February 2, 2022

Finding Joy in our Lives (in these Unending Pandemic Times).

How are you faring in life these days?

For me, during these (seemingly unending) pandemic times, quite simply, I miss my friends.

I imagine many readers of Elephant Journal and beyond do too. Mixed in with all of it, I also am missing the passing of my 30s. And my 40s, too, which went by tumultuously with a heap of drama, trauma, and transformation.

And my 50s? So far, much more peaceful and settled in comparison. At least two of them have been spent in the pandemic that has radically affected everyone’s life. And the way things are going with those still rejecting the vaccine and those peddling misinformation to make their fortune like the snake oil salesmen of earlier times, we are likely to spend a lot more time with life restricted.

I’d love to find a better way. A more fulfilling existence so that I don’t live out my 50s with the feeling that I’m just waiting. Hunkering down and missing out. Perhaps you’re feeling like you’re missing out on vital years of your own life, whichever decade you’re in.

It begs the question, where is life to be found? Certainly, the answers are highly subjective. I know where some find life—at bars and festivals, for instance. I used to avail myself of such entertainment, back in my 20s and 30s. Until life transformation brought about more healthful and sustainable ways of being in the world, ala meditation and reading.

I’m thankful for such life lessons. Now I can say, No thank you, to that kind of entertainment. Particularly during these cootie-times, when people get less compliant with each sip of margarita. Staying out of the toxic spray appeals to my sense of survival at this time.

In large part, I’m finding my life here in a quiet mountain valley observing life from afar. Staying, as I often say, out of harm’s way. Meaning, not exposing myself to a deadly virus that has taken the lives of some 950,000 Americans and counting.

And, not getting shot by some angry, disenfranchised, and entitled white guy while I’m walking down the street in Olde Town Arvada.

Perhaps you’re one of those people also finding joy and respite in nature, who are as intent as I am to stay out of harm’s way. Give a wave as you pass by our mountain valley here in Tungsten the next time you chance by.

Whatever your personal experience may be, I think most of us will agree that life has gotten small. For me, it’s a challenging reality to accept. Some days, I don’t do so as elegantly as I’d like to—I bump and groan along, kicking and screaming. Sometimes, I swear like a truck driver stuck on I25 at 4:30 on a Wednesday afternoon.

It’s not what I thought life would be at this midlife stage, with a plethora of conflict, and with an abundance of adversity sufficient enough to resurrect the late Thich Nhat Hanh to return and help us all with his “Present Moment, Wonderful Moment” meditation, I often muse.

And yet, the challenges present in our culture invite me to pay attention ever more deeply. If I dismiss my favorite monk’s profoundly simple teaching in favor of a more dynamic life and perseverate a little too much on the days gone by, I am missing the point. His teachings were about cultivating gratitude for the life we are given. Simply being alive was sufficient celebration.

Thich Nhat Hanh practiced, and encouraged us all, present moment mindfulness through simple breathing meditations to cultivate, in his words:

Peace [in] every step.

Each morning, rather than click on The Washington Post’s “Politics Alert” to learn that Captain Lunatic amassed a war chest of $122 million this year or ruminate on the places I can’t travel to at this time, I turn my focus instead to Thich Nhat Hanh’s exquisitely simple meditation:

Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.

And I send a text to my people in dog rescue to see if I can help somehow, to get just one more dog out of harm’s way—in a Texas high kill shelter—because during the rise of the Omicron virus and inherent staffing shortages at shelters, nearly 1,000 dogs and cats are dying from lack of homes daily.

We are all deeply affected at this time. For me, it’s embracing the life in front of me at the moment that is giving me some grounding and serenity. Indeed, whatever it is that brings you joy and meaning in life, returning to simplicity and present moment mindfulness can bring peace to our troubled spirits and spinning minds.

Life is challenging for us all during this ongoing pandemic. I believe it’s important that we all know in our authentic, longing hearts, that we are not alone.

Namaste, and thank you for reading.

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