“This is the path we take in cultivating joy: learning not to armor our basic goodness, learning to appreciate what we have.”
Do you find yourself constantly struggling to be satisfied? Do you continually look at what you do not have in your life right now? Do you focus where you are going or what you want to achieve more than expressing gratitude for what you have in the present moment?
Most of us find living in the present challenging. We want to be in a different place than we are right now. Lately, I have been dreaming about a new house. Seven years ago, I was blessed to purchase a bungalow built in 1945. There are things about our house that I love, but it is so easy to focus on the things that do not really work for me. We can only seat eight people for dinner party, and I love to entertain. The upstairs is twenty degrees hotter than the downstairs, all the time. Our kitchen is not Instagram worthy. But focusing on all the shortcomings of my home steals my joy. I am very grateful to have a place to live and enough money to pay the mortgage. I have “charm” in abundance in the bungalow. Our house provides a peaceful sanctuary where I meet with my spiritual direction clients.
Cultivating Joy Step #1: Be grateful. All the wise spiritual teachers say it. It’s not something new. But it can be so hard when we compete with others, focus on scarcity, or believe that what we have is not enough. Spend time each day naming five things you are grateful for in your PRESENT life. If you begin your day in gratitude, you will manifest joy.
Each morning I focus on cultivating gratitude and joy in my life. In our living room we have a collection of our wedding pictures that testify to the power of love. Those pictures bring light and joy to my spirit as I practice my ritual quiet time before my day starts. I am thankful for my amazing husband and our relationship that sustains me. I am grateful for his support during all of life’s moments, especially the hard ones. His physical presence is like Prozac for me; I just breathe deeper when he is nearby.
Cultivating Joy Step #2: Reach out. It is very easy to become isolated in our modern
culture. While we are virtually connected to people in so many ways, but we forget
the power of a shared cup of tea or meal. Real connection can be challenging because it requires us to be honest about our fears, our insecurities, and our stumbling blocks. But when we find a trustworthy friend, mentor, or spouse, he or she can be an invaluable part of cultivating joy in our lives. Joy comes easier when we know we are not alone.
If you do not have a place to call home, or a wonderful friend, do not lose hope. There have been times in my life where I felt totally alone and cultivating joy seemed too difficult. I get that too. But each one of us can practice gratitude every day. Some days just being able to breathe may be the gift of the present. Finding the gift(s) in today, recognizing who we are, and nurturing what we have will lead to more joy in our lives.
Cultivating Joy Step #3: Tend to your gifts. Whatever your life looks like
today, be intentional about tending to the blessings in your life. Recently I spent three hours learning some new computer skills. I am grateful that I have a computer, free time, and a good brain. I did not spend any money or even leave my couch, but I took the initiative to learn something new. I found joy in learning. What can you tend to today? Maybe you need to spend some time cultivating a new relationship, breathing deeply, or expressing appreciation to someone. Whatever you need to do today to nurture what you have, do it!
When we let go of what keeps us stuck in the past or focused on the future, we create space for joy to take root and blossom in our lives. What can you do today to be grateful, reach out to others, and nurture the gifts you have right now? Try these three steps and let me know what happens!
May we go and nurture our lives to find joy!
Lauren seeks to inspire others to live passionate, authentic, joyful lives every day. She loves spending time with God, listening deeply to others, and pondering the mysteries of life. She is grateful for her family, her friends, and the amazing opportunities she has had in her life. On the lighter side she enjoys most anything that sparkles, great handbags, fine china, cute puppies, smiling babies, dark chocolate, and a great movie on a Friday night!