Okay, technically, this lesson didn’t come from my time on my yoga mat. It came while I was hiking, but I’m putting it on here anyway because this lesson could have been learned during a yoga session, I just happened to get my epiphany on a mountain instead. Hopefully you are willing to overlook that discrepancy in lieu of more life learning . And any lesson learned from Mother Nature is worth noting, right?!?!
Life Lesson: Finding Joy Throughout Suffering
When something is hard and pushes your limits and tests your sanity, it’s that much more rewarding when you get to where you are going.
I was a mile into a hike up to a beautiful lake in the Wasatch mountains, with gorgeous and vibrant fall colors surrounding me, that I realized I was suffering. Not emotionally or mentally, but physically suffering. My heart was pounding and my legs were on fire. My lungs were heaving and I was sweating despite the crisp, fall air. Yep, it was official. I was suffering. This hike was 2 miles up of constant incline, and it was hard. It’s at this point, when I am not speaking anymore to conserve delicious air, that my thoughts turn introspective. This is one of my favorite moments about hiking.
Is the view at the top worth this? Once you’ve seen a lake, you’ve seen them all, right? Or does the struggle to get to the view make the view that much more breathtaking? If I could be dropped off in a helicopter at the top, would it be as magical? Some people would argue that the view is still the same, but I think I disagree with them. When something is hard and pushes your limits and tests your sanity, it’s that much more rewarding when you get to where you are going.
So I knew I wanted to be right where I was, but what I needed was to find the joy amidst the suffering. I was with the love of my life. I was breathing fresh, mountain air. I was witnessing the wonders of Mother Nature all around me. There was so much joy to be found, even though I was suffering. I once heard someone define rejoice as “to feel or show great joy or delight.” I love the verb to show, which implies a choice. Joy is a choice. We can choose joy no matter what our circumstances and surroundings.
This concept is easier said than done. It’s especially easier when you are not in the midst of some form of suffering. But when you are on your third night of a bout of insomnia and you are so #$%-ing tired you feel like a real life zombie so you have a complete meltdown at around 2 am, including cries and tears that were sure to wake up the people in the next hotel room, it’s a lot harder to find joy during your suffering. (Yes, this is a true and accurate description of my own behavior on a recent getaway. I’m not proud of it.) This was a more mild form of suffering, I know people who are going through much worse than I was at that moment, think fighting cancer or grieving the loss of a loved one, and yet that’s just it. I could have taken a step back and look at my situation with joy in mind, and I may have realized that it wasn’t as bad as I was making it out to be. I could have chosen to dwell on the joyous moments that were all around me. Alas, in my experience, sometimes these emotionally charged situations are the hardest to be rational in.
Joy is a choice. We can choose joy no matter what our circumstances and surroundings.
My point is, I get it. This is a tough one. This is one that a lot of us, myself included, will struggle with and have to learn over and over again our whole lives. Some days we will be better at it than others. But I think there is something to the phrase “fake it ’til you make it.” It is possible to “fake” the joy and rejoicing until your body catches up and you actually feel joy and rejoicing. William James, a psychologist and philosopher, was talking about exactly this when he said, “Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling which is not. Thus, the sovereign voluntary path to cheerfulness, if our cheerfulness be lost, is to sit up cheerfully and to act and speak as if cheerfulness were already there . . . ” I love this quote! Actions are under the direct control of the will, so we can always choose how we will act no matter how we feel. This is huge!
Even when we don’t feel it, we can choose joy! I don’t think it will make the suffering go away, but it will ease that suffering immensely. And you guys, we deserve to be happy! We deserve to feel joy and rejoicing, even in the hardest of times. So what will your choice be?