others. We create that reality. It is a strange, new feeling, making a decision to fiercely guard our energy. But, it, being the only thing we truly own, there is nothing more deserving than the intentional cultivation of inner joy. This seemingly selfish shift in mindset and action immensely benefits those around us, also. We stop placing upon others the responsibility to behave in a given way so that we are always satisfied. We release the choke-hold we’ve held on our partner, expressed or repressed, that’s kept us from acceptance of that person, exactly as they are. An argument is an “invitation,” of sorts, for that person to join you in being right. Wrong. And, if you enter this new way of life only to discover you are treated as a doormat, you’ll know what to do. But, here’s the interesting thing: when we begin expressing an appreciation of others for all that we DO honor about THEIR inner being, there is more to appreciate. It’s equally true that magnifying the positive in people really does make them more pleasant. It’s hard to be a jerk to someone who is always seeing the good in you. In turn, that thing that once irritated the living shit out of you? It just ceases to exist, either by change on their behalf or by that shift in focus you’ve chosen. We get more of what we magnify. Have you ever thought of a person you haven’t seen in a long time, and boom…they’re suddenly passing you in the supermarket? Or, you see and hear the same random word repeatedly when you can’t remember it ever being a part of your most commonly used words? I am experiencing this with “Peru.”, Peru. The mind rewrites the newest information. I don’t know how it works. I just know that it does and my passion for spreading the word that joy is the most important aim for every person alive is because it saved my life. No one has offered a more worthy pursuit since my shift, than joy. Many of you know I’m beginning to share my story of being critically ill. Desperation breeds intense flexibility. Laying in my bed one day, experiencing particularly debilitating and painful symptoms, I began thinking of any and everyone I needed to forgive. I was determined, adamantly so, to live. I knew, however, I wasn’t the only factor in that outcome. So, as I began thinking about my life, and all those who had visited it in another time, in another place, I wept. I was grateful for so many incredible memories, so many fascinating people, opportunities, experiences…I also shed tears over the grudges I’d buried against those I’d determined warranted justifiable anger. With nothing more than a mental resolve, I forgave them, all. The sense of liberation was so profound, it began showing up in my physical body. That evening, I had an appetite. I slept the night through. I felt a measure of peace that was nothing short of miraculous. It was that easy. The things we believe take such time and effort to improve about ourselves is the biggest, most promoted myth circulating. You don’t need a 17 chapter self-help book or a year with a therapist to do the things that bring about the real joy you’re seeking. The least easy part? Forgiving Dawn. If you’d asked me, as I lay in my bed that day, did I have any regrets, I’d have, without hesitation, said, “No.” The excavation proved otherwise. I didn’t like how I’d behaved in a lot of scenarios. I didn’t like the pain I knew I’d brought others. I didn’t like knowing that I had willingly chosen the wrong path when the right one was glaringly obvious. But, just like I made the decision to release the buried anger I carried for others, I began forgiving myself, for everything. After all, it only meant I wouldn’t repeat the action, given the same scenario, and how could I not be grateful for that shift? Most importantly, the indirect, shining benefit of this event- I could finally stop living any part of my present in the past, or the future. I was in today. Just as it was. Just as I was. And, by the time the sun set that day, the tears were ones of gratitude. It’s become a practice that’s brought about such positive results, I’m no longer willing to go through life any other way. As weeks passed, and the calendar flipped to new months, I got stronger. I was still doing all the food as medicine and all the measures I’d incorporated in an attempt to reclaim my health. But, that day began to leverage every other effort. Deciding to experience the feeling of joy before I was healthy, mobile, and making my bed instead of laying in it day and night was my secret sauce. I now know what I didn’t, then. That, our thoughts, both negative and positive set in motion a reaction at the cellular level of our bodies. We can heal, physically, by healing mentally. If I’d waited to be happy until after I was well, the doctors may have been right. Instead, I not only made a comeback…I was intensely aware of the most simple things. The vivid colors of every flower in bloom. The breeze in my hair. The feeling of the earth as I stood with my eyes closed and soaked up the sun was as if I’d never done that in my life. I appreciated what I’d never appreciated before. Not that I didn’t like these things before, I just took them for granted because, you know, I was busy. I still stop and watch the lizards on my patio. I walk on the beach and am in new awe of the expanse of the same sea, everyday. My cynicism and sarcasm, which was once a hallmark of my identity, hushed. (Yes, I still find well placed sarcasm hilarious…I didn’t join a prude commune.) I still have a potty mouth. I still procrastinate on tasks. I may never outgrow the bad habit of creating stacks of paperwork in five different places around my home. I still feel like it’s the ultimate accomplishment to have the inside and outside of my car clean on the same day. But, the inner stuff…I handle that, daily. I meditate, which has been another huge part of my healing. We spend so many mindless, unchecked hours allowing our thoughts to run rampant, like dogs off a leash, that thirty minutes of intentional harnessing of said thoughts is hardly a sacrifice. It lowers blood pressure. It reduces stress and anxiety. IT MAKES YOU NICER. Not even joking. Where once these practices I’ve mentioned were discarded by the naysayers, science has entered the scene and measurable results have surfaced and are so profound, some of the most respected hospitals are “prescribing” the reduction of stress as a baseline of complete health. It’s irrefutable. You don’t have to go hippie, eat granola and wear flower garlands. Although that’s a mega-cool look. More mainstream than ever, there is a wealth of information surrounding the benefits of both forgiveness and meditation. Joy is easy. Joy is acceptance. Joy is the sweet and chaos-free path. Joy is HEALING. And, without healing, having all the things and all the people exactly as we want them is the great barrier to joy. It’s a tall order. It’s also an easy one and the payoff sometimes saves a life…proverbially and literally. Joy to your world. Peace, Warriors.
*Image credit: Natalia Baker