Does life sometimes feel heavy? Or often heavy?
How is it that we can move so quickly from feelings of happiness and contented well-being, to quiet despondency, and even depression? And how well can we live, never mind love when drifting in emotional fog and funk?
Truly, we are so often a mystery to ourselves, only vaguely aware of the capricious weather just below the surface. A bit of unsettling news, a refreshed anxiety, a financial hit, or a hope deferred, and we’re once again sliding away. The skies turn gray, and “all nature groans opprest with toil and care!” – Victor Hugo
Philo of Alexandria (20 BC – 50 AD) exhorts us to “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” We forget or maybe don’t believe this. Others seem to have an easier or more enviable life, or at least appear to be happier and less weighed down. But, if only we knew…
What can we do when we feel down?
An impossibly large question of course, but here’s some food (just a bite) for thought.
In our better moments we are often aware and in awe of the sheer wonder and beauty of being alive. In springtime this beauty is everywhere. Trees bud and blossom, the world greens up and the fragrance of new growth surrounds us. A romantic time of the year for young and old and we really can sometimes feel that “love is in the air!” In our better moments…
Here’s an idea for when we’re not feeling this exuberance and joy. Getting ready for work on Monday morning for instance. Or, perhaps how you’re feeling this very moment.
How can we once again, like a child, notice and revel in the daily miracle of being alive? I know, “ho hum, give me a break, where are my car keys, I’m late!”
In a world with crazy schedules and stresses of every kind, how might we search for and nourish some renewed wonder; how might we recognize and live in the serendipitous moments that swirl around us all day long? And perhaps most importantly, how can we keep at bay a cynicism that says this searching is pointless and fruitless?
“Life is the finest of the fine arts. It has to be learned with lifelong patience…” – Henry Drummond – (1851-1897)
If you’re reading this in the earlier part of the day, then begin now to watch and to note what these passing and frequent extraordinary gifts are.
I also highly recommend a compelling little story called “Love and the Cabbie.” Here’s a chap who seems to have lost his head, as he makes his way through a New York day. His cynical friend thinks he’s nuts. (click here to read)
Look for them! These treasure are everywhere, like music in the air! And let the beauty and wonder of these work into your mind, your thinking, your ponderings… like good yeast into the otherwise flat bread of daily ritual and routine. Let them nourish your soul. They will!
I have had to encourage folk to experiment, to “just try it,” but with some surprising results!
Someone once mused that it’s not that we’ve tried some of these things (a little cognitive “hard work” for a bit) and failed; rather, it’s that we’ve thought these things to be too difficult or hopeless, and so left them untried. An interesting but profound turn of phrase.
If you’re reading this toward the end of your day, then reflect on the hours just lived. What were those magical moments, things, people, experiences and thoughts? Search a bit. And look ahead to tomorrow, imagining where you might find some gold in the fields you’ll be passing by.
The strength you feel in your legs when you take the stairs instead.
The brilliantly dark blue against the razor edge of those exploding clouds.
The water in any tap of your house; completely safe to drink; as much as you want.
The kind gesture and smile from that chap who held the door for you.
The comfy bed to sleep in; night after night it’s there for you.
The job that pays the bills.
The giggle from that child.
The person who let you in (your lane was running out).
The rich creamy afternoon coffee; every day if you’d like. Yours.
The newspaper you can afford to buy.
And any music in the world you wish to listen to. Just a click away.
The blast of fresh air as you left work, and headed for home.
The hug from a friend.
And the eyes to see, the ears to hear and the arms to hold, all through the next 24 hours.
As a small child I remember just one plaque hanging on my dad’s office wall.
“I cried because I had no shoes, and then I met a man who had no feet.”
Gratefulness? For sure. “Practicing gratefulness?” This is the key.
If you’re reading this earlier in the day, then become a collector. See how many of these things you can collect, remember and reflect back on as you wind down your day. Better still, try this exercise with a friend, collecting your “top ten” to share toward sun-down.
If you’re reading this toward evening, then replay some of the day’s tapes, perhaps setting aside some images that you may have glossed over at the time. Find ten, and then (I dare you to) tell someone else.
“How was my day? Well… funny you should ask. Let me tell you a few things.”
This effort and these reflections will have a profound effect on your mind, body and soul.
And a prayer?
“Thou that has given so much to me, Give one thing more – a grateful heart; Not thankful when it pleaseth me, As if thy blessings had spare days; But such a heart, whose pulse may be Thy praise.” – George Herbert (1593 – 1633)
I have long encouraged couples to practice this together. It has proved to be an amazing, clarifying and rejuvenating experience and antidote to the weariness and cynicism which can easily envelop a marriage and family.
It’s hard to complain when you’re noticing the gifts you’re enjoying.