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The joy of pausing
Q: Are you making an effort to find joy in your life?
It’s the first of December today. Yep, 2021 is about to be over in another 30 days, and is it just me, or does it feel like we just ended 2020 a few months ago? Anyhow, we’d like to kick off December with a little bit of joy, a little bit of lightness before we write about our end-of-year reflections.
As I start to write this post about joy and bliss, I check in with myself and find a little sadness inside. I’m not quite sure what the source of this feeling is, but I am familiar with this slight heaviness in my chest.
Our bodies have evolved to have a negativity bias - our brain is constantly looking for the dangers in our life with the singular goal of protecting us. To balance this out, we have to train our brains to look for the good stuff, to look for what’s going well in our life. And in doing that, we gain a little more harmony, some stability, and a bit of peace.
So I turn on some music and shift my mind to think of what made me smile today. Too often, I miss out on these simple joyful moments because I’m working on my to-do lists, or trying to stick to my goals, or looking for time to make it through the mundane “keep the house clean” kind of tasks. But not today. Today I pause and kick off December by finding delight in my day.
This fall, as my family started to get back into a routine across home, school and work, I recognized the need to develop a new practice to ground myself. The insanity of multiple schedules in our house was starting to wear me down. I needed to incorporate some deliberate pauses into my day to manage through the craziness.
One weekend after an intense Saturday with defiant kids and shouting matches, exhausted from cooking and cleaning and engaging kids in multiple creative activities, I realized I needed a break. My calmness was required to end the emotional turbulence in our household but I was running on empty. I dialed my helpline and dropped my kids and husband off at Kinnari’s house in San Francisco. I didn't have a plan except for the realization that I needed some alone time so I decided to just drive. I ended up at the top of Twin Peaks (a scenic hilltop park with 360 views of the bay area). The sun was starting to set, casting pink shadows over the city. Staring at the views of the Saint Ignatius church with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background as the fog started to roll in, I was awestruck by the beauty of the place I live in. Taking 15 minutes to step out of my car and enjoy the fresh air and changing colors brought me back into my body and gave me the necessary fuel I needed after my tiring day.
Sometimes I forget how far I have come in life and don't stop to look around and enjoy the view of all that I have achieved. On another weekend morning, while the family was sleeping, I went for a walk at the Stanford Dish trail. As I walked up the hill, I paused and was once again reminded of the beauty that is all around me. The expanse of openness ahead reminded me to stop worrying about the small and big things that were troubling my mind.
It is a privilege to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world but it is lost to so many of us. I used to be one of those people - too busy to look up, no time to pause between the demands of my job and my family. The break I took from work and then the pandemic gave me an opportunity to slow down. The walks that I started taking during the lockdown reminded me of the beauty that was always in my backyard and in my neighborhood - if only I stopped to notice. Mindful walking is an excellent way for me to be present and connect with myself and the beauty that Mother Nature offers me every day.
“...The healing is in every step, every breath. And mindfulness and insight should be there in every breath, every step. When you breathe in, even if it takes only four seconds, insight can come--that you are alive, to be alive is a wonderful thing, and all the wonders of life are available, that true happiness is not made by money and fame and so on.” - Thich Nhat Hanh (YT video)
Can you take a couple of minutes right now to think of some ordinary moments that brought you joy today? Here are a few of ours:
K: The look of wonder combined with pride as my toddler ate the warm gooey chocolate chips cookies she baked with her Dad for the first time.
K: My dentist saying “no cavities” during my visit (not the case the last time).
M: Spending time with my kids lighting up the massive Christmas tree in our front yard.
M: Brightening up my rooms with arrangements of fresh-cut flowers from the farmers market
If you need some help to get you in the mood, here is Kinnari’s Disco December playlist (Spotify, YouTube). Or you can skim this article that gives you some tips on finding joy. Feel free to share your moments of joy in the comments.
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