By: Nirmala Raniga
Each New Year invites us to reflect on our past accomplishments and review the objectives we have set for ourselves. Life is truly a gift, and each moment we are alive, we have an opportunity to live it to the fullest. No matter what we hope to attain this year, the most valuable thing we can do is to approach each moment with joy. Finding new ways to be happy will help us become clear on what we hope to achieve in our lives. We can then renew our commitment to our most important goals.
For many people, particularly those who have lived with trauma and addiction, cultivating joy may seem a daunting task. The world outside may have been a fearful and frenzied environment, rather than a friendly, welcoming place. Life may have been very challenging and felt very bleak until true joy becomes our goal. Then, with new vision, we embark on the path to recovery.
True joy emanates from within. We can focus daily on our commitment to joy when we connect to the stillness inside ourselves through a regular practice of meditation and yoga. We can spend time in the wonders of nature, witnessing the miraculous change of the seasons and the glorious dance of life in all its forms. Through the company of beloved friends and family, we can invite the joy of simply living into our daily lives.
Yoga can play a key role in helping us achieve all that we envision for ourselves. Yoga means union of mind, body, and spirit. By employing this ancient philosophy’s simple principles of non-harming ourselves or others, spending time each day practicing nourishing poses, sitting in meditation, and serving others, we can re-establish that connection to who we really are, pure consciousness and love. Through our consistent practice, as we understand and engage with that unchanging aspect of the Self, we can choose to place our attention on our true goals and life purpose.
Placing our attention on the things we really want in our lives is a key to attaining these goals. Dr. Deepak Chopra often says, “Intention energizes; attention transforms.” But what if transformation is a frightening prospect? For many individuals, change can bring on an overwhelming fear of uncertainty and a sense that there is no turning back. At these times, our inner focus on our goals, supported by the love of nature and the comfort we feel from family and friends, can make all the difference in the world.
In reality, life is always changing, whether we cultivate it or not. Day turns to night; winter turns to spring. People, positions, and other aspects of life shift without warning. When we realize that stability comes from within and not from the fluctuations we witness beyond ourselves, we come to understand that change is nothing to fear. Rather, it is something to be embraced and enjoyed, especially when we have a vision of transforming our lives for the better. If we are truly committed to our purpose with single-pointed awareness, putting our full attention on what we hope to achieve, then we can create happier lives for ourselves and everyone around us.
In this important process, we must place our wants and needs first. This philosophy, too, can initially cause discomfort, especially for those people who are recovering from addiction and trauma. There may be a long history of putting others’ needs before our own, resulting in feelings of guilt when we take steps to change our perspectives. But we cannot make anyone else happy if we are not first happy ourselves. Therefore, self-care is critical to bringing greater joy into our lives and also making us strong and steadfast toward fulfilling our lives’ purposes. We must learn to let go of anything in the past that causes us pain and, instead, look to the future with self-compassion, enthusiasm, and joy. Regardless of whether or not those in our lives can offer us that same level of forgiveness and understanding, we must be easy with ourselves and, in turn, be compassionate and easy with others
As part of the process of nurturing ourselves, we have to treat ourselves with unconditional love, free from critical self-judgment. Self-forgiveness is a more effective choice, helping us remove the blocks to our awareness of inner joy. Since we cannot go back and change the past, we can only move forward, making better, more thoughtful choices as we face life’s newest challenges and opportunities. With joy as our goal, we move forward from a firm foundation. We embrace life – with all its uncertainty – and become the glorious and joyful spiritual beings we are truly meant to be.