how to find joy in life

Turn on the television, scroll through your social media feed, listen to the radio…there is plenty of scary stuff out there! And because we really only know what we experience in our own life, it’s easy to believe that what’s happening in our world today is unique and signals the end of humanity as we know it!

It’s easy to get lost in the hate and fear.

Now, I’m certainly not making light of the tragedies we, collectively, have seen and experienced. I was working at a high school when two young men in Columbine shot up their school, killing many. Watching the news that evening, I collapsed to my knees and like many others in our country, was brought to tears.

I didn’t know those kids…but I knew kids like them. Had my own kids. And I wept because none of it made sense to me. Why did so many have to die?

And then…as the story unraveled and the nation discovered the larger intent of the killers, we realized it could have been, should have been, much worse. If the boys had done a better job wiring the propane tanks in the school cafeteria, hundreds more would have died that day.

We discovered in the midst of tragedy…there was grace.

I’m sure many of you have memories of where you were and what you were doing when a senseless event happened.

Today, one of the benefits of traditional media and social media is we are more aware of what happens beyond our own neighborhood. We get to see the good in people a world away as they reach out to help a neighbor or a stranger. It’s inspiring.

We also see the worst in people as shared by those same media outlets. We wonder. We worry. And then…

The next morning we get out of bed, much like we do every day, and go on with our day. Maybe changed…maybe unchanged…but we get up and move forward.

But do we face each day with fear?….or with faith?

It’s a choice.

Our history is rich with challenges and opportunities; tragedies and triumphs; bad and good. And, I believe…more good than bad (Yes, I’m realistically optimistic!).

It’s interesting. I have a collection of magazines that are over 100 years old. The language is different; however, it fascinates me to learn many of the emotions, stories, fears and joys are similar to what we experience today. They had political dramas, just as we do. They had personal dramas, just as we do. They had financial worries, just as we do. They had tragedies, betrayals, celebrations and joys…just as we do.

Our outer-wear is different; our inner humanity…perhaps not so different.

Maybe that’s why so many of the stories which have been passed down for centuries still resonate with us. And maybe that’s why understanding and preserving our history is important. If for no other reason, it keeps things in perspective.

Yes, our history reveals horrible moments. Things we would love to forget. However, our history also reveals acts of kindness, grace, inspiration, transformation, and love.

Without a foundation of something greater than your immediate situation, it’s easy to fall into a negative place. And if it’s true you attract who you are, then when you are fearful or filled with jealousy, hate and seek revenge or try to hurt others, your world will be filled with actions and people who feed those negative emotions. There is very little room for happiness in that very small, dark world.

Even less room for love.

The opposite is true as well. When you live in a positive space, filled with light and love, you attract that which supports your outlook on life.

The good news is how you face each day is a choice. You can choose fear; you can choose faith. That alone changes your vibration and has the power to change your world. I know, that may sound a little far-fetched. After all, the world is falling apart, right?

But what if it’s not. What if, as it’s been said, all those things we waste our time worrying about never happen. We get 5, 10 15 years into our future and discover we wasted a lot of time and energy on unhealthy choices. Unhealthy thoughts. Useless fears.

I’m all for preparing for disaster. You know, a little bit of money set aside, a little bit of extra food in the pantry, planning an escape route when Mother Nature decides to clean house, and having the proper insurance in place. Then, I get on with my life.

With Faith.With Joy. With Love.

That’s where life is the richest.

So, the next questions is: How do you build up your faith…even if you are not religious? Because being religious is not a prerequisite to living a life of faith and serenity.

Read / Watch Something Inspirational: It’s easy to numb your brain (and your soul) with supermarket rags, gossip, and the stories of “who’s doing what to whom.” It’s always confused me why some people are so eager to hurt others in order to make themselves seem better; why they rejoice in other people’s struggles. Lots of us wind down at the end of the day by flipping on the tube to see what the media wants to feed us. We hungrily consume tantalizing tales of hate, jealousy, betrayal…and call it entertainment. I know, I indulge on occasion as well. Be aware you have a choice of what you consume.

Why not turn off the television and pick up a book that feeds, rather than starves, your soul. Enrich your life. Even if you only read 15-30 minutes a day…explore your own thoughts triggered by life-changing literary works. What you may find is  some of the garbage they try to spoon feed us through other media outlets starts to feel like a waste of time. Empty calories. Add in more life-enriching moments and you can very easily squeeze out that which does not serve you.

Walk in Nature: Whenever I feel “off”…I get outside. Maybe it’s a walk down the beach or in the mountains. Sometimes I’ll grab my camera and explore life through a different lens. Even in a crowded city, I’m able to find little corners of nature where everything starts to make sense. Because the natural world has a rhythm which is uncluttered by negative emotions. When a storm comes, the animals take cover; when the storm passes, they go outside and get on with their life. They don’t sit around feeling sorry for themselves, or expect someone else to fix their lives. They just move on.

Sit in Silence: Some people are afraid to be alone with their thoughts. Rather than think, they surround themselves with activity and noise. And while this works for a while, they miss something. That “something” doesn’t really have a name. It’s more of a feeling, a general uneasiness, an undefined wanting or unhappiness. A void. And they try desperately to fill that void with empty calories and noise.

I believe it was Wayne Dyer who said “The less we need to have more, the more we seem to get…” In silence, we experience less. Less noise. Less turmoil. Less technology. Less demand for our attention and time. In that space of silence…of experiencing less of life, we emerge from that silence with more.

More clarity. More focus. More gratitude. More love. More faith.

None of this suggests you must invest in a wardrobe of robes and move to Tibet.

You can benefit from these moments of silence even when your life is full with goals and the work it takes to achieve those goals. When my alarm goes off at 5:30 in the morning and my feet hit the floor, I’m extremely focused. My daily activities are intentional, designed to keep me focused on what I need to be and do in order to accomplish the things my husband and I have decided are good and beneficial for our family. I take care of my health, I’m mindful of what I feed my brain, and I’m very clear about which activities are important and deserve my attention.

There is very little room for white noise and nonsense.

There is, however, space for me to step into my soul and explore a rich, internal world. It was hard at first to allow for this solitude. My mind kept saying “Hey….shouldn’t you be doing something?” However, I discovered how creative and energized I became when I allowed this time to feed my soul. I’ve come to value and protect that time. That world.

What does that world look like for me? Mornings on the deck, listening to the waves and the birds; reading books that inspire and challenge my mind; running on the sand before the sun crests the horizon and falling into a meditative breathing rhythm; expanding my body and soul with morning yoga, sweating it out at the gym, riding my bike, and walking barefoot in the sand at sunset with my husband or enjoying a glass of wine as we savor the sun falling back into the horizon, filled with gratitude for this life we choose to share.

For you it may be different, but I encourage you to find your solitude in a way that feels right for you.

Faith and fear cannot co-exist. And, you can choose which one will guide your world.

Choose well.