Several years ago, I lived in anxiety. Complete and utter, paralysing anxiety—particularly about my future.
I was living on savings, my marriage had ended and I had no great prospects career wise since carpal tunnel had driven me out of a lucrative career as a software engineer contractor. That’s when I learned how to master fighting for everything in my life.
If I could trick myself into feeling like I had control, I wouldn’t have to feel as much anxiety.
I fought against all odds to find ways to support myself financially—found another career that was much more internally satisfying and I explored relationships that were more aligned with who I was. To deal with the pressure of this, I developed a dark hole within me, carrying the heaviness, the burden of having to control my survival.
We believe that control works, as we persist against all odds towards what we want and need, pushing ourselves as hard as we can. All that effort eventually does lead to success on some level. The cost, however, can be a misery that becomes attached to us. It is only when we finally reach that place of feeling okay that we are able to reflect back and notice how everything has unfolded perfectly.
For me, the perfect unfolding was that even though they felt like punishments of sorts, my marriage had moved me geographically to a location where I would return back to school, the carpal tunnel had tumbled me into self-growth and a more nourishing way of being in the world and the end of my career in software engineering had financed this shift in my life.
We tend to say that persistence is good and that it works—it is what we are taught. Work hard. Be persistent.
It’s often not a joyful path. I’m not knocking persistence; there are plenty of ways it can support us.
However, I question the kind that feels like a constant upstream battle.
Often times we find ourselves in situations that either aren’t working or we feel require improvement. When change doesn’t happen quickly, we end up feeling stuck. Our knee-jerk reaction is to start doing something to change the situation. However, it can prove challenging when we aren’t clear on what it is that we do want. So we continue to struggle, putting forth effort to make changes and hoping that we will hit the target of our unclear desire.
The joyful path, on the other hand is the path of making changes once we examine our desires and get clear about what it is we want.
Think back to a time when you got something that you wanted. Did you trust that you would receive it? How did trust shift your experience of receiving it?
These are questions I have asked myself recently. As I looked back, I realized how the last year unfolded joyfully as I made changes in my life.
Last year, my mind kept fantasizing about a more playful, joyful and spacious lifestyle. Every time I would imagine it, my body would feel tingly and I would feel joyful. I imagined spending more time outdoors in nature, which my job at the time with its long hours wasn’t making room for. So, just for fun, I played with imagining letting go of my job. Again, my body filled with tingles and excitement. The experience felt so good that I immediately started making a plan to quit my job within a few months.
In the past, whenever I focused on the problem of my job, I only felt worse. I couldn’t find a way out that didn’t feel challenging and difficult. However, when I focused on how good I was feeling at the prospect of change, it felt like easier possibilities were starting to open up.
Since then, I have been on a journey of discovering even more play in my life. I had no idea that those changes would result in leading daily nature walks—a business in which I feel even more aligned with who I am.
If you’re struggling or fighting in an area of your life and would rather live more joyfully and playfully, I invite you to play with these four simple steps. I would suggest starting towards a more joyful path with minor changes in order to really see how this works for you.
1. Take in some deep breaths and relax your body. It is easier to open up to receiving joyful thoughts and ideas as we settle into a relaxed body. Already you may notice that the fight eases out of you as you relax.
2. Think about a time when receiving what you wanted felt easy and joyful. Allow yourself to feel that experience in your body and mind. This lifts our emotions and thoughts into wider possibilities of what we can have.
3. Play with imagining what you want in the area of your life that you’d like to improve. Allow any images, thoughts, feelings, or sensations. The more real the experience feels, the more aligned you are internally and the easier the path will be to get there. It can be helpful when you connect to your desire to write it down and read it regularly to keep connected with the feelings.
4. Now that your focus is shifted towards what you desire, watch for signs and follow your intuition to the next steps that feel joyful and playful.
Author: Ruchika Mehta
Image: Petras Gagilas // Flickr
Editors: Sarah Kolkka; Nicole Cameron