Yesterday, I forced myself to take a half-hour walk in a local small forest preserve. It was a small measure to take some time for myself doing something I enjoy. I love nature, the weather was cool and lovely and I wanted an opportunity to slow down and just be. I willed myself to not burden my mind with worries and problems and to just observe the still green leaves. I focused on smelling that scent that comes with the first start of the leaves changing - that musky, smokey, sunny smell! I looked for birds and other small wildlife and observed a large number of turtles on the murky pond. I listened to the muffled sounds around me. I also took the walk to give myself some exercise and have tried the past weeks to take a half-hour walk on as many days as I can.
Right now I'd say I've hit the bottom. Things are pretty bleak socially, emotionally, and financially. I'm barely able to afford decent groceries for the month and now have a needed car repair costing $600.00. My close girlfriend is busy starting her new job as a teacher at the high school and we haven't been in touch lately. It is necessary for me to look for and obtain new employment and I'm worried about that.
Now here's the thing I want to reflect on today. In the past, I'd say that once my life is more stable, then I'll feel better and be happier. But that is the wrong mindset to have. Turns out, the way we should be thinking is the exact opposite: in the toughest of times, we should be concentrating on building up our happiness stores. Because we won't be able to face and overcome the challenges and difficulties without it.
I came across this concept in a short article printed in the magazine "Whole Living body + soul," which is from the publishers of Martha Stewart Living. This article is from the October, 2006 issue, titled "How to Be Happy," written by Thich Nhat Hanh.
"When Pain Crowds Out Joy - If you're experiencing a difficult time in life, you'll need to bolster your feelings of happiness before you can work on your challenges. It might seem as if the reverse were true. But by nourishing yourself with happiness first, you lay the groundwork to address your pain."
"Life is full of suffering. If we don't have enough happiness on reserve, we have no means to take care of our despair. With mindfulness, we can preserve a certain amount of inner joy so that we can better handle the challenges in our lives. We then create a foundation of freedom, peace, and love within ourselves."
Well, this concept pretty much blew me away. I have thought a lot about it. The article recommends meditation and living in the moment as techniques. I sure wish it had provided more suggestions for people who've really hit rock bottom and in great despair. I suppose the ability to simply focus on the here and now and be more mindful is about as basic a suggestion as you can get. Like focusing on our breathing.
I guess in the end what I am more aware of is the need to focus on happiness and joy even in the midst of this life crisis. Taking a nature walk for me is a great treat and doesn't cost a cent. More on this topic in the future.