“You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore to decide to be happy.”
Those are the words of thirty-year-old Jane Marczewski, a 2021 contestant in the “America’s Got Talent” competition. She has terminal cancer.
When things are going well, life (in the words of Robert Frost) flows on its own melt. But, the sun doesn’t always shine. Crisis arise suddenly. Living joyfully during times of personal difficulty is one of life’s greatest challenges. Some people rise to the occasion; others are crushed. What defines our path?
The inner life fascinates me. As a young child, I was struck by the notion that “I am me!” What did that mean? I wondered about the intersection of “Me” with the outside world. It seemed daunting when thinking It would be up to me to face the challenges of life, including the death of my parents. It all boiled down to a simple question: How could I be happy?
I was six years old when these thoughts first occurred to me. I must have been a weird little kid!
The question persisted throughout my childhood and into adolescence. The answers weren’t covered in any of the courses I took in school. As an adult, I’ve approached the subject in a studious fashion.
“Being” (synonyms include spirit, nature, and essence) is explored in the branch of philosophy known as metaphysics, which focuses on the fundamental nature of reality and the relationship between mind and matter. It is also, of course, addressed in the world’s major religions. I have always been curious about what wise people have written about it. These are some of my favorite sources: https://tim-coats.com/further-reading/
Over years of study, I learned that the intersection of mind and circumstance has many flavors. Emerson nailed it when he wrote: “The riddle of the age for each has a private solution.”
Often when the student is ready, the teacher arrives. Mine must have been on extended leave. After many years, I concluded there wasn’t “a solution” to living joyfully. Instead, there were many solutions. I figured if I searched long enough, I would find mine.
Around age fifty, the words of Aldous Huxley finally shocked me into the reality that the road I was on was a dead end. He claimed the pathway to peace by way of intellectual pursuit is impassable. I remember being stunned when I read those words. Yet, I surrendered to the logic. After all, my life validated the claim. This left a new question, nicely summed up in the lyrics of Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin, “So where to now, St. Peter?”
Sliding Huxley back into the bookshelf, I resolved to search in a new direction. Shortly afterward, I began a mindfulness practice. It seemed like something that might pair well with my inclinations.
There are lots of books on mindfulness. Previously I posted a five-part series on my own mindfulness practice titled “Silent Fitness,” found here: https://tim-coats.com/silent-fitness-2/
This new five-part series, titled “The Anatomy of Peace,” takes a step back from mindfulness technique to examine the impact mindfulness has on the intersection of awareness and circumstance, the fundamental question of my childhood, and the place where each of us live.
Jane Marczewski is correct. We can’t wait for life to stop being hard to find happiness. For me, mindfulness was the doorway to a new way of “Being” that led to a happiness that is resilient to circumstance.
To read further, please click here: https://tim-coats.com/the-anatomy-of-peace-introduction/
Follow me at http://tim-coats.com