Seismic Joy

January 14, 2017

Hear ye, hear ye! An announcement, if you please. I have found the secret of life. It is joy. I know: duh. I would be hard-pressed to find someone whose main goal in life was not contentment. But the truly not-so-secret means of getting there - being joyful - is not exactly taught in schools. And I'm talking about feeling joy so powerfully connected to your existence here that it resonates throughout your whole being, like an earthquake come to tumble all your stuff in a very stressful and messy scene of all of it breaking except you like watching it all break or something like that so it's pretty good. I'm talking about SEISMIC JOY.

For all its turmoil, adventure, and grief, the year 2016, the ill-fated Amy Winehouse of years, though it often felt like the ongoing death of something beloved yet troubled, turned out also to be one of tremendous growth for me and many I know. Much of what has happened has ultimately brought me back to the lessons I learned from the hardest time in my life that, I am disappointed to admit, I had begun to forget a little. Those key life lessons are like Barb, and I am just lucky that a terrifying monster did not eat my hard-earned lessons while trapping them in another, very gross dimension. We all came out OK! Just like Barb.

To put it in another, ever-ill-advised cultural context, it's kind of like how the Grinch probably had his first meanness relapse some time after the movie ended and pinched a baby, or something like that, just to hear it cry. On the whole, the grinch was probably better, but we all know change isn't as clear cut as all that. Takes some work! I had started to lose sight of the truth that problems are not problems if you are alive and well, but it has ultimately turned out to be a good thing because revisiting my intentions has allowed me to build further, which has taken me exponentially farther than before. So, as this year has reminded me this world can be a very sad place in many ways, it has also helped me more mindfully understand the importance of compassion, empathy, and joy, as well as my place in this world.

While I do believe in the cumulative effects of gratitude journaling and focusing on better thoughts (neurons that fire together wire together), that process can also be, oddly, like a limp noodle sometimes if not expanded upon in daily life. You can tell me all about a great movie, but I won't care until I see it. I will not truly connect with my innate peacefulness until I understand the true joy of positivity or the true value of compassion or the wonder in simply sitting here this morning. Rather than solely bending my thoughts around my idea of what they should be, crafting a design from smoke in the air, I can also lead them through the experience. Lead them like ponies who may or may not bite one's buttocks at any moment (true story) right to the picture of serenity I envision. Let them drink from its unpolluted streams and roll in its sticky-burr-less grass, hooved feets waving in the air conducting a symphony of pleasures, with nary a single littered Budweiser Light beer can in sight (Budweiser: Texas's number one choice for litter). Uh, in short, be Gandalf.

But how to go about this?

While journaling certainly is a good practice for sustained peace, that alone may not be powerful enough to quell a reaction in the psychosis of a very, very bad mood. I know that, for me, I have to incite the curative feelings within myself; force them and fake it til I make it. Once I really experienced that joy of letting go instead of just talking about it, it became something I knew and could crave. I could choose calm. And if I take time out each day to practice calm mindfulness through meditation, I find I am better prepared to handle those moments where I become the personification of a split end.

Sometimes, I am too upset to switch my thoughts off. That is what I would like to share about. How I manage those moments.

  • In an emotionally messy moment, I can remove myself from the space I'm stewing in and, instead, take my toxic train of thought by surprise by pulling up its rails and letting it barrel off into wreckage while I drown out its screeching death with an interview of someone I admire. It FORCES a shift and, as Wednesday Addams as that sounds, it stops the overthinking. The cycle is interrupted by the soothing sound of Goldie Hawn singing the song of magical people as I perform high kicks up the street and it feels wonderful.
  • Just as not taking someone's bad mood seriously can diffuse a situation that might otherwise turn into a fight, not taking oneself too seriously can diffuse what might turn into an unproductive afternoon. I am learning that if you dutifully take a second to pause and feel aware of your feelings in the context of your existence, you can reframe. When you zero in on that basic sense of wonder at being alive, you may find you are able to back away from the mood that would waste so much time, even if it is like a very worked-up and bulky dog tugging you backwards towards a snarling chihuahua. "Ya, I just bombed that performance, but 99 percent of our solar system's mass is the sun and yet I am here today."
  • There's the idea that my soul, if it moves on (*shakes fist* you had better, you soul!), will look down on my body one day and say that thing people talk about saying: "What a wild ride." If I really think about it as more of a literal roller coaster, it begins to have real meaning. We are catapulted on a journey that is thrilling, terrifying, boring, and all too brief, held to this planet only by gravity we cannot even see and which some of our congressmen probably don't even believe in (science, pffff). Whatever you felt when upside down or just before a huge drop won't matter. It will end. Even if you barf, know that time on this bizarre planet will end and revel in the gift of your presence.
  • Take the moment BACK from that grump in the checkout line who has been sighing loudly and making comments about how the liberal food stamp poors are responsible for Mondays, but who is probably very unhappy and needs nothing if not more compassion. Maybe they have been rained and rained on and are unable to focus on how their rainboots are half FULL. Take a moment to appreciate your own daily life. We can all do better than hating or being that person.

We can all be someone whose light serves to brighten that of others and, at the very least, we can be the ones sharing tranquility or causing others to maybe think, "Oh, you're not losing your mind in this busy store? Why shouldn't I be calm, too? Good idea, stranger. Life is rad." It is one thing to force out gratitude onto paper, perhaps speaking it through clenched teeth. . .

. . . but it is a step further to truly live with peace and joy and that is the sweet spot we are all after.

It is perhaps the greatest intention in life. Think of how the world would change if we all grew up learning these kinds of lessons. Mindfulness before all else.

Tap into a source of contentment and self-assurance that is within and THAT, I can testify, can be cultivated in the most unforgiving of landscapes. Like Mars. We will probably be on Mars in my lifetime, you know, but that is neither here nor there and is completely off topic. Except to say that you are alone in the vast expanse of your mind and it is up to you to navigate towards the good in it, no matter what mission control advises you take aim at or run from.

Be conscious in the world for the benefit of everyone. Value existence and the rest will follow. The goodness will gravitate towards itself and multiply outward. I have felt it happening and it is the best I've felt in a long time.

"When you can't change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails." - H. Jackson Brown Jr.


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