There is no secret recipe for joy and contentment. The individuals who move through life joyously have not necessarily been blessed with lives of abundant love, success, and prosperity. Such people have, however, been blessed with the ability to take the circumstances they’ve been handed and make them into something great. Many of them have taken the wreckage of their personal lives and decided to replace the collateral damage with collateral beauty. But how on earth do we make that happen??
Our individual realities are colored by perception–delight and despair come from within rather than without. Situations we regard as “lucky” make us happy, while situations we judge “unlucky” cause us no end of grief. Yet if we can look at all we have accomplished without dwelling on our perceived misfortune and make each new circumstance our own, the world as a whole becomes a brighter place. A simple shift in thinking can help us recognize and unearth the hidden potential for personal and outer world fulfillment in every event, every relationship, every duty, and every setback.
The universe is an unpredictable and chaotic place, and the human tendency is to focus on the negative and assume the positive will care for itself. But life is no more or no less than what we make of it, and furthermore, unless some parts of us are dying on a daily basis, nothing will get any better. (For more on this idea of learning to die daily, see my sermon posted on my wordpress blog.) If we work a job we’re not thrilled about, we can choose to focus on the positive aspects for having a job and we can choose to do our best regardless of how well that job “fits” us. We may never say the words, “God, I love this job!” but we can still be thankful for the blessings it brings. When faced with the prospect of undertaking a task you fear, for example, visiting someone in a nursing home or putting in an appearance at a funeral home, we can view it as an opportunity to discover what tenderness we are truly capable of showing to someone else. Similarly, unexpected events could be renamed “surprise events”, thus changing the negative implications and giving us another way to deal with them. By choosing to love life no matter what crosses our path, we can create an atmosphere of jubilance and gratitude that is strangely infectious. A change in perspective is all it takes to change our world, but we must be willing to adopt an optimistic, hopeful mind-set. Our thoughts support our perceptions, which in turn impact our emotions.
To make a conscious decision to be happy is not enough. We have to learn to observe life’s complexities through the eyes of a child seeing everything for the first time. As Jesus tells us, “Unless you become like children, you’ll never grasp the Kingdom of God.” So in other words, we must divest ourselves of preconceived notions of what is good and what is bad so we can appreciate the rich insights concealed in each stage of our life’s journey. And the deeper we go into that realm of consciousness, the more we discover the joy of wanting what we already have. As we shift our thinking and perspective, we begin building the heaven that will continue unfolding even when we leave this plane of consciousness.