These are the soul’s changes. I don’t believe in ageing. I believe in forever altering one’s aspect to the sun. Hence my optimism.
– Virginia Woolf
Feeling lighter in life means making sure to put down the heavy stuff every now and again, creating a balance between the natural light and dark of everyday life. The reality of living on this beautiful blue and green planet is not always easy. Life is inherently full of challenges, ups and downs, and twists and turns — all of which take our emotions on roller-coaster rides, and shake up our personal perspective, time and again. This instability is how we grow, learn, and flourish; the ability to balance atop this ever-shifting wave is a lifelong journey in itself.
Years ago, I remember speaking with some older friends of the family, who mentioned casually during our breakfast conversation that they’d stopped paying attention to the news, citing that it was simply “too depressing… nothing can be done, so why bother?” I was startled at their nonchalant yet bold renouncement of something that seemed to me so valuable. And still, I could understand where they were coming from: opening our eyes, minds, and hearts to everyday reality can be difficult to digest; shutting it off is an easy solution — though, it’s a solution that I’d argue is not particularly fruitful.
You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.
― Elizabeth Gilbert
Flicking through my Facebook stream this past week was somewhat akin to witnessing a worldwide monsoon of tragedies: the Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; the never-ending troubles for asylum seekers; the destructive floods in Vietnam; and so on, and so forth. Never mind that our shared day-to-day stresses from work, our relationships, illnesses, etc., come into play, sometimes adding up to a seemingly overwhelming amount of weight to carry. Life, to be sure, is challenging.
And yet, for every tragedy, there exists a miracle; for every down, there is an up. Although at times it might feel like our eyes are instinctively drawn toward the difficult, there are beautiful things happening around us, all the time. It’s part of our job as humans to seek the magic in our world — this is perhaps our most important task here on earth: without this desire to experience lightness, finding balance, and offering our passions to the world become difficult endeavors, rather than fun explorations.
While I personally don’t want to shut out vital news updates, nor turn my back to the many tragedies that most certainly do occur every day, I want to make it my duty to search passionately for the magical, the inspiring, and the incredible within our multifaceted universe — today, tomorrow, and beyond.
Why not welcome it all? Heralding in the good, the bad, and the ugly in one fell swoop means embracing the chaos of life in its unique beauty, in its mysterious swirl. Let’s not turn our backs on the water crisis, nor to the souls affected by the typhoons in the Philippines; rather, let’s intuitively reach out in whatever way that feels right, individually for each of us.
Whether it’s to notice the small beauty in everyday life; to donate money, or spread awareness about a cause; or to purchase a limited edition Soma water filter to “provide clean drinking water to every family in three Cambodian villages this holiday season,” these personalized actions naturally bring balance to our world’s shifting seas. Freedom is found in small acts like these.
For example, amid the sea of sad stories, I’m always able to find just as many bright, shining lights of inspiration when I make the effort to see them.
Reading this touching story about planting mango trees in India was like bearing witness to the good in humanity — to the possibility for beauty where we might not necessarily expect it to be. While India has had its fair share of gender issues (to put it extremely mildly), this story proves that there are places where females are being deservedly nurtured:
“Anil Singh planted 11 mango trees when he was blessed with a daughter more than two-years ago. He planted 10 more recently, keeping his daughter Anjali in mind.
In doing so, he was simply following a deep-rooted tradition of Dharhara village in the eastern Indian state of Bihar, where fruit-bearing trees are grown to secure the future of every female child.
The fruit and trees can be sold later, generating income and helping to pay for the girl’s education and marriage. ‘They are an insurance for a secured future,’ boasts Singh.”
This small, simple act of planting trees is revolutionary within a country where women are frequently burned to death, or killed before birth due to their gender. Its beauty lies in the intention behind planting these fruit trees; in each tree planted, there lives a father’s desire and love for his daughter, which will literally and figuratively blossom in the years to come.
A dear friend of mine who struggles with many health issues passed along this equally inspiring story about nurturing a life of balance. In spite of her health problems, she radiates joyous light from within by focusing on the beauty within the enchanting dance of the balance between light and dark. This story can help us to re-frame our everyday thoughts and actions through its thoughtful perspective on navigating life’s windy roads.
Once upon a time, a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class nodded their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.”
It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses and worries. No matter what happens during the day, as early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the night and into the next day with you. If you still feel the weight of yesterday’s stress, it’s a strong sign that it’s time to put the glass down.
As we drink our glasses of clean water throughout the day, let’s not only remember to practice gratitude for having access to this precious, liquid life source, but to also take the time to notice whether we’re feeling light in our hearts, or uncomfortably overburdened.
If we find that we’re carrying a heavy weight around inside, we can give ourselves permission to simply put it down, and in its place pick up the abundant light that is truly all around us. Cultivating balance can be as simple as practicing this in our daily lives. [Please note that I do not know the original author behind this poignant anecdote, so if anyone happens to know to whom it is duly credited, please let us know!]
Has there been anything in the news recently, or in your personal lives that has inspired feelings of hope, balance, or joy? What about motivational stories like the one above that shed light on living with grace? Please feel encouraged to share below; we’d love to hear.
We’re all in this together.