If suffering were a substance, it would be sticky. It would cling to you the way hot gum sticks to your heel in a tarred parking lot. Or perhaps it would be slimy, like a mass of tangled algae in a murky pond. But suffering is a state of mind, and while it has no form, it does what water does: it fills every part of the space you give it. Think about that for a moment. Repeat it, if you must.
Suffering has no form, though it will fill every part of the space you give it.
So don’t let it into your space. Guard your heart, and keep the windows of your soul shut and locked. I’m not talking about genuine grief here. We need to feel the pain that comes with the death of a loved one or similar tragedies. We need that pain to pierce us and provoke its requisite emotions: disbelief, sadness, anger, etc. That process begins a journey, which hopefully allows us to arrive at a place of acceptance.
I’m talking about self-inflicted suffering that comes with bad moods, our response to rush hour traffic, and the way we imagine the world is silently judging us. I’m talking about the crappy things that people do and the Murphy’s Law kind of mornings that try to stay all day. Let’s let those go. Life’s too short to entertain ugly.
Here’s what I’m proposing: step out of your own suffering and away from every opportunity to be insulted or annoyed. Stop thinking about that conversation that furrowed your brow, or whatever it was that shifted your mood.
Maybe nothing happened. Maybe you just hate Mondays. Or maybe your job sucks and your boss has bad breath and a mustache that traps crumbs like a Swiffer sweeper. Maybe your health is poor or your marriage is failing. It could be worse. It could always be worse. Don’t you dare think otherwise, because karma’s always listening.
So how do you turn a mood? I’m no expert, but the yoga life has taught me a few tricks. Here’s what I learned about finding joy…
3 Ways to Find Joy Now
1. Fill your own cup. I have a 3-step morning routine that inspires me. If you don’t have one, get one. Climbing out of bed and rushing into your day without taking the time to nurture yourself is a big fat fail. I don’t care who you are or what your to-do list entails, you need time to check in with yourself and fill your own cup. You cannot pour from an empty vessel.
2. Fill someone else’s cup. Here’s the part where I suggest giving. It doesn’t have to cost a thing, and you don’t have to serve soup at some kitchen to make it meaningful (not that volunteer work is insignificant). Give your attention to someone who’s otherwise ignored, a parking space to the car behind you, or your spot in line to that mom with the squirming toddler. Then do it again…and again.
3. Look for opportunities to connect with the world and weave beauty into every day. Because beauty is reflective, and you cannot shine without feeling your own glow.
How do you step out of your own suffering and find joy every day?