When we first began this weekly inspiration, Margaret explained, above all else, that our written voice needed to be positive. Even when we discuss difficult topics, we must “find the good.” She didn’t want to give voice to negative topics because that only brings our attention to them.
After all, why focus on all that is wrong when there is so much that is right in our lives? We live in a privileged country, we have the means and time to practice yoga for our mental and physical health, and we have friends and loved ones surrounding us.
The reality is that life presents us with many obstacles, but we can decide to find the good in the bad. If we shift our perspective, we may even find laughter in a seemingly humorless situation.
The Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains in The Book of Joy, “ We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of true joy.”
He continues, “Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive.”
Being “more alive” allows us to feel deeply--both the losses and the joys. If you speak to someone who has taken antidepressants, they usually describe their emotions as being muted. They don’t feel the overwhelming depression, but their aptitude for joy is also lower. It’s a double-edged sword.
The Dalai Lama asserts, “We create most of our suffering, so it should be logical that we also have the ability to create more joy. It simply depends on the attitudes, the perspectives, and the reactions we bring to situations and to our relationships with other people. When it comes to personal happiness, there is a lot that we as individuals can do.”
From tiny embarrassments to great losses, we can navigate our feelings and steer them toward joy.
Donna Seed, one of our Yogaja teachers, shares, “Years ago, a student was in the front row of class. He often struggled with asana but had such a great heart. We were ending the class and were going into happy baby, which the teacher called ‘wind-relieving pose.’ Suddenly, he let a long, drawn-out, and very loud fart. The room went deathly silent. He says, ‘Oh my God....I finally got a pose right.’ The room exploded in laughter. The best part was the rich laughter he had towards himself.”
What could have been an awkward, even mortifying situation, was transformed into an event that caused great bouts of laughter, and all because that student was able to laugh at himself. Instead of being embarrassed, he chose merriment.
A Yogaja yoga student recently lost her grandmother, and the death has caused her great sadness. Her grandmother, who was only in her 70s, was like a mother to her. Her own mother was very young when she birthed her, so her grandmother shared many of the parental duties in raising her.
However, her grandmother had been sick for a decade, and they knew her passing was imminent. Her entire family surrounded her during her final days, and her grandmother was lucid and happy. They were able to say their final goodbyes and spend intimate quality time together, and her grandmother passed painlessly in her sleep in her own home.
While the death caused her heartache, she focused on the good: her grandmother was no longer in pain, she was ready to die, and they were all able to spend those special last moments together. We might all be so lucky to pass that way.
According to the Dalai Lama, her grandmother achieved the purpose of life--she found happiness.
“It does not matter whether one is a Buddhist like me, or a Christian like the Archbishop, or any other religion, or no religion at all. From the moment of birth, every human being wants to discover happiness and avoid suffering. No differences in our culture or our education or our religion affect this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire joy and contentment. But so often these feelings are fleeting and hard to find, like a butterfly that lands on us and then flutters away.”
If the purpose of life is to discover joy, we need to find the people, jobs, and activities that bring us contentment. In our final moments, perhaps we will have regrets, but if we are able to say we found true happiness, then that is a life well lived.
Photos by Mary Wyar Photography.