Spring into Joy

Unsplash/Andrew Small

By Mary Boutieller

We can find wonderment and inspiration in our lives by focusing on the things that lift us up and feed our spirit.

Spring is in the air as we move into the lovely month of April. Budding trees, warmer weather, more energy and movement as we get outside and celebrate this beautiful time of year!

As each month passes by, we know that time marches on no matter what else is happening in our lives or in the world. One day unfolds into the next, babies are born, loved ones pass on and, if we are lucky, we all get another opportunity to take a spin on this lovely planet. Yet “times” seem crazier than ever—more bad news, more crowds and frustration, more traffic, more things to worry about, stress over, be depressed about….unless we make a conscious effort to find joy, wonderment and inspiration in our everyday surroundings.

Buddhist nun Pema Chodron, in her book The Wisdom of No Escape, talks about those times when we feel overwhelmed or scared or uneasy. She suggests that instead of doing the same habitual thing—like crawling under the covers and wanting to give up, we pull ourselves up in our own way and do something to try and feel better. It could be as simple as a nice warm shower, a walk in the park, a phone call to a friend. She says, “Maybe I just have to figure out how to rouse myself genuinely, because there are a lot of people suffering like this, and if I can do it, they can do it.”

So how do we find that joy or inspiration in our own lives? Where do we turn in order to keep things in perspective and build up resilience? Maria Popova, in one of her brilliant Brain Pickings newsletters, asks this profound question: “Who are the people, ideas and books that magnify your spirit?”

And then she says, “Find them, hold on to them, and visit them often. Use them not only as a remedy once spiritual malaise has already infected your vitality but as a vaccine administered while you are healthy to protect your radiance.”

Yes—that makes perfect sense! Why wait until I am down in the dumps before I take “spiritual counsel” from the people, books or activities I love? How much better would it be if we continually filled our cups with inspiring prose or beautiful sunsets—any of those life-giving, nourishing things that speak to our souls and remind us why we are alive, why we get out of bed in the morning and why it all matters!

This question prompted me to take inventory of those places that I turn to when I need solace or inspiration. I pondered what it is that feeds my soul, both when I am down and when I am full of joy and gratitude. Here are a few things I’d like to share with you that serve as a salve for my soul:

  1. My darling husband, family and friends who fill my life with love and laughter and patience and wisdom are foremost in my cup-filling category.
  2. Brain Pickings weekly newsletters (www.brainpickings.org) are a constant source of inspiration. Maria Popolov’s writing and the resources she draws upon often send me down the rabbit hole of beauty.
  3. Poetry: Mary Oliver, Danna Faulds, Wendell Berry, Maya Angelou, Mark Nepo, and others. I read their works regularly to remind myself of humanity and nature and growth. Their observations remind me to view my world with a wider lens.
  4. Spontaneous moments of giving: free hug days, flash mobs (one of my favorites is An Ode to Joy flash mob that takes place in Italy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc5MrBGqWZg), public displays of affection—especially at the airport—and the generosity of strangers.
  5. Kindness in all its forms, like this story: A Middle school started a “Breakfast With Dads” Program. But many dads couldn’t make it and several students didn’t have father figures. The school posted a Facebook request for 50 volunteer fathers; 600 fathers from all backgrounds showed up. The full story is here: https://www.today.com/parents/dallas-school-needed-stand-ins-dads-600-men-showed-t121019
  6. Love, in ALL its forms, like this story: A bride’s father died ten years ago and his heart was donated. The man who received the transplant walked her down the aisle. The full story is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/09/fashion/weddings/bride-is-walked-down-aisle-by-the-man-who-got-her-fathers-donated-heart.html
  7. Nature, in all its multicolored, multidimensional, multifaceted awe-inspiring forms! I remember my mom, as she got older, had this fascination with the colorful bugs that graced her backyard. She would regularly point out one and say, “Mary, look at that, isn’t it beautiful!” I now find myself doing the same!
  8. Teaching. When I teach, the whole world aligns with who I am meant to be. I feel connected and content and at peace.

I know there is so much more—all I have to do is see it right in front of me.

Maria Popolov, in another one of her writings, put it so simply when she said, “And so we learn…that it is not just a matter of paying attention, but of taking attention, of deliberately shifting it, of diverting the glycogen that pumps our despair muscle and clenches the fist scanning for danger; for that selfsame glycogen is needed to pump our delight muscle and open the palm to hold joy.”

So the next time you feel tense or your world seems filled with the heaviness of despair, turn your attention instead to what delights, inspires and moves you. Discover—over and over again—what it is that grows your heart and settles your mind and feeds your essence. And once you remember what that is, allow yourself to go there regularly. Be willing to pull yourself up in whatever way you can, using the resources you have available, to live the life and feel the joy you were always meant to feel!

Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s
knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.

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