Choose Joy: A Note from Beth
I would like to share with you a few things about myself in the hopes that I may impart some wisdom on what I have learned about living a quality life. First of all, life is not easy and if you ever think that life is easy or if anyone ever tells you that life is easy, it’s because they’re living in an illusion of what they think reality is or they just numb out. Having a quality and fulfilling life is not easy, but it’s for you to decide in every moment of every day what you want out of your life, because “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”― Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning.
Ever since I can remember, I was always living a life for someone else. I always wanted to please someone else, to live up to someone else’s standards, or to be the type of person that I thought everyone else wanted me to be. In high school I didn’t fit into any specific “clicks” although I had a lot of different types of friends. I made a goal to be different. I didn’t want to be the jock or the preppy girl or the goth girl. I wanted to be totally different. But no matter what it appeared to be on the outside, my internal motivation was how I was perceived by others. I wasn’t living this way because it was what I truly wanted. I just thought that if I wasn’t pigeon holed into one category, then maybe I could be thought of as “cool” by everyone. I was always worrying about things that I had done in the past or how I was going to present myself to other people in the future that I wasn’t actually present in the life that I was living; every moment was spent in my own head worrying about how I could be what I thought everyone else wanted me to be.
From 2016 until the present, I have had a pivotal change in my life. I took this chance to work on myself, and for the first time in my life, I feel comfortable in my own skin. It was a long road and one that is certainly not finished, but it was worth every heartache, every pain, every uncomfortable moment, and all the tears. Because without fully acknowledging and embracing the hurt, I also could not experience joy, love and all of the wonderful things that the world has to offer.
One of the things that we do as humans to help us deal with hurts in our past is to “numb out”. This can be done in a magnitude of different ways: scrolling feeds, watching tv/videos, diving into our work, indulging in gossip about other people so that we don’t have to face our own discomforts, compulsively eating, using alcohol or other substances, and many other ways. We usually turn to these distractions because we are experiencing some difficult feelings that we may not want to deal with. So we scroll and work and gossip; looking for something in this search to make us feel happy. But happiness isn’t on the internet. Happiness isn’t in hearing gossip about other people’s drama. Happiness isn’t watching hours of tv. In order to have happiness, we have to face our emotions, sit with them, examine them, FEEL them, fully experience them. Without the concept of dark, there is no light. Without sadness, there is no happiness. Life is full of dichotomies and in order for us to experience the positives, we must also face the negatives.
Until I experienced the ultimate lows of my life, I did not realize all of the highs I was missing out on. And through experiencing my suffering, I found healing. Through experiencing my suffering, I found unadulterated joy for the first time since I was a very small child. Until I started examining my emotions and experiencing the pain, I didn’t even realize that there was so much more to life that I was missing out on.
I don’t wish that I could go back and change anything about my life because everything that I experienced in my life has led me to where I am now. I do, however, wish that I had found myself sooner. I like me and it feels good to know who I am and to feel the joy that comes with knowing who I truly am. It’s not something that is just accomplished and then the work is over. I am continuously putting in the effort to be the best version of myself that I can possibly be; for my friends, for my family, for my yoga students, for my employees, for strangers that I cross paths with, and most importantly for ME. Again, it’s not easy, but the moments where pure bliss is experienced and unconditional love is felt are worth EVERY effort that is put forth to achieve those moments.
I write this because I want to encourage you to ask yourself what you want out of life. Do you want to numb out and scrape by and live comfortably in the haze of non-experience? Or do you want to be happy, have joy in your life and experience moments of pure bliss? If you are interested, the journey starts with observing. Observe your emotions. Instead of just feeling and reacting or lashing out, feel. Instead of running away to something that distracts you from the feeling, sit with the feeling. Ask yourself, “Why do I feel like this?” Examine the thought patterns that come along with the feeling. Examine the bodily responses that come along with the feeling. Examine the things that you are drawn to to numb the feeling out.
Use a journal to help you to examine. Write your thoughts and feelings so you can get to know yourself better; so that you can work through the things that cause you pain and suffering so that you may experience happiness and joy. I wish nothing more for you than you to be able to experience life and the joy that comes with it. And although I do not wish pain or suffering upon you, I know that is an impossibility. The human experience is filled with suffering; I will not sugar coat that for you. But I would not trade off all of the suffering that I have had in my life if it meant that I also had to give up joy.
My suggestion to start is:
I feel: ___________________ (And)
Why do I feel this way?____________________
Write whatever is on your mind and in your heart. Remember to not only examine your feelings, but also your thoughts. The mind is a tricky beast and remembering that the purest version of who you are really deep down at your core is not a compilation of your thoughts. You are a bright shining star and you are so much more than your thoughts.
In closing I want to share with you one of my favorite mantras: Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. It is translated as The Mystic Law likened to the Lotus Flower; the fundamental law that permeates the universe, the eternal truth. It speaks about the work that we put in day in and day out to find the truth within ourselves. The examination that we do of our thoughts, feelings and actions. How we weed out the non truths in order to uncover the truths. And the fact that we don’t have to wait for some magical time in our life to start the journey; that we can start it at any time. If we keep working and keep trying, that in the end the average, humble person can triumph and find joy and comfort in the union with their true essence, their true self. This is what I wish for you.